Hockey East Tournament Quarterfinals Preview: Notre Dame

  
The weight of the conference is once again on Husky shoulders this weekend. Northeastern travels out west for second round of the Hockey East tournament to their home away from home at Compton Family Ice Arena, taking on third seeded Notre Dame. The Huskies have outscored the Irishin their own building 22-13 since it opened, which includes winning their own Shillelagh tournament two seasons ago. Since the Irish joined Hockey East, the Huskies have gone 4-2-1 against them.

The Huskies were held winless against the Irish during their regular season series, though that series did come while the team was at their lowest point. The team could not be playing worse at the time and the Irish still weren’t able to get the sweep against Northeastern. Both games featured Northeastern digging themselves a hole and then furiously attempting to climb out of it, scoring twice at the end of each game, managing to finish the second game tied. 

The Irish don’t have great possession stats, with a sub-50 close CF%. They’re essentially counting on Cal Petersen being a brick wall in net behind them. And he has been. Petersen is now tied with Lowell’s Kevin Boyle for second in the conference in save percentage. Notre Dame is also about even with Northeastern in terms of goals per game and goals against per game. They rank fourth in the conference in scoring defense to Northeastern’s fifth, and fifth in scoring offense while the Huskies are fourth. While the two teams have similar powerplay numbers, the penalty kill for the Irish is slightly better. That can be at least partially negated by the fact that Northeastern averages over two fewer penalty minutes per game than Notre Dame. 

Sure, Notre Dame may be the favorite. They may be the higher seed. They may have home ice. But Northeastern should feel good coming into the weekend. Before last weekend, Notre Dame’s last win against a team of quality was over three months ago. Plus, nobody likes them. There should be no doubt the Huskies can win this. Do it for Hockey East. Do it for New England. #GoNU

Hockey East Tournament Round 1 Preview: Maine

Nolan Stevens

I’m going to keep this one nice and short.  Believe it or not, nothing really has changed since my last two posts about the Huskies or Black Bears.  Northeastern is still good.  Maine is still bad.

The Huskies should have absolutely no problem with this round of the playoffs.  The only difference between these two games and the last two games is that I’d expect them both to look like Saturday night’s game and less like Friday’s.  Literally the only thing I’m worried about this weekend is coming out of it with everyone healthy.  The Saturday game meant absolutely nothing for the Black Bears; they were locked into their position in the tournament.  They still acted like goons when things went south.  I can see things getting a whole lot worse when their facing the end of their season.  There’s a few key pieces on this team with very recent concussion issues.  I’m sure the team makes it out of this weekend, let’s hope all the players do, too.

Head on a swivel out there.

Week 22 Recap: What’s Beef?

Dylan Sikura

2/26/16: Northeastern 5, Maine 3

2/27/16: Northeastern 7, Maine 1

The Huskies completely demolished Maine this weekend, sending them back to their sad, cold campus in the woods empty-handed.  Despite the Black Bears’ best efforts to goon it up Northeastern kept calm for the most part and made them pay for their cheap shots.

For about 110 of the 120 minutes the two teams played this week, the Huskies completely controlled play.  Friday’s game had a few worrisome minutes where Maine came back and tied the game at the end of the first, and the Black Bears started out pretty well on Saturday, but that was it.  They were rarely threatening outside of those two periods.  While a lot of that has to do with them being bad at hockey, you can also attribute some of that to their insistence on playing the game on the penalty kill.  Maine racked up 50 penalty minutes on Saturday alone.  Northeastern certainly took advantage of those opportunities, scoring four powerplay goals.

I absolutely loved that all the way to the end the Huskies kept up the pressure.  Tanner Pond scored a powerplay goal at the very end of the game to make it 7-1.  No mercy.  If anyone deserves to get the score run up on them, it’s this Maine team.  They couldn’t skate with Northeastern so they started taking cheap shots and the Huskies buried them.  Kevin Roy had a (kind of) Gordie Howe hat trick.  Good.  Can’t wait to see them next weekend and end their season.

