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.

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Week 21 Preview: UConn

Zach Aston-Reese

Our Huskies take on the copycat Huskies this week as Northeastern looks to lock up the sixth seed in the Hockey East tournament*.  The UConn Huskies have been terrible, while the Northeastern Huskies have been fantastic.  But, let’s humor them and take a look at who’s across the ice.

So, first of all, let’s revisit last year’s series.  Northeastern relegated UConn back to the worst conference in Division I men’s hockey (or at least they should have).  I think we’re all lucky that Rob Nichols didn’t quit right on the spot.  That would have been a truly tragic end to what was a promising young career.  Roy and Aston-Reese danced on his grave, each a hat trick in the same game.  Arguably even worse, they followed up that performance with a game in which they let Torin Snydeman and Adam Reid each score twice.

For all who were expecting anything more from UConn, I have bad news for you.  The other Huskies’ only wins in the last two months have come against powerhouses Arizona State, Maine, and Brown.  Not one of those teams is outside of the bottom ten in the country.  Average rank? 55.  But wait, it gets worse.

UConn ranks in the bottom five nationwide in close CF%.  Their 41.1% is astonishingly bad.  They’re 4.6% (a ton) behind next worst Hockey East team, New Hampshire.  Last year’s only bright spot, Nichols (bless his soul), now has a middling .912 save percentage.  The fact that UConn has only the third worst and fourth worst scoring offense and defense respectively doesn’t do justice to how bad they’ve been, and may say more about the depth of terribleness of the bottom of the conference than anything.  Despite Max Letunov’s and Tage Thompson’s best efforts, the team is also in that same range on the powerplay, although they have been (slightly) better on the penalty kill.

Yes, UConn does have that weird thing that it seems to do where it beats far better teams, seemingly at random.  They beat BU and swept Lowell this year.  But that’s nothing to be scared of.  This team is terrible.  Northeastern is on fire right now.  Will it be a repeat of last year’s massacre?  Maybe not.  Will it be worse?  Only time will tell.  #PrayForNichols

*Is the T in Hockey East (T)tournament capitalized? Asking for a friend.

 

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.

Beanpot Round 1 Preview: BU

KevinRoy_5981

The Huskies will start out this year’s Beanpot against last year’s champion, BU.

Northeastern lost the two previous games against BU earlier in the year, a wild game at Agganis and the homecoming game at Historic Matthews Arena.  They come into the Beanpot with a 5-1-1 record in January, kicked off with a win over Harvard.  Their only non-win results came against BC.  The Terrier’s are Hockey East’s best possession team with a 55.4 close CF%.  Like last year’s team, they are incredible in the third period.  BU has scored just one fewer goal in the third period than in the first and in second combined.  Northeastern fans are all too aware of how well they finish out games.

But, the Huskies are looking pretty good themselves.  As you may have heard, Northeastern is on the longest unbeaten streak in the country.  The team hasn’t lost in almost two months.  They’ve been great offensively, and while BU’s Sean Maguire has been better in net recently, he hasn’t had a great season.  The Huskies have also won four of their last five first round games.  It hasn’t really been this round of the tournament that’s been an issue.

Northeastern will also be featuring Kevin Roy, who tends to be pretty good in Beanpots.  Three years ago he  won MVP as a freshman.  Through his first three years, he’s already Northeastern’s leader in career Beanpot points.  If Roy scores one more point, he’ll enter the top 25 Beanpot scorers of all time.  Hopefully he’ll have himself another big tournament.

Edit: as pointed out by Mike Downie, that’s actually not true. My bad. 

Look, BU is a good team that’s playing well recently.  But, so is Northeastern.  I ain’t scared.  See you Monday.

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.

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!