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.
The weight of a conference rest on Husky shoulders this week. Northeastern leaves civilization this week to take on the black sheep of Hockey East in South Bend, Indiana.
By almost any statistic Notre Dame appears to be a perfectly average of the road team. They sport a 48.4% even strength CF%. They are in sixth place in Hockey East. Excluding UConn they’ve even split every series they’ve played this season. They’re Even Steven!
The only non-average aspect of this Notre Dame team is the goaltending of Cal Peterson. You might remember Peterson from being a jerk last year and not letting the Huskies score. Luckily for Northeastern he seems to have become more generous in his old age (he’s a sophomore now) and has been much less stingy giving out goals. Notre Dame given up three or more goals against everyone they’ve played so far this season except UConn (again).
On a related note, our Northeastern Huskies seem to finally figured out how to score on the road, putting up ten goals in the last three away games. Unfortunately, this may not actually be an away game. The Huskies are 4-1 on Notre Dame’s ice, and have already won a tournament there. As American history has shown, when you show up somewhere and completely dominate the inhabitants, that places becomes yours. As Northeastern has dominated Notre Dame in Compton Family, by the laws of Manifest Destiny this is a home series for Northeastern.
There’s no way around it; the Huskies will simply have to figure out how to score at home if they want to win this week in South Bend.