Carrying on a proud tradition of strong leadership, which stands as one of the proud pillars of the Boston University Terriers program, Rebecca Leslie attained a proud milestone, earning the honor of the captaincy heading into her senior season. As a team vote decided the captaincy, the honor was testament to Leslie’s team-first approach and respect for her fellow skaters, plus an appreciation for the legacy of the program.
The captaincy definitely extended a proud legacy for Leslie, as leadership has always been a hallmark in her career. Raised in Canada’s Capital Region, part of an exciting generation of talent to hail from this hockey hotbed, Leslie served as team captain for the PWHL’s Ottawa Lady Senators during the 2013-14 season, ranking sixth in league scoring.
Reaching career highs with 24 goals and an astounding 57 points (ranking seventh in the NCAA) in a stirring senior season, becoming the first player in Terriers history to record at least 20 goals and 30 assists in the same season, Leslie’s productivity was more than a display of on-ice leadership. Establishing her as a role model for the younger players, Leslie’s presence was one that paid positive dividends for the program.
Gaining her second nod to the New England Division I All-Star Team, Leslie also earned recognition as a Hockey East Second Team All-Star, respectively. Coincidentally, she gained recognition to both teams in 2016, part of a season that saw her rank in the NCAA’s top 10 leading scorers. Such honors add to an impressive list of past accolades that also included Hockey East All-Rookie Team recognition, plus a spot on the Hockey East All-Academic Team.
Undoubtedly, Leslie’s ascension to the role of team captaincy was of tremendous importance for a club welcoming eight new recruits. Considering that the Terriers lost two of their previous season’s co-captains, Alexis Crossley and Natalie Flynn, to graduation, it was an opportunity for Leslie to rise to the occasion. With fellow senior Victoria Bach, junior Sammy Davis and goaltender Erin O’Neil serving as assistant captains, it was the perfect complement. Worth noting, Bach and Leslie were also teammates on the Canadian contingent, which competed at the 2018 Nations Cup. The event proved to be another opportunity for Leslie’s leadership to shine, as the captain’s C adorned her Canadian jersey.
Coincidentally, Leslie was not the only Terriers great to serve in a captain’s role with Canada in 2018. Former Terriers teammate Marie-Philip Poulin served as Canada’s captain in women’s ice hockey at the 2018 Winter Games. By season’s end, Leslie would actually overtake Poulin as the all-time assists leader in program history. Taking into account that Poulin also held the captaincy with BU, Leslie is certainly proud to carry on the proud lineage of leaders that have worn Terriers red, gaining insight from her predecessors,
“I was extremely honoured and humbled to be named captain this season. I have been so fortunate throughout my time at BU to play under some unbelievable captains (Marie-Philip Poulin, Kayla Tutino, Natalie Flynn and Alexis Crossley). I was able to learn a lot about what it takes to be a good leader by each of them through their different leadership styles and personalities. I was very fortunate to have such an incredible group of teammates who certainly contributed to making my job much easier. Being captain also gave me the opportunity to positively influence my teammates and to give them the support and encouragement they needed.”
During Leslie’s senior season, there was also another significant influence, adding a feeling of serendipity. Having also enjoyed a career donning both the Terriers and Canadian jerseys, Tara Watchorn returned to the program in a coaching role on Brian Durocher’s staff. Returning to the Terriers after hanging up her skates with the Boston Blades professional club, Tara Watchorn, Class of 2012, was a teammate of Poulin with Canada’s entry at the 2014 edition of the Winter Games. Certainly, Watchorn’s acumen and experience not only made her a positive influence for a new generation of Terriers skaters, but she was an ideal fit, already familiar with the program’s lauded and majestic culture, one which Leslie has certainly contributed to through work ethic.
Adding to the sense of coincidence was the fact that in 2014, Leslie and fellow senior Victoria Bach were part of the Canadian team, which captured the gold medal at the IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds. Considering that so many of the players from that roster (which was the last to win gold for Canada) were graduating from NCAA hockey this season, it truly marked the end of an era for an amazing chapter in Canadian hockey history.
“Growing up in Canada, Coach Watchorn has always been someone that I looked up to. She had an amazing hockey career at BU and for Team Canada. We were extremely lucky to have her this year. She knows what it takes to play at the highest level, and (she) was always willing to put in the extra work to help us achieve our goals.
