There are three big things that stood out to me after this weekend’s home-and-home with Merrimack (full disclosure: only was able to watch highlights of the game at Merrimack, had to watch the NU home game on my phone).
The first is that penalties are very important to this team. Northeastern’s powerplay is really starting to click. They went 3/8 this weekend against what had been the best penalty kill in Hockey East. Along with that, penalties have been killing this team. They took eight (!) on Friday, giving up three powerplay goals. It is imperative this team somehow learns to play with discipline consistently, you know, not running the opposition’s goalie.
Secondly, Northeastern has really started to be able to possess the puck. Through the past two weekends, the Huskies have generated a ton of shots on goal. Sean Hathaway tweeted out Northeastern out-attempted their opponents 201-144 (58.3%) through those four games. On Saturday, Northeastern posted a 53.9 Corsi-For percentage, almost 5% better than their season average of 49%. This comes from the improved forecheck from the forwards, and the incredible job the team has done at the faceoff dot. Although I don’t have zone time statistics, it was definitely noticeable that play was kept in the Merrimack zone. Northeastern won 56% of faceoffs on Friday, and an astounding 68% on Saturday. At one point I counted that they won fifteen faceoffs in a row. Winning faceoffs and aggressively forechecking seem to be key to controlling play for the Huskies.
Lastly, Clay Witt didn’t have to be God this week for the Huskies to win. That is not a knock on Witt. He played well this week, especially on Saturday. Northeastern had only won the week before because he was a brick wall. This week we saw just an average performance from Witt (again, still good), and Northeastern came away with a win. The team around him is starting to play better and I, for one, am encouraged.
Now, on to that Gopher team or whatever…