3/25/16: Northeastern 2, North Dakota 6
It’s past midnight on Easter Sunday (or Monday I guess). I’ve been putting off writing this post forever, but it has to be done.
The game Friday obviously didn’t go as we wanted it to. I thought the Huskies actually played pretty well. North Dakota was just on a completely other level. They were amazing. Hats off to them, if not their fans.
The one downside to making the tournament is that for all but one team, a great season will end in a loss. Every team in the tournament had a successful season; otherwise they wouldn’t be there. But for fifteen of them it ends on a sour note. It comes with the territory.
That’s not how we should remember this season. This was the best season of Northeastern hockey I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching, and I’m sure it was for the majority of fans. There’s a hockey trophy in Matthews Arena for the first time in almost thirty years. There’s a banner hanging in TD Garden naming Northeastern as Hockey East champions. We saw the most dramatic turnaround of a team I think I’ve ever witnessed. We saw the goalie of the future come into his own and shut down opponents in the second half. Five Huskies finished with thirty points. The freshmen have completely raised the bar in the celebration game.
So while it’s a bummer that it ended this way, and it’s a bummer that we won’t see the seniors (and potentially others) play in Husky sweaters again, this was an amazing year. 2016 has been by far the best time I’ve had with Northeastern hockey since I started following six years ago. Chins up.
We made it to the dance. Pretty much everybody until last weekend doubted we’d be here, but we’re here as the hottest team in the country with some new hardware.
Alright, so I admittedly don’t know anything about North Dakota. I know that they’re apparently good. I know that they managed to win thirty games this year. I know they’ve been to the last two Frozen Fours. I know they also have a line named after the world’s most boring television network.
Let’s take a look at our old friend the stat sheet. They have a 58.6 close CF%, which is third in the country. The members of the previously referenced CBS line are three of the top fifteen scorers in the country. Goalie Cam Johnson is tied for the third best save percentage in the country at .935. They have the eighth best offense and third best defense, good for the fifth best scoring margin.
So, that was a little depressing. Let’s cheer up with this:
Yeah, remember how awesome Northeastern is? One single loss in 2016. First Hockey East championship since 1988. The Huskies are good.
North Dakota also plays in a worse conference, beating up on worse teams than those we’ve seen in Hockey East all year. They blew a lead in their conference championship on the way to getting dusted by fellow tournament fourth seed Duluth. Their own goalie dropped that they got too comfortable playing bad teams, saying “We thought, ‘Oh, all we have to do is just show up to the rink, and we’re going to win the game.'” The players their goalie is tied with in save percentage? Thatcher Demko and Kevin Boyle, the two most recent victims of Husky offense. They ain’t so bad.
Jim Dahl at College Hockey Ranked ran the KRACH predictions using just 2016 and found Northeastern to be an 86-14 favorite over North Dakota. With those parameters, the Huskies have a 46% to win the championship. I like those odds.
It’s the battle of the swept this weekend as the Huskies fly out to Minnesota this weekend to take on the Golden Gophers.
Like Northeastern, Minnesota has struggled to put the puck in the net so far this season. Unlike Northeastern, Minnesota has not dominated their opponents in the games they’ve played. The Golden Gophers have struggled offensively this season in almost all aspects, leading coach Don Lucia to shake up all three top forward lines in the last game against Duluth. Their overall CF% doesn’t look bad at 50.3, but looking a little closer we can see that score effects had a pretty big effect on that number. Minnesota has actually been so outplayed that only about a third of the total attempts come when the score was close. Minnesota’s close CF% is a pretty terrible 40.9, good for twelfth from last in the country.
Sure, you could point to high quality of competition as the reason Minnesota’s numbers are so poor. Yeah, their opponent for two of the three games, Duluth, is coming in at fifth in the USCHO poll but polls are stupid. Minnesota’s still ranked in the USCHO poll, come on. Yeah, they are shooting a shockingly low 1.4%, but maybe it’s because they aren’t able to recruit skill guys. Unfortunately for them, they aren’t located in a hockey hotbed like Boston, and I don’t know if the program has the cache to recruit outside their local area. I think we need to consider that 1.4% shooting might be indicative of the true level of talent that the Minnesota Golden Gophers have access to. If that’s the case, I feel great about the Huskies chances going into this weekend.
So, to recap, Northeastern will finally start getting some bounces and have their complete dominance of possession start to pay off. Minnesota’s low shooting percentage is indicative of their true talent level and will not pick up. Their low possession numbers should not be taken in the context of their competition because all western teams are actually garbage anyway. I feel great about this weekend. People don’t forget:
Bentley, the neglected sibling of Boston area hockey teams, is Northeastern’s opponent this week in an out of conference home-and-home matchup.
