University of Maine women’s hockey coach Maria Lewis knew Brittany Dougherty was a highly skilled player. But Lewis knew that structure would cramp her style of play.
After Dougherty played in a more structured offensive system under former Maine coach Dan Lichterman as a freshman, Lewis came in last year and gave Dougherty the green light to freelance in the offensive zone.
It has paid dramatic dividends.
After notching three goals and six assists in 28 games as a freshman, Dougherty racked up 14 goals and 12 assists last season and already has 12 goals and 13 assists in 25 games for the surging Black Bears this season.
Lewis explained that “our philosophy is more on the side of creativity. Our players have a lot of options so they can make things happen.”
“Brittany doesn’t play as well under a structured system. If there’s a loose puck, it’s her puck and no one is going to stop her going after it,” said Lewis. “She can make plays, and she’s hard to play against.”
“She has really blossomed of late,” said Providence coach Bob Deraney.
Dougherty said she got used to “being told what to do,” but since Lewis gave her more freedom, “I’ve improved a lot.”
Her development landed her a spot in the USA Hockey Winter Camp in Blaine, Minn., held Dec. 26-31. She played with a number of former Olympians.
“It was a great experience,” said Dougherty. “I thought I did pretty well.”
And she said she has returned with “a lot more confidence.”
Dougherty is a native of Chesterfield, Mich., and she decided to attend Maine with friend and goaltender Brittany Ott, who has been outstanding in goal and is “our backbone,” according to Lewis.
“We wanted to come here and help turn the program around,” said Dougherty. “I really like it at Maine. It’s a real hockey community.”
Behind the two Michigan Brittanys, Maine is 12-8-5 overall, 6-6-1 in Hockey East. Maine won a total of just 13 league games in four seasons leading up to last year’s 6-12-3 league mark and 12-17-5 overall record.
Maine is coming off a road sweep at Boston University and the Black Bears are ranked 13th in the nation in the most recent U.S. College Hockey Online poll.
The Bears are getting healthy contributions from everyone and are in the midst of a 6-3-4 stretch in which two of their losses were one-goal setbacks to the nation’s fourth-ranked Boston College Eagles.
“They’re very well coached. Maria has done a tremendous job bringing in more highly skilled players, and they always compete hard,” said Deraney. “That combination is dangerous.”
“Their team has grown up and Brittany Ott is the most underrated player in the league,” said Durocher.
“We have great team chemistry,” said Maine freshman right wing Tori Pasquariello, who returned to the lineup after having her appendix removed and scored the game-winner in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Boston University.
Maine will host Connecticut at 2 p.m. Friday and at noon Sunday the Black Bears will host the Hockey East Skating Strides game against Providence to raise money for the Patrick Dempsey Cancer Hope and Healing Center in Lewiston.