By Mikayla Heiss
BU News Service
BOSTON — Natasza Tarnowski, senior co-captain of the BU women’s hockey team, races off the bench, sending shards of ice into the air. The puck hits the boards, headed toward the front of the net. Tarnowski’s stick makes contact, producing her first goal of the 2019-2020 season.
“That’s my roommate,” a helmet-clad player yells from the benches.
Breanna Scarpaci, a senior defenseman and health studies major, and Tarnowski, a double major in health sciences and psychology, have been rooming together since they started college. To put their friendship into perspective, they purposely made bunk beds in a studio apartment during their sophomore year. Scarpaci and Tarnowski have energized the team and strengthened team relationships through open communication.
While they started living together in college, their story started in high school. Tarnowski and Scarpaci met in 2016 when they were teammates at the North American Prospects Showcase. They began messaging after Tarnowski heard Scarpaci committed to BU. Come summer session, they were roommates, and have been ever since.
On the ice, they play different roles. Tarnowski is a forward, skating towards the opposing net, and Scarpaci, playing on defense, limits scoring chances and protects the defensive zone.
The two friends are able to gain perspective through sharing their experiences playing different positions and aim to bridge the gap between forwards and defenders.
“When we reconvene after a game, we talk about everything,” Scarpaci said. “That way we both have each other’s perspective on how a forward viewed it versus how a [defenseman] viewed it… We bring that to the next game.”
Alexandra Calderone, a fellow senior teammate, has observed their abilities as leaders and communicators develop over the years.
“When they’re in the locker room, they have really good communication,” Calderone said. “They both have really big and outgoing personalities, so just being able to bring back good energy and their fun-loving spirit brings people together.”
During games, energy bounces between the two players, spreading throughout the bench.
“It’s good that we kind of feed off each other,” Tarnowski said. “During a game, I don’t really know what’s going on on the defenseman side of the bench, but I always know that [Scarpaci] is usually fired up.”
Seniors are also held to high individual standards, according to Head Coach Brian Durocher. “They’re the ones that are going to be out there in big situations,” he said.
The two women are up to the challenge. The head coach praises Tarnowski’s ability to do hockey’s dirty work, playing hard in the corner, fearlessly blocking shots. Scarpaci, a strong skater, helps carry the team through tough situations.
“When things are really squirrely and it looks like the ship is sinking, she just has a way of making whatever the next play is in a very composed manner,” Durocher added.
Through open communication and individual efforts, Scarpaci and Tarnowski continue to polish their game, working to create more scoring opportunities. Neither is fully satisfied with their skills, nor plans to give up hockey.
With graduation approaching, the two appear set to temporarily part ways. Tarnowski is considering playing a year in Europe or pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology, while Scarpaci will remain at Boston University for the Doctor of Physical Therapy program.
But whether it’s laughing over Tarnowski’s Ottawa Senator slippers or teasing Scarpaci’s high esteem for former Red Wings player Niklas Kronwall, the two players’ bond over hockey and their friendship is unlikely to disappear.
“They’re teammates, they’re friends, they’re roommates,” Durocher said. “And they’ll be friends for life, I’m sure.”