Hockey East Tournament Final Preview: Lowell

Mike McMurtry

Win and you’re in.

The Huskies are in the championship game of the Hockey East tournament for the first time since some time in the eighties.  This team has never looked better.  Score aside, they smashed BC last night.  Northeastern is rolling.

Lowell has to be gassed.  They essentially played two games in a row last night.  I know they have Kevin Boyle.  He’s awesome.  He’s their team.  Northeastern played a team last night in a similar situation.  They put up five on Demko, and a much better defense than the River Hawks’.  A goalie alone can’t stop this offense.  They’re too hot.  I feel so good about this it.

I know this isn’t the preview this game deserves but I’m too excited to sit here and write it all out.  There’s plenty of real life writers talking about the Huskies now.  Let’s get after it tonight.

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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 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 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.

Week 20 Preview: UMass

Trevor Owens

The schedule takes a much easier turn for the Huskies as they begin the soft end of their season this weekend against UMass.  As good as Northeastern has been in the past few months is exactly how bad the Minutemen have been.  Maybe worse.

Although the Minutemen started out the season with a 4-0-1 record, they have come right back down to where we all thought they would be.  The team just broke a nine game losing streak on Tuesday by beating AIC (the last ranked team in Pairwise) in overtime.  Somehow that is not UMass’ longest winless streak this season, after going ten games earlier in the year without a win.  From November 7th at UConn up until Tuesday’s game, the Minutemen had only one win.

UMass ranks last or near last in the conference in almost every category this season.  Goalie Nic Renyard’s .896 save percentage is only ahead of Merrimack’s Collin Delia (by a huge margin of .001).  The Minutemen have given up by far the most goals per game this season.  They also have the worst penalty kill.  Surprisingly, UMass actually isn’t terrible offensively, sitting at eighth in Hockey East in goals per game.  The powerplay is even better, ranking seventh.  They’ve scored seventeen goals in their last five games.

So hey, you’ve got that.

Northeastern, coming off kicking ninth ranked Harvard’s teeth in, is by far the better team.  They’ve been undeniably one of the hottest teams in the country.  The Huskies have just a single loss since the first week of December.  We’re looking at a program on the other side of the ice that is in the worst shape I’ve ever seen.  I’d be shocked if UMass can even keep it close.

Week 19 Preview: Lowell

Team Celebration

It was against Lowell at the Friendship Four in Belfast over Thanksgiving break that Northeastern started their much improved play from the earlier part of the season.  Though the Huskies lost that game in hearbreaking fashion (naturally) it sparked their eventual run in December and January.

Since that weekend, Lowell’s season has seemed to take an opposite turn to Northeastern’s.  While they come into this weekend’s game with a 6-1 record in the month of January, it’s actually not as impressive as it seems.  They did go 1-1 against Providence, but the other wins came against Arizona State, UMass, and UNH.  Before that, after beating the Huskies the River Hawks went on to struggle against Brown in the Belpot championship game, get swept by UConn, and lose to Robert Morris.  Their only win in December came against Clarkson.

Lowell is by no means a bad team.  They’re currently 11th in the Pairwise and have a pretty good 53.2 close CF%.  Their success is heavily influenced by goaltending and special teams.  Goalie Kevin Boyle has been fantastic this season.  His .938 save percentage is tied for highest in Hockey East.  The River Hawks have only given up 1.65 goals per game, good for best in the conference.  While their offense is mediocre, they have the third best powerplay in Hockey East.  Paired with the second best penalty kill percentage (and lowest powerplay goals given up), they have second best net special teams in the conference.

Although Lowell is pretty good and has been ranked highly all season, they are certainly beatable.  The Huskies nearly did while paying their worst hockey of the season.  Hopefully Northeastern can get back the momentum they had build coming into this month.