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.
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.
1/15/16: Northeastern 4, New Hampshire 2
1/16/16: Northeastern 6, New Hampshire 2
The Huskies pick up their first two conference wins of the season as they continue to roll through the second half. Northeastern completely outclassed UNH in just about every aspect of both games on their way to another sweep.
Northeastern absolutely dominated Friday night’s game at Historic Matthews Arena. UNH barely even saw the offensive zone. They couldn’t do anything to take the puck from the Huskies and make it out of their own end. The Wildcats ended up getting outshot 36-25 in the game. The only time New Hampshire looked even remotely threatening was for a few minutes late in the second period, resulting in their first goal of the weekend. After that, it was all Northeastern.
Saturday night’s game had an entire weekend’s worth of action in half of a period. After a first period where absolutely nothing happened, the Huskies took a lead early in the second. They went on, like the previous night, to have some second period struggles for the rest of the first half of the period, giving up good chances and being bailed out by Ruck. UNH eventually put one home to tie it up. Then it got nuts.
In four and a half minutes the Huskies scored four times and gave up a powerplay goal. Excluding that penalty they took, Northeastern had their way with UNH. They were making perfect passes all over the New Hampshire zone. It was reminiscent of the preseason game against Simon Fraser. Absolutely unbelievable.
While it’s easy to point out that New Hampshire is just a bad team (and they are really bad), it shouldn’t count against how well Northeastern has been playing. The offense is firing on all cylinders. After scoring just 24 goals in their first 13 games (up to the Thanksgiving tournament), the Huskies have scored 37 in their last 10. They’ll only get better on the offensive side when Roy and Hedges eventually come back from injury. Ruck has significantly improved from his early season struggles. Northeastern has also done a much better job staying out of the box since that point in the season. From the Belfast tournament on, the Huskies have cut down on taken penalties by almost two a game. As they still have by far the worst penalty kill in Hockey East. Northeastern has markedly improved on two of their biggest early season weaknesses, while minimizing exposure to a third.
Northeastern catches a break this weekend as they take on a lesser ECAC team in St. Lawrence. The brilliantly named Saints are way down the Pairwise rankings at tenth, a full nine spots down from last week’s opponent.
Northeastern will once again be going up against one of the best goalies in the country. Kyle Hayton’s .938 save percentage is sixth in the country. St. Lawrence also has one of the best offenses in the country, scoring 3.12 goals per game. That pairs with their ninth ranked scoring defense. The Saints also haven’t played since the second week of last month. All this points to a rough weekend for the Huskies.
But, St. Lawrence’s record this season features losses to Merrimack, Miami, and Vermont. They couldn’t even score against Northeastern’s last opponent, Quinnipiac (reminder in case you forgot: the Huskies scored three times against the Bobcats). The Saints also hopefully won’t be able to take advantage of Northeastern’s horrible penalty kill. Their powerplay is tied for second-worst in the entire country, ahead of only Niagra. Plus, St. Lawrence’s offense may actually play into a strength of Northeastern. Hear me out! Northeastern is actually one of the better shot suppression teams in the country. The Saints are in the bottom ten in the country in total shot attempts. Ruck has played better the last few games; if the Huskies are able to limit chances they could keep St. Lawrence off the scoreboard.
On a related side note, we should also not forget what happened the last time Northeastern played St. Lawrence. The Huskies came back to a three goal deficit to tie the Saints in the first game. They then sent St. Lawrence home with a defeat the next night. That should count for something.
I feel pretty good about the Huskies this weekend. They’ve been playing well lately, and St. Lawrence should be a breeze compared to Quinnipiac last week. Northeastern by triple digits in both games. Book it.
1/2/16: Northeastern 3, Quinnipiac 3
Saturday night Northeastern outplayed Quinnipiac, the number one team in the country according to Pairwise. They put up three goals on the best defense and one of the best goalies in the country. They scored two powerplay goals against the sixth best penalty kill in the country. They held the team who generated the fifth highest shot total to 23 shots. They looked really good and weren’t defeated by the top ranked Pairwise team.
But, once again we’re left disappointed by the Huskies.
This isn’t the first time this season that Northeastern outplayed a top tier opponent and didn’t come away with the win. In fact, it’s actually become a pattern. Last month, the Huskies outplayed BC in two games and couldn’t win either. The weekend before that, they outplayed Lowell and lost in overtime. This is certainly an annoying trend they’ve started.
It wasn’t even that Quinnipiac turned it on late and were able turn it around. They were outplayed all the way to the end. The goals they scored were Northeastern mistakes. The first one came from a rebound where the puck wasn’t cleared from the front of the net, sitting out there just waiting to be put in. The second Quinnipiac goal was a brutal softie from Ruck (who otherwise played a solid game), immediately after the Huskies had tied it up. The third goal almost made me send a beer through the TV. At the end of the third period, while trying to close out a huge upset, the Northeastern Huskies took a horrible, horrible too many men penalty. The Bobcats’ great powerplay connected, erasing the lead and forcing the game to go to overtime.
Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknald after the game said that the Bobcats “stole a tie,” a sentiment echoed by Jim Madigan. I’m not sure I have much more to add to those quotes; they sum it up pretty well. Northeastern played better than the number one Pairwise team and the country, and still can’t come away with the win. They once again found a way to disappoint this season.
Some rando EZAC team is coming in to Matthews to take on the Huskies tonight.
So, apparently this Quinnipiac team is supposed to be pretty good. They’re currently the top ranked team in the Pairwise. They’re sporting a 57.5 close CF%. They’re outscoring opponents by 2.3 goals per game. They went unbeaten for their first 17 games this season, the longest for almost two decades. Goalie Michael Garteig is one of the best in the country with a .946 save percentage. Fine, I’ll admit that they on the surface appear to be a solid team.
But, the Bobcats are playing their third game in less than a week, after their midweek series with Princeton. Meanwhile, the Huskies have played just one game since the first week of December, and are undefeated in that time. Quinnipiac’s only loss of the season came at home against BU, a 4-1 defeat. Northeastern also has a 4-1 home loss against BU, as well as a 5-4 road loss, a significantly closer game. I don’t mean to get real technical with everyone, but I’m pretty sure that statistically actually means the Huskies are the better team in this matchup. Plus, when they played at Quinnipiac last year Northeastern only lost by one goal in each game.
Yeah, Quinnipiac looks like they’re a great team, but with Matthews sure to be packed on this winter break night, I wouldn’t count out the Huskies.
Northeastern wasn’t letting the lack of a football team get in the way of participating in bowl season. In case you have somehow managed not to hear, Michigan State is coming to Matthews this weekend with their hockey team and a couple of their less popular teams. Presenting: The Roby Bowl
The capstone of this weekend’s bonanza is a matchup between two teams in the bottom 20% of college hockey. The Huskies will have their hands full with this red hot team. The only win the Spartans have since sweeping UNH on November 6th and 7th (lol) is against Wisconsin. Michigan State
On the flip side, Northeastern has been looking better lately. The Huskies were the best team last weekend against one of the best teams in the country in BC. The week before that, Northeastern picked up their first win since week one. Things are looking up at Historic Matthews Arena!
In all seriousness, this is a really cool event. It’s rare to see campus buzzing about sports events. It definitely is this weekend, even with finals and kids going home for break. I really hope we get more of these going forward. It’s cool for other schools to bring multiple teams over, and gives Northeastern students a chance to see big name programs. Kudos, Roby.