NCAA Tournament Round 1 Reaction: 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

Goal Celebration

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.

#GoNU

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NCAA Tournament Round 1 Preview: North Dakota

NCAA Tournament Mens Hockey Tickets

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.

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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 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 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 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 14 Preview: Quinnipiac

Kevin Roy

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.