We were also very fortunate to be coached by other great role models including Coach Durocher and Coach Keady. To be honest, our entire coaching staff and bench staff were phenomenal. Our coaching staff always encourages us to be the best that we can be both on and off the ice and this is something that I will take with me moving forward.”
A significant aspect to Leslie’s success was her consistency, highlighted by multi-point efforts in an astounding 63.6% of games played this season. During a span of nine consecutive games in late November and early December, Leslie recorded at least two points in each appearance. Among the highlights of this sizzling streak included four points against the Brown Bears on November 28, while the final game of said streak, a December 9 tilt versus the nationally ranked Providence Friars involved a three-assist outburst.
As a side note, Leslie also rose to the occasion against another nationally ranked program in her streak, recording a pair of assists on Bach’s versus top ranked Wisconsin in a special Thanksgiving weekend match at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Virginia.
Finishing her time with the Terriers with another impressive scoring streak, registering a total of 12 points in seven games, including the game-winning tally in a 4-1 Hockey East quarterfinal match versus the Maine Black Bears, her last game would take place the following day. Recording her last points in a hard fought loss to the same Black Bears on February 25, Leslie would score her last goal, while also tallying an assist on Bach’s final goal as a Terrier, complementing their storied careers.
Although the statistical achievements enhanced this rich narrative, making Leslie’s record setting senior season one to remember, there was also a rite of passage that brought a celebratory closure. Alongside the likes of fellow seniors, Bach, Savannah Newton, O’Neil and Nina Rodgers, Leslie was joined by friends and family at center ice for the Terriers’ Senior Night ceremony. As a side note, she is not the only member of her family to have excelled in the game. Older brother Zachary competed in the American Hockey League and was among the players selected in the 2013 edition of the NHL Draft by the Los Angeles Kings.
Considering that Leslie and Bach were both part of the Metropolitan Riveters' 2017 NWHL Draft class, there is no question that both hold the potential to duplicate their remarkable feats of on-ice glory in the professional ranks. On Senior Night, both demonstrated their superlative skills, as Leslie gained her 30th assist of the season, while Bach scored her 36th, enabling the Terriers to emerge victorious in a 2-0 shutout victory over New Hampshire, simultaneously clinching a playoff berth.
“I was filled with a million different emotions on senior night to be honest. I was excited because my parents and sisters were in the stands cheering me on but it was also very bittersweet knowing that it would be my last game at Walter Brown Arena. My parents and sibling have given up a lot to allow me to pursue my dreams and it felt so special having them all together for one last home game.
We are so lucky at BU to have amazing fans that come to all of our home games and it was sad that this would be my last time playing at home in front of them. It was also very bittersweet to play in front of the best band for the last time at home. Our band deserves so much credit for all that they do; we could always count on the band to make us feel at home.
I tried to do my best to just take in every aspect of what it has been like over the last four years playing at home. I knew that my last game would go by quickly and I was mindful to appreciate every moment.”
With an accumulation of so many notable achievements and cherished highlights, complemented by 171 points and a program best 102 assists, Leslie’s body of work with the Terriers places her among the program’s pantheon of greats. Having always approached the game with a willingness to learn, the values acquired from the Terriers shall apply in all facets of life. In discussing what she enjoyed most about donning the Terriers colors for four seasons, it brought with it an assortment of sentiments, all defined by the theme of an enjoyable gratification, satisfied in the results,
“This is an excellent question and a very difficult one to answer because there are so many aspects about being a player at BU that are important to me. It was incredible to be apart of such a well-respected program. From day one, I was so proud to wear Boston across my chest.
The program has come such a long way in a short time period and has developed some of the most respected and well known female hockey players in the world. I always felt very well supported, which enabled me to be successful both on and off the ice. I think that the one thing that will stick with me the most is not the wins or the losses, but the incredible people I have met and the friends I made along the way.
I will always be proud to tell people that I studied and played hockey at BU. I cannot thank Coach Durocher enough for all of his support over the last four years and I look forward to watching the program succeed in the future.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
BU Photo Credits: Kevin Bennett, Justin Hawk
Lady Senators image obtained from: http://oswh.ca/news.php?news_id=940612
Hockey Canada image obtained from: http://goterriers.com/news/2018/1/3/womens-ice-hockey-leslie-bach-named-to-canadas-leadership-group-for-nations-cup.aspx?path=whockey
Senior Night Image obtained from: http://goterriers.com/news/2018/2/18/womens-ice-hockey-terriers-celebrate-senior-day-with-2-0-win-over-new-hampshire.aspx