PS – It was nice to see Derick Roy get in the game at the end.  He made one of the best saves we’ve seen all year in his limited time in net:

Week 22 Preview: Maine

Team Celebration

The regular season comes to a close this weekend as the Huskies host the Maine Panthers Black Bears and newly extended head coach Red Gendron for two at Historic Matthews Arena.  This series doesn’t really mean a whole lot for Northeastern who’s already locked into the sixth spot in the Hockey East tournament, but let’s take a look at what we have.

Maine is not good.  They’re currently tied with UConn for second to last in Hockey East.  While their goaltending and defense have been bad (team save percentage of .904, 3.24 goals against per game), it’s the offense that is truly noteworthy for the Black Bears.  Maine is dead last in the conference in scoring offense, averaging under two goals per game.  The closest team to them, Vermont, is an over ten percent increase in scoring away.  The special teams aren’t helping things either.  Their powerplay is converting at the second worst rate in Hockey East, and they’ve given up the second highest amount of goals on the penalty kill.  Maine also has a fun tendency to allow teams to score late in games, giving up the highest total of third period goals in the conference.  Things could be better up in Orono.

As has been well documented, Northeastern has been cruising.  They should have no trouble against Maine at home.  While the Huskies are locked in to the sixth spot in the tournament, there are some implications of this game.  Maine, UConn, Merrimack, and UNH are all possible first round opponents.  If Northeastern sweeps Maine, they’ll stay in the eleventh spot and play the Huskies again.  If Maine can get a point and UNH sweeps UConn, UConn will fall to eleventh.  If Maine gets two against Northeastern and Merrimack is swept, they could fall to eleventh.  UNH falling to eleventh is a distant possibility if they’re swept by UConn, Maine gets three points, and Merrimack gets two.  Also, there’s the distant, but still existing, possibility of an NCAA tournament appearance!  Even though the Huskies’ place is set, there are things riding on this game for them.

Week 21 Reaction: Sequels Are Never as Good

Kevin Roy and Brendan Collier

2/19/16: Northeastern 5, UConn 2

2/20/16: Northeastern 4, UConn 1

The real Huskies continue to roll as they easily dispatch their Connecticut namesake.  While it wasn’t the repeat bloodbath we all hoped for, it was still another good performance from Northeastern.

The first game was very reminiscent of last year’s series.  Northeastern dominated UConn.  Although UConn’s Tage Thompson continued his good run by scoring early, Northeastern quickly quieted them.  After the Connecticut goal, NU scored four times in a ten minute period.  UConn, in a change of pace from last year, actually pulled Rob Nichols in the first period.  While that move succeeded in stopping Northeastern from scoring (other than the empty netter), it didn’t help the rest of the team out there.  NU continued to pretty easily control the game.  There was a period of time where our Huskies had it in the other Huskies’ zone for over four minutes.  It was bad.

The next game, at Historic Matthews Arena, was a slightly different tale.  A pretty even first period ended without a score, but the powerplay came through once gain for Northeastern in the second.  They put up two on a five minute interference call on UConn.  Connecticut was able to put a rebound past Ruck, and things started to look a little murkier than they previously had for NU, but a weird angle Kurker goal early in the third put Northeastern back up by two.  Our Huskies were able to hold off a physical, high pressure opponent in that game, but it wasn’t as easy as the previous three games against them.  They were able to stay (relatively) disciplined, which is a nice improvement from the first half of the season.  The powerplay continues to be a strong point for Northeastern, scoring twice in each game, and contributing to one of my favorite recent developments: random Cockerill shots from the point resulting in goals.

With the sweep of UConn and two losses from Vermont on the weekend, Northeastern locks up sixth place in the Hockey East tournament.  It will be a first round matchup against a recent opponent either way for the Huskies, as UConn and Maine are tied for that eleventh spot in the standings.  My guess would be that it’s Maine, as they’re less likely to get points against Northeastern next weekend than UConn is against UNH.  Either way, with this run the Huskies have set themselves up nicely for the tournament.

Week 21 Preview: UConn

Zach Aston-Reese

Our Huskies take on the copycat Huskies this week as Northeastern looks to lock up the sixth seed in the Hockey East tournament*.  The UConn Huskies have been terrible, while the Northeastern Huskies have been fantastic.  But, let’s humor them and take a look at who’s across the ice.

