Week 7 Reaction: Eat, Sleep, Shoot Yourself In the Foot, Repeat

Matt Benning

11/12/15 Northeastern 2, Notre Dame 3

11/13/15 Northeastern 2, Notre Dame 2

At this point you could basically write a recap of Northeastern hockey games before they even happen.  It’s exactly the same game every night from the Huskies.

First and foremost, Northeastern must dig themselves a hole early in the game.  Thursday night, Notre Dame put up two in the first period and another early into the second.  Friday, the Huskies managed to keep the Fighting Irish to just one goal in the first period, waiting all the way until two minutes had gone in the second period to drop another goal down.  For those of you keeping score, that’s a -3 goal differential this weekend, keeping perfectly in line with what’s happened so far this season.  Northeastern has scored only two first period goals in 11 games this year, while giving up 18 to their opponents.  For some context, the next highest first period goals against total is 12.  The Huskies scored first in just one game this season, resulting in their only win of the season.

The second part of a Northeastern classic is to take dumb penalties.  The Huskies got out to a hot start, opening the series with a too many men penalty that lead to Notre Dame’s first goal.  Notre Dame would actually manage to top Northeastern’s dumb penalty strategy in that game.  The Fighting Irish matched the four penalties put up by the Huskies, but bested them by having a game misconduct thrown in the mix (not that Northeastern would score on any of these).  The Huskies opened their penalty taking on Friday again with a too many men penalty (incredible.).  Again, this lead to the first goal for Notre Dame.  This time, however, Northeastern followed up shortly after with a five minute major and game misconduct from Tanner Pond for hitting a Notre Dame player in the head.  Neither of these penalties would be the dumbest of the night for the Huskies, as John Stevens capped off the game with a five minute major and game misconduct for facemasking.

Northeastern is currently only sixth in the conference in penalty minutes per game, but those numbers are skewed by a wild series last weekend from BC and Maine.  What’s more frustrating than the actual number of penalties is how preventable they all are.  They took two too many men penalties lead to goals, and two game misconduct penalties.  These are mental errors that shouldn’t be happening at the Division I level, but they’re happening to Northeastern, and they’re happening frequently.  All this stupidity is happening with the backdrop of the worst non-UMass penalty kill in the conference.  The Huskies have killed just 78% of their penalties this season.  They’ve given up nine powerplay goals, enough to tie for the conference lead.  That’s a tough way to win games.

We’ve reached the third and final ingredient to make a Northeastern Husky hockey game, which is to make a furious attempted comeback and fall short.  My personal favorite part of the process, the Huskies will show you just how talented they actually are.  Northeastern will come up with great passes, generate tons of high quality scoring chances.  They’ll be great on the forecheck, trapping their opponents in their own end.  Sometimes they’ll even get a few back before the clock runs out.  But, it won’t be enough to get the win.  The Huskies have played from behind in 10 of their 11 games this season and have accumulated a 0-8-2 record in those games.  Seven of those games played with a deficit have ended with margin of victory of one or less.  In those seven games, Northeastern is 0-5-2.  The Huskies always make sure you leave the game knowing they had the talent to win, but still disappoint in the end.

At some point, the leadership of this team has to be held accountable.  Reading the post-game quotes from Jim Madigan this weekend you see him acknowledge the problems the team is having, just like he does after every single game.  After Thursday’s game he said “Similar story where we fell behind, it’s been two or three goals where we’ve been falling behind and then we bounced back in the second period and played hard but we’re always chasing the game and that’s what happened here tonight. We can’t continue giving up two and three goals to good teams and expect to win games.”  No shit, Jim.  If Northeastern wants to have anything resembling success, the coaches and team leaders need to actually make the changes instead of just talking about them.

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Week 1 Reaction: Toothpasted

Nolan Stevens

10/10/15: Northeastern 2, Colgate 1

What a way to start the season.  The Huskies came out firing on opening night.

Northeastern looked much, much better than the final score would indicate.  They absolutely dominated the first two periods of the game.  It felt like Colgate was barely ever in the Northeastern zone, with the obvious exception of the goal when the Huskies were unable to clear.  The Huskies did a really good job both maintaining possession of the puck in the Colgate end, and trapping the Raiders in there when they did manage to get it back.  In total, Northeastern out-attempted Colgate by 30, completely controlling play.

The Colgate goalie Charlie Finn was the only thing stopping this game from being an absolute bloodbath.  He made 41 saves on the night, some of them on really good Northeastern chances.  Have to give it up to that dude, he’s played really well against Northeastern going back to his two shutouts last season.