The Falcons are coming off a tough weekend against those very same Mercyhurst Lakers whose achievements I extolled last week. Bentley wasn’t as fortunate as last week’s opponent, Colgate, and was rolled by Mercyhurst both nights that weekend. Northeastern outscored Colgate by 1, who outscored Mercyhurst by 1, who outscored Bentley by 3. Ipso facto, by the transitive property, Northeastern should annihilate Bentley this weekend. Their goaltenders have a combined even strength SV% of .865. The Huskies’ shooters should have a ball with that duo in net.
Northeastern looked really, really good on Saturday. They absolutely dominated play, much more than the score would indicate. The Huskies posted a 64.5 CF% close (compare with Bentley’s 45.6% this weekend). Last week and in the preseason game, Northeastern showed themselves to be particularly proficient in possessing the puck in the offensive zone. Even though Northeastern didn’t live up to my 127-0 prediction last week, I do think that controlling the game against a team like Colgate is a very positive sign for the team. Meanwhile, Bentley appears to have some sort of phobia about actually maintaining possession. Spending all game in your own zone with subpar goaltending doesn’t seem like my cup of tea, but to each his own. I love this matchup for Northeastern. Everything is pointing to another big weekend from the Huskies.
Inspired by my favorite video series of all time, I decided to name my All Hockey East Hair Team. There were a lot of tough decisions and had to leave off a few deserving names, but this is the best of the best. Anyway, feel free to disagree but here you go.
F: Patrick Lee, UMass F: Mike Jamieson, Northeastern F: Mark Jankowski, Providence
D: Brien Diffley, BU D: Anthony Florentino, Providence G: Derick Roy, Northeastern
F: Conor MacPhee, Providence F: Nikolas Olsson, BU F: Riley McDougall, UMass
D: Johnny Austin, UConn D: Dylan Zink, Lowell G: Anthony Moccia, BU
Big time showing from Providence and BU with three players each. Half of the teams in the conference didn’t have a single representative. Our Northeastern Huskies are in pretty good shape with two players, but there’s room for improvement. I’d like to see them take the lead next year; they’re returning a lot of talent. Big time thank you to everyone above for having great hair.
2/23/15: Northeastern 3, BU 4 (OT)
2/27/15: Northeastern 6, BU 5
2/28/15: Northeastern 1, BU 6
Well this was not a good week for our guys. It started out Monday with another crushing Beanpot loss, and ended last night getting run off the ice on Senior Night.
Northeastern played a great game in the Beanpot final. Ending aside, they played well. After a bad second period where they fell behind by two, the Huskies came back to tie the game against what may be the best third period team in the country. Although the outcome was awful and terrible and horrible and everything bad, Northeastern did play well.
The Huskies also had an incredible half of a game against BU on Friday night. Northeastern outshot BU 20-7 in the first period, and continued that trend for the first half of the second. Northeastern was up 6-2 on BU and completely dominating the game. The Huskies then almost blew the game, giving up three unanswered goals to the Terriers. The team carried that on to Senior Night on Saturday, getting the doors completely blown off. They spent the whole game chasing BU around in their own end and absolutely couldn’t get anything going.
I don’t mean to sound like a broken record here, but the penalties are killing this team. They’d done a good job cutting back somewhat, but they were a big part of each of these games. It was a penalty at the start of overtime in the Beanpot final that lost that game. BU powerplay goals almost cost Northeastern the game on Friday, after being up by four goals. Although they were outplayed in almost every aspect of Saturday’s game, the Huskies did take eight penalties. They weren’t going to win that game anyway, but the point still stands. Northeastern can’t take these stupid penalties, especially given how bad their penalty kill is. It was a huge problem during the early season winless streak, and I’d hate to see it become a huge problem again with the Hockey East playoffs starting.
2/20/15: Northeastern 6, Maine 4
2/21/15: Northeastern 3, Maine 6
Well thanks a lot Maine. You ruined it.
Northeastern’s win streak ended last night at seven and now it looks like a very, very long shot the Huskies make the NCAA tournament. Although they remain at 18 in the PairWise, Northeastern pretty much needed a sweep this weekend to gain some ground on the teams ahead of them. The NCAA tournament looks to likely be out of reach at this point, barring a Hockey East championship.
Other than the four goal first period on Friday, the Huskies did not look very good. They were outplayed in just about every other period, especially in the game on Saturday. I’m not sure if the team took the foot off the gas, assuming that Maine would be an easier opponent than they were, but they certainly were out worked. While Maine was doing a great job in front of the net and getting rebounds, Northeastern defensively was standing around and not doing a whole lot of anything. Except for the first period of the series, this was an ugly weekend of Northeastern hockey.
Now that we have that out of the way, hopefully the Huskies can erase that from their minds and focus on a HUGE week with three against BU, then the Hockey East tournament. I moved on past this weekend and on to the Beanpot pretty much instantly after the final whistle blew. Let’s just pretend this weekend never happened. I’ll see you tomorrow at the Garden.