So, first of all, let’s revisit last year’s series.  Northeastern relegated UConn back to the worst conference in Division I men’s hockey (or at least they should have).  I think we’re all lucky that Rob Nichols didn’t quit right on the spot.  That would have been a truly tragic end to what was a promising young career.  Roy and Aston-Reese danced on his grave, each a hat trick in the same game.  Arguably even worse, they followed up that performance with a game in which they let Torin Snydeman and Adam Reid each score twice.

For all who were expecting anything more from UConn, I have bad news for you.  The other Huskies’ only wins in the last two months have come against powerhouses Arizona State, Maine, and Brown.  Not one of those teams is outside of the bottom ten in the country.  Average rank? 55.  But wait, it gets worse.

UConn ranks in the bottom five nationwide in close CF%.  Their 41.1% is astonishingly bad.  They’re 4.6% (a ton) behind next worst Hockey East team, New Hampshire.  Last year’s only bright spot, Nichols (bless his soul), now has a middling .912 save percentage.  The fact that UConn has only the third worst and fourth worst scoring offense and defense respectively doesn’t do justice to how bad they’ve been, and may say more about the depth of terribleness of the bottom of the conference than anything.  Despite Max Letunov’s and Tage Thompson’s best efforts, the team is also in that same range on the powerplay, although they have been (slightly) better on the penalty kill.

Yes, UConn does have that weird thing that it seems to do where it beats far better teams, seemingly at random.  They beat BU and swept Lowell this year.  But that’s nothing to be scared of.  This team is terrible.  Northeastern is on fire right now.  Will it be a repeat of last year’s massacre?  Maybe not.  Will it be worse?  Only time will tell.  #PrayForNichols

*Is the T in Hockey East (T)tournament capitalized? Asking for a friend.

 

Week 20 Reaction: Blasé Blasé

Garret Cockerill

2/12/16: Northeastern 5, UMass 0

2/13/16: Northeastern 4, UMass 2

I don’t know if this is really going to make sense, and I know it won’t be popular, but I wasn’t really that impressed with Northeastern this weekend.  The Huskies did earn a conference sweep against the Minutemen.  They did outscore UMass 9-2.  But it’s UMass.

While Northeastern dominated the first game in Amherst, it was more UMass being bad than anything.  After a scoreless first where the Minutemen were kept in the game by big saves from Nic Renyard (really), things fell apart for them in the second.  Aston-Reese scored early and five minutes later Roy scored his first of the season.  After that, it was like UMass gave up.  Northeastern completely controlled the rest of the game, but it was like UMass wasn’t even trying.  So, yeah, the Huskies scored five goals and shutout the Minutemen, but they were giving minimal effort for more than half the game.

Northeastern had all sorts of trouble in the Saturday game.  After quickly jumping out to a two goal lead, the Huskies blew the lead in the second period.  Northeastern was struggling to keep the puck on their sticks.  UMass was actually applying pressure.  If it wasn’t for the Minutemen repeatedly taking penalties, I’m not convinced the Huskies take two points from the night.  That game was much, much more uncomfortable than it should have been.

The one thing that stood out for the Northeastern was special teams.  It made the difference for the Huskies, especially in Saturday’s game.  UMass was shut out on their powerplay chances in both games.  Meanwhile, Northeastern scored four powerplay goals in their ten chances.  Three of their four goals Saturday came with the man advantage, and they were actually outscored by the Minutemen at even strength.

It’s weird to sweep a conference series, outscore the opponent by seven, and say it was a little unimpressive, but that’s what it was for me.  The Huskies crushed UMass on Friday, but the Minutemen were barely even there.  Meanwhile, you can’t knock Northeastern for UMass’ lack of effort.  Saturday it was their special teams that saved them.  Without the powerplay and penalty kill executing, it’s hard to say that the Huskies win that game.  I know it’s a kind of negative look on this weekend’s play considering the outcome, but I can’t really get excited about what we saw.  Luckily, the rest of the regular season is an absolute cakewalk.