Week 17 Reaction: And Another One

Nolan Stevens

1/22/16: Northeastern 5, Merrimack 2

1/23/16: Northeastern 4, Merrimack 1

To nobody’s surprise, the Northeastern easily swept Merrimack this weekend, remaining undefeated in 2016 and extending the Warriors’ misery another two games.  The Huskies’ unbeaten streak extends to eight games, tied for second in the country.  Oh, and they added captain and best player Kevin Roy to the lineup after missing the previous twelve games.

Merrimack had me going for a bit there in the first game.  They scored early in the first, taking their first lead in a billion years.  The Warriors took a second lead in that game after the Huskies had tied it up.  Memories of last year’s Hockey East Tournament flashed before my eyes.  Northeastern was dominating, yet losing.

Four unanswered goals later, all fear was erased.  The Huskies continued to control the game and it this time around it was reflected in the final score.  The second game, at Historic Matthews Arena, was a continuation of the lopsided play.  Despite the quotes from Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy, who for whatever reason though his team deserved to win, Northeastern’s victory was never really threatened.  The Warriors’ only goal came off a bad turnover and a good shot.  The Huskies were forcing turnovers left and right.  Merrimack

Offensively, the Huskies look incredible.  The 7-8-9 line is on fire.  McMurtry has a nine game point streak.  Gaudettes’s streak is at eight.  Sikura has six goals in his last four games.  The Stevens and Aston-Reese trio is right behind them.  Each Stevens brother had a goal this weekend, and Aston-Reese has fourteen points in his last thirteen games.  Roy looked really good in his return to the lineup, making an instant impact and getting an assist in each game.

The defense has continued to be solid.  With the exception of that turnover that lead to a goal against on Saturday, they’ve looked good.  Surprisingly to many, Northeastern has been one of the best shot suppression teams in the country this season.  What shots have hit the net Ruck has been able to deal with.  He’s continued his run of solid goaltending, turning in a .925 performance this weekend.

The one thing the Huskies do need to work on is taking bad penalties.  Obviously Merrimack (now by far the worst powerplay percentage in the conference) isn’t going to take advantage of all the opportunities presented to them, but better teams will.  Northeastern didn’t give up a powerplay goal this weekend, but the chances were there and a better opponent can and will take advantage of them.

This weekend the Huskies handled Merrimack pretty easily.  Much like last weekend they took care of business against a struggling opponent.  While these sweeps have been nice, especially in terms of conference standings, Northeastern will have to replicate the performances from earlier in the month.  The level of competition’s about to turn up.

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Week 17 Preview: Merrimack

Matt Benning

The College Hockey News team of the week looks to avenge its tournament sweep last year as they take on Merrimack.  Unfortunately for the Warriors, Rasmus Tirronen’s not walking through that door.

At this point we’re all aware how well the Huskies are playing.  I don’t want to be repetitive.  I’ve shouted their praises over and over again both on this blog, and in real life to the annoyance of all I’ve encountered.  The offense is unstoppable, the powerplay is red hot, Ruck is a god, #badboysforlife, yadda yadda yadda.  The team is playing phenomenally well.

Merrimack, on the other hand, is a team headed in the polar opposite direction.  In their last twelve games the Warriors are 1-10-1.  As College Hockey News’ and the Mack Report’s Mike McMahon pointed out, Merrimack last held a lead in a hockey game over 350 minutes ago.

Goalie Collin Delia is a far cry from Tirronen, the man who stymied the Huskies in the Hockey East Tournament last year.  Delia’s .899 save percentage is near the bottom of the conference among qualifying goaltenders, second only to last week’s goalie Danny Tirone.  The offensive end isn’t much better for the Warriors.  You’d have to go back over a month to find a game where they scored more than two goals.  They’ve scored a conference low seven powerplay goals, and have just a 9.6% conversion rate, which is also the worst in Hockey East.  Things could be going better for Merrimack.

The outlook is not great if your a fan of the opposition this week.  These are two teams are on two opposite paths.  Merrimack’s patented low scoring, tough defense style doesn’t really work with sub-par goaltending, and they aren’t exactly equipped to keep pace on the scoreboard with a team like Northeastern.  I’m very tempted to predict an easy sweep for the Huskies, but the last time I did that things didn’t exactly work out.  So,  I’ll just leave it at this:  I think Merrimack will put up a good fight and I sure do hope the good guys come out on top!

Week 7 Reaction: We Go as the Penalties Go

Clay Witt

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…

Week 7 Preview: Merrimack

Clay Witt

Hope you’ve enjoyed the win streak (one game) Northeastern has put together, because it is not likely to continue this weekend.  This week the Huskies have another home-and-home, this time against Merrimack.  The Warriors provide a pretty troublesome opponent for Northeastern, and I personally am none too confident they’ll be able to come away with a win.

While you could debate how good Merrimack is as a team, it’s pretty easy to say they’ll be a nightmare for Northeastern.  This season, Northeastern has struggled getting the puck out of their own zone and keeping it in their opponents’.  Guess what?  That’s exactly the aspect in which Merrimack excels.  Merrimack has out shot their opponents by 100 shots this year.  That’s nuts.  On average, they have more than ten shots on net per game than their opposition.  They also have a top five penalty kill this year in the country (best in Hockey East), another area Northeastern has struggled with.  Expect the freshman line Merrimack throws out there to give the Huskies’ defense problems.  They’re faster than every single one of Northeastern’s defencemen.

Clay Witt will have to be a brick wall (again) this weekend if the Huskies want to have any chance of winning.  Merrimack is a possession machine and a brutal match up for Northeastern.