Derick Roy also had a great game in net.  Let’s be honest, although Northeastern played great, the defense hung him out to dry in some spots, especially in the third.  Colgate had a few breakaway chances and Roy held his ground.  The play of the defensemen was the only thing I saw in the game that made me a little nervous.  There were some bad exchanges between partners and we saw guys getting caught out of position and unable to chase down the breaking Colgate players.  I’m sure that’s the kind of stuff that will smooth out with time.  Hopefully that won’t be an issue going forward.

The last thing I want to do in this post is to call attention to the game winning goal from Nolan Stevens.  I don’t really have much to say about it other than it is incredible and I’ve watched it like 45 times today.

PS – Wanted to give a shout out to former Northeastern Husky Ryan Belonger for scoring the game winner for Arizona State’s first win with 30 seconds left in the game

Week 7 Reaction: We Go as the Penalties Go

Clay Witt

There are three big things that stood out to me after this weekend’s home-and-home with Merrimack (full disclosure: only was able to watch highlights of the game at Merrimack, had to watch the NU home game on my phone).

The first is that penalties are very important to this team.  Northeastern’s powerplay is really starting to click.  They went 3/8 this weekend against what had been the best penalty kill in Hockey East.  Along with that, penalties have been killing this team.  They took eight (!) on Friday, giving up three powerplay goals.  It is imperative this team somehow learns to play with discipline consistently, you know, not running the opposition’s goalie.

Secondly, Northeastern has really started to be able to possess the puck.  Through the past two weekends, the Huskies have generated a ton of shots on goal.  Sean Hathaway tweeted out Northeastern out-attempted their opponents 201-144 (58.3%) through those four games.  On Saturday, Northeastern posted a 53.9 Corsi-For percentage, almost  5% better than their season average of 49%.  This comes from the improved forecheck from the forwards, and the incredible job the team has done at the faceoff dot.  Although I don’t have zone time statistics, it was definitely noticeable that play was kept in the Merrimack zone.  Northeastern won 56% of faceoffs on Friday, and an astounding 68% on Saturday.  At one point I counted that they won fifteen faceoffs in a row.  Winning faceoffs and aggressively forechecking seem to be key to controlling play for the Huskies.

Lastly, Clay Witt didn’t have to be God this week for the Huskies to win.  That is not a knock on Witt.  He played well this week, especially on Saturday.  Northeastern had only won the week before because he was a brick wall.  This week we saw just an average performance from Witt (again, still good), and Northeastern came away with a win.  The team around him is starting to play better and I, for one, am encouraged.

Now, on to that Gopher team or whatever…

Week 6 Reaction: Sweet Victory

Nolan Stevens

Some days you wake and the grass is a little greener, the coffee smells a little better, and it doesn’t seem like a frozen tundra before Thanksgiving.  That day is today.  Your Northeastern University Huskies won!  They beat a team! In hockey!

After losing the first leg of the home-and-home in New Hampshire, the Huskies bounced back to get the first win of the season at home in front of a loud crowd at Matthews.  Have to say, it’s pretty cool to see all the old Dog House banners hanging from the balcony and hear the fans actually participating again.

Clay Witt is back in net and it feels so good.  Even though UNH scored five in the first game, I think he still looked very good.  At home, he stopped 34 shots and held UNH to just one goal.  He kept the Huskies in the game when the team was being out-shot by over eleven through the first two periods.

The part that really got me excited was seeing that Northeastern has the ability to come back.  On Friday, they gave up three first period goals, and managed to come back to tie in the second, though they eventually lost.  Even more impressive, I think, is the what they did on the second night.  After UNH put up a go-ahead goal in the third period and Northeastern had been out-shot by such a huge margin at that point, I think we all could see the writing on the wall.  The team couldn’t put pucks on net at all, so giving up that goal seemed the end of the game.  But then, something weird happened.  Northeastern scored!  The Stevens’ Family and Rosenthal answered and tied it up short after.  It was that line that also gave the Huskies the eventual game winning goal (Nolan Stevens’ first of his career).  That line was a bright spot in what has been a very dark offensive period for the team, with N. Stevens winning Pro Ambitions Rookie of the Week.

While it feels good to see Northeastern win, I still don’t think the team is playing very well.  You could make the argument that they were outplayed in both games this weekend.  Clay Witt was incredible in that second game, and was the only reason the Huskies even had a chance at winning.  They’re still taking way too many penalties (five in each game), and stupid ones at that (too many men, embellishment).  The game just needs to be cleaner in every aspect, from clearing the zone, to playing with discipline.  Better teams than UNH will be able to take advantage from how sloppy they’ve played.

But, Northeastern won and I personally am going to just bask in that for a while.