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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Ask Bobby #12
September 25, 2023

Duran Is Offensive-Minded

If you look through the UMass Boston women’s ice hockey media guide, you’ll find newcomer Lauren Duran listed as a 5’4″ freshman defenseman, but that’s old news. Thirteen games into her rookie season with the Lady Beacons, Duran made a move to forward and she hasn’t looked back. Immediately responding in her first game at the new position, Duran had a five-point game, including two goals and a helper on the game-winning score to give UMass Boston a 6-5 overtime victory against Southern Maine.

“I’ve always been an offensive defenseman,” admits Duran, who played little forward as a four-year letter-winner for the Woburn Memorial High School Tanners. Coach Crowell has been rewarded for the move. “Obviously, it worked out,” said Crowell, who couldn’t point to a particular reason for the switch.

In 11 games since her reposition, Duran has registered 19 points and sparked the Beacons to a 7-4 record to finish the regular season. Coach Crowell doesn’t seemed surprised of Duran’s success. Said Crowell: “[Lauren] is comfortable around the net. She’s tough, physical and difficult to move, and she can put the puck away pretty well.”

Because the switch to forward came mid-season, Duran has been forced to learn the position on the fly, which translates to a lot of learning in-game. “I think she’s picked it up very well,” says Crowell, though Duran acknowledges, “I don’t have it all [yet].”

Duran has had a straightforward style all season, both in her approach and her play. “I like to be aggressive in front of the net,” the forward said; though there has been a learning curve. “It’s hard ’cause I’ll be playing up [at] forward, and then I’ll want to go back and play defense. I’m always used to being down low so it’s kind of hard to adjust.” So far, Duran has shown no signs of difficulty making decisions with the puck.

She has had the fortune of playing on the Beacons’ top-scoring line with the team’s top two points leaders, Maria Nasta and Rachael Sousa. “My line mates helped me,” said Duran. “They’re both really good and I’m just there at the right time.” Duran has made the most of her opportunity, lighting the lamp ten times, which is tied for third-most for the Beacons this season, behind only Nasta and Sousa.

Coach Crowell saw the upside of Duran’s offensive potential immediately. “Even in preseason and other times throughout the year, in small games where some of the defensemen have a chance to be offensive, [Nasta, Sousa, and Duran] were making good connections,” she said. This was nothing new for Duran and Sousa, who played together on two state title teams for Woburn. Together with speedy playmaker Maria Nasta, the Beacons have created one of the conference’s most feared lines. “The way that they all think is similar,” Crowell said.

To accommodate the move by Duran, freshman Jazz Webber has replaced her presence on the blue line. Webber, who played defense for Hebron Academy in Maine, has filled Duran’s spot on the Beacon defense, and hasn’t missed a beat.

On the year, UMass Boston finished the season 13-11-0, but more importantly, 11-8-0 in conference, earning them the second seed and home ice in the ECAC East quarterfinals against Castleton State. “That a good reflection of something that went right,” said Coach Crowell of the team’s highes-seeded finish in team history. “I think we turned it on in the second half of the season.”

Despite success, Crowell remains cautious. “Our record is 0-0 right now,” she said on the eve of the opening round. “Playoff hockey is a totally different type of hockey; you have to be ready to go.” The Beacons have faced Castleton State twice this year, both 4-2 wins, but Crowell is showing no lack of respect for the seventh-seeded Spartans. “They’ve improved dramatically this year,” she said.

UMass Boston should be ready. With nearly a week to prepare, the Beacons are certainly not looking past their first round opponent. “We pin point a few things and try to adjust to what they [are] doing, mostly on special teams, things like how they break out and how they fore-check,” added Crowell.

Before the game last Saturday, Crowell spoke about the benefit of home ice. “It should be to our advantage, the girls have picked up some really big wins here,” she said. The Beacons have won quarterfinals match-ups at Clark Athletic Center the last two seasons, and Crowell is “hoping that magic continues.”

A strong second-half performance makes it likely.