The key to Victoria Bach's game isn't much of a secret. It's her biggest asset, a skill her coach calls "elite," and it's the first thought through in her head when the Boston University senior's skates hit the ice for a new shift.
"I always say there's about one or two in every 100 that get this illegal glide in their speed," Terriers coach Brian Durocher says. "She's got that extra gear, extra glide in that two strides or three strides for her, she covers a lot of ice and can be deceptive because of it. As a defenseman, or a backchecker, you've got her in your sights, all of a sudden she's now 10 feet ahead of you and getting to the net."
When it's down to her and the opposing goaltender, just know that Bach has already begun dissecting the situation.
"If she's out of her net, I'm probably looking to deke her," she says. "If she's in her net, probably looking to shoot it."
If it sounds like Bach already has the goalie beaten, it's probably because she has. The Milton, Ontario native is in the midst of a torrid scoring streak that's seen her rack up 18 goals and 27 points in 10 games. In the month of November, she earned Hockey East and National Player of the Month honors after notching 21 points in eight games and leading all NCAA skaters in goals (13), points (21) goals per game (1.62), points per game (2.62), hat tricks (2), plus-minus (+17), shots on goal (61) and shots on goal per game (7.62). She's currently the nation's top goal scorer with 23 on the season and is third in Division I with 40 points in 19 games.
"I think it's been a crazy month, definitely an exciting month," she says."Overall I think that my line has been clicking and we've been playing really well together as a unit. It's just been a really good month."
She's not kidding: BU entered a November 17-18 set with league-rival Vermont at 2-6-2 on the season. Led by Bach's five-goal, six-point weekend, the Terriers outscored the Catamounts 10-2 in a pair of wins and have gone 5-3-2 since.
"The beginning of the season wasn't really the start we wanted as a group and we all just came together and tried to stay positive," she says. "After that turnaround game in Vermont, we all just really started to click as a unit. We know where to find each other, we know where to be and are really using our speed to our asset. I think that's a huge factor that's helped us be successful."
Durocher has been effusive in his praise of Bach, mentioning her name alongside Terrier alumnae like Marie-Philip Poulin, Sara Lefort and Louis Warren, though he admits his current star hasn't received nearly as much fanfare.
"For the most part, she's flown under the radar more than anything else," he says. "She's the only kid ever at BU to have four 20-goal seasons. This year she's just kind of knocked it out of the park with 23 and we're only 20 games in. If she keeps up this pace, she'll be cresting toward 40 goals which is somewhat of a ridiculous numbers—that's Alex Carpenter and Kendall Coyne in Hockey East and some of the other top players around the country. "
The comparisons are high compliments for Bach, who counts Poulin and Lefort as role models, but insists she's not focused on personal achievements, even as she attempts to rewrite the BU record books. She's closing in on Jenn Wakefield's single season marks for goals (32) and point (57) and with 88 goals and 171 points already in her career, Bach finds herself within distance of Lefort's school records of 92 and 183.
Having chemistry with linemate and fellow senior Rebecca Leslie—who has 22 points during an 11-game scoring streak of her own, putting her just being Bach in national scoring with 36 points in 19 games—has provided a foil for her high-scoring running mate.
"I think Leslie and Victoria, they've been around each other and have a second sense for each other," Durocher says. "They play at the same speed, think at the same speed, move the puck at the same speed. All too often, one of them hangs on to it for a split second and just lets the other get a whisker of running room and there'll be a soft little marshmallow pass or saucer pass over in the open area and they're fast enough they'll catch up to it where a defenseman or backchecker can't stay with them and they end up with a Grade A shot or breakaway or opportunity."
Both drafted by the NWHL's Metropolitan Riveters over the summer, Bach and Leslie will also take their games to Germany for the Nations Cup as part of Canada's U22 team in January, getting a chance to torment some international competition.
While they'll miss a handful of Terriers games for the tournament, any reprieve for NCAA opponents will be short-lived: there are goals to score and games to win. Victoria Bach will be hopping the boards and coming for both at full speed.