Jesse Compher is a first-liner that plays like a fourth-liner, her coach says. At first glance, that may not sound like a compliment. However, for a hockey coach, it is one of the best qualities you can ask for from a player, especially a captain.
She plays so hard, participates so much and she can be so skilled, she says Brian Durocher (Wheelock78), BU women’s ice hockey head coach. It’s a great combination to have as a hockey player.
Compher (SHA21) is in the final sprint of a remarkable BU hockey career. Even while she is missing time due to injury and the pandemic-shortened 2020-2021 campaign, she has posted 123 points, making it ninth ever in women’s BU ice hockey. This year she was chosen as team co-captain.
Her talent is clear, but Compher attributes her success on the ice to her competitive advantage.
I think if you watch a BU training or BU game you can see it. I don’t like to lose, she says. I don’t care if I’m playing against my best friend or someone on the other team, I don’t like losing and that’s kind of the mentality that I get into.
Born of athletic parents, Compher grew up in the suburb of Northbrook, Illinois, and spent her childhood competing with her older sister, Morgan, and her older brother, JT, now an attacker with the NHLs Colorado Avalanche. No matter what you do around the house, nobody likes to lose, she says.
That mindset helped Compher to achieve athletic success early on: She was part of a team that won four consecutive state hockey championships and a high school national title. She also skated on the international stage, where she took two gold medals with the US Under-18 Team at the IIHF Women’s World Championship in 2016 and 2017.
When it came time to college, Compher was recruited by Katie Lachapelle, then a Terrier assistant coach and American U-18 assistant coach, now U-18 head coach and Holy Cross head coach.
It wasn’t long before Compher caught the eye in Hockey East. She appeared in every game of her freshman year and posted the second-most assists (17) of any freshman year in the conference, the third-most points on the team (26), and was selected for the 2017-2018 Hockey East All -Rookie Team.
Exploding as a sophomore, Compher led Hockey East with 61 points, placing her second of any Terrier in one season and third nationally that year. She was unanimously named Hockey East First Team All-Star, a Second Team All-American, and was a top-10 nominee for the Patty Kazmaier Award, given to the most valuable player in NCAA women’s hockey.
Durocher says the biggest factor contributing to Compher’s breakout season 2 was her ability to harness her super-intensity, especially during her skating.
In her time at BU, Jesse has developed into an even better skater, he says. There was an element of relaxation that came up somewhere between her freshman and sophomore and really helped her progress as a hockey player.
The highlight of that second year was the victory of BUs 2019 Beanpot, the first in program history as a varsity team. Compher says victory was her favorite moment as a terrier. Her assist to the overtime winner by linemate Sammy Davis (CGS17, Sargent19, Wheelock20) brought the Beanpot trophy to Commonwealth Avenue for the first time in nearly 40 years.
Being out there and being part of the overtime goal was definitely something special and something I’ll never forget, she says.
An ankle surgery delayed the start of Comphers’ junior season. Despite this, she was voted a Second Team All-Star, tied for fourth in Hockey East in points per game (1.11) and finished in the team’s top four in goals (13), assists (16) and points ( 29). ) despite playing 10 games less than most of her teammates.
Between her hyper-competitiveness and setting the bar for a great second season, Compher says the absence of the 2019-2020 season was the most challenging time of her BU career. She credits her teammates for helping her overcome that hurdle.
We have such a close-knit team here, everyone is so helpful, she says. I was able to get through it with the people around me.
As a senior, Compher leads the Terriers by five goals, averaging one goal per game, and is even ahead of the team leader in points (7). She was entrusted with the C on her sweater, a dream of hers since her good friend Rebecca Leslie (Questrom18) led the freshman year of BU Comphers. I always looked up to her and just wanted to follow in her footsteps, she says.
Teammates say that Compher is a natural person to lead the team. Courtney Correia (CGS20, Questrom22), who has been sharing the ice with her for three seasons, says the Comphers captain was well-deserved and has had a positive impact on the team. She’s definitely been a leader on the ice since I came to this school, she says. She is extremely dedicated every time she steps on the ice, she really wants to be there.
Durocher cites the innate confidence that Compher puts on the ice for her success and calls her one of the best Terriers he has coached in his 16 years behind the BU bench.
She is without a doubt one of those people in the history of our program who stands out in every conversation as one of the elite players, he says. She checks an awful lot of the boxes to think about on some of the best kids here.
With a player of her skill and motivation, Comphers’ ceiling is super high, says the coach. She has skated multiple times with the US women’s national team, cracking the roster for the 2019 and 2020 IIHF Womens World Championship tournaments and the 2019-2020 rivalry series against Team Canada.
Next on the Comphers list: the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will take place in Beijing. Durocher says he can easily see her on the grid. If I’m that coach, he says, she might not hit Kendall Coyne or Brianna Decker from the front line, but she can play with anyone and will be a great addition to any third or fourth line.
In her quest for a permanent place for the national team, Compher says she has learned from BU assistant coaches. Tara Watchorn (CAS12), an Olympic gold medalist with Canada in 2014, and Liz Keady Norton, a former Team USA player.
It was cool to learn from them and see things from their perspective and just learn the little details of what it takes to be a national team player, she says.
Compher owes that attention to detail for much of its success. In the back of my mind I always think about what I can do to be better on and off the ice, she says. You can have skill, but if you don’t have the right mindset to want to get better, win, and support your teammates, you won’t get very far.
In addition to her personal ambition and goals, Compher has a greater mission to help the sport of women’s hockey grow.
I wouldn’t play college hockey here without the women who paved the way for me, she says. As long as I can, I’m going to try to promote women’s hockey and do what I need to do to not just make a national team, but to grow the game along the way.
The BU women’s ice hockey team will play against the Eagles in BC on Friday, February 19 at 2 p.m. and Saturday, February 20 at 4:30 p.m. at home, also against BC. The Womens Hockey East 2021 playoffs start next week.
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