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.
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.
3/6/15: Northeastern 2, Merrimack 3 (OT)
3/7/15: Northeastern 1, Merrimack 2 (2OT)
I don’t really have much to say here. Like I said earlier in the week, the only chance Merrimack had against Northeastern was if Tirronen was amazing. He was and they won.
I thought Northeastern was by far the better team in both games this weekend. At points the Huskies completely dominated play. Merrimack went long periods of time without even sniffing the Northeastern net. The Huskies just weren’t able to make enough of their opportunities count. Tirronen was amazing, making 63 saves and allowing just a single goal on Saturday. It wasn’t even like he had been on a hot streak coming into this weekend. He had been inconsistent for the whole second half of the season. Tirronen was just playing on another level Friday and Saturday and Northeastern couldn’t beat him enough times to win.
It’s a really disappointing end to the season. We saw that this team was capable of beating anyone on any given night and it was a team that hadn’t won in a month and a half that beat them. The season ending goal itself was questionable (not enough to overturn it anyway). It was a brutal way to go for the players, especially for those who won’t be back again. They did just about all you could ask of them and it still wasn’t enough.
For the first time in a long time Northeastern is hosting a playoff series. I went my entire time at Northeastern without seeing a playoff game in Matthews. This is a long time coming.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, the opponent is a red hot Merrimack team. The Warriors have gone over a month without a single win in an amazing run of consistency. They’ve gone 0-8-1 in that stretch, matching what our very own Huskies accomplished in the early part of the season. Northeastern’s defense has been shaky and struggled with getting the puck out of their own end these past couple weeks, which feeds right into the strengths of the Warriors. Merrimack is a possession force, being outshot by just 86 shots on the season. They also sport a top 11 scoring offense in the conference. The Huskies have been getting themselves back into penalty trouble against Maine and BU, and we all know the penalty kill is the worst aspect of this team. Again, we run into another strength for Merrimack, who own a top 10 Hockey East powerplay. With a team as ready to take advantage of the Huskies’ weaknesses, I’d actually consider Northeastern lucky to make it out of the octo-final.
In all seriousness, the only real chance Merrimack has is if their goalie, Tirronen, is able to steal two games in this three game series. He has been shaky since the new year started, but he’s shown the ability to stand on his head and have some big games. In Merrimack’s only conference win of 2015, Tirronen posted 51 (!) saves. He obviously has ability, but he’d have to overcome a team surrounding him that’s on one of the worst skids of the season. Merrimack has been awful and is not poised to take advantage of any of the weaknesses Northeastern has shown in the past couple weeks. I’d be surprised if I end up needing my ticket for Sunday.
2/3/15: Northeastern 3, BC 2
Last night in the first round of the Beanpot, Northeastern carried on what appears to be a couple traditions: playing in another close Beanpot game and making it to the championship game.
I’ve missed a couple posts now between moving back to Boston, starting a new job, and the internet being out, but hopefully I should be good to go from now on. My cable and internet were still out Monday night and I really lucked out with the game being postponed. Sometimes things just have a way of working out (by harassing Verizon).
The Huskies were able to snap BC’s five year streak of Beanpot championships and make it to their third straight championship game. It was the powerplay again that came up big for Northeastern, scoring two in the second period (they also gave up a goal but we won so it doesn’t count). To be honest, I was super skeptical of having Saucerman playing the wing on the powerplay at first but it has worked out. He does a great job finishing from the left side of the net, although this one wasn’t particularly difficult. On the other side, the Huskies did a good job staying out of the box, taking only one penalty. Clay Witt was his usual great self. You can’t blame him for the goals he gave up; both were on breakaways and he even stopped the initial shot on one of them. He was alone with shooters a few times and made some big saves.
To be honest though I was completely convinced Northeastern was going to lose this game. BC was able to answer the two leads and for some reason I couldn’t shake the feeling. But Dustin Darou (really, Darou) came out of nowhere to give the Huskies the lead with a minute and a half left. The dude has only played in half the games this season. He had one goal in his entire career coming into the game. But, when BC decided to give him all the time and space in the world, he made them pay for it by putting one in the far corner past Demko. It was a pretty sweet moment to see a guy who was only in the lineup because of injuries take down the Boston College Eagles in the Beanpot.
It was an awesome game made even better by beating BC. I’ve felt awful all day and have been completely useless at work but the team made it worth waiting the extra 90 minutes for the undercard to finish and getting home at 1:30 (still would have been worth it anyway, but whatever you get the point). The defense will have to play better next week against BU for Beanpot to finally come back to Northeastern. Some of their breakaways were inexcusable, but anything can happen in one game. Plus, I heard Eichel might go to the Q.