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.
2/26/16: Northeastern 5, Maine 3
2/27/16: Northeastern 7, Maine 1
The Huskies completely demolished Maine this weekend, sending them back to their sad, cold campus in the woods empty-handed. Despite the Black Bears’ best efforts to goon it up Northeastern kept calm for the most part and made them pay for their cheap shots.
For about 110 of the 120 minutes the two teams played this week, the Huskies completely controlled play. Friday’s game had a few worrisome minutes where Maine came back and tied the game at the end of the first, and the Black Bears started out pretty well on Saturday, but that was it. They were rarely threatening outside of those two periods. While a lot of that has to do with them being bad at hockey, you can also attribute some of that to their insistence on playing the game on the penalty kill. Maine racked up 50 penalty minutes on Saturday alone. Northeastern certainly took advantage of those opportunities, scoring four powerplay goals.
I absolutely loved that all the way to the end the Huskies kept up the pressure. Tanner Pond scored a powerplay goal at the very end of the game to make it 7-1. No mercy. If anyone deserves to get the score run up on them, it’s this Maine team. They couldn’t skate with Northeastern so they started taking cheap shots and the Huskies buried them. Kevin Roy had a (kind of) Gordie Howe hat trick. Good. Can’t wait to see them next weekend and end their season.
PS – It was nice to see Derick Roy get in the game at the end. He made one of the best saves we’ve seen all year in his limited time in net:
The regular season comes to a close this weekend as the Huskies host the Maine
Panthers Black Bears and newly extended head coach Red Gendron for two at Historic Matthews Arena. This series doesn’t really mean a whole lot for Northeastern who’s already locked into the sixth spot in the Hockey East tournament, but let’s take a look at what we have.
Maine is not good. They’re currently tied with UConn for second to last in Hockey East. While their goaltending and defense have been bad (team save percentage of .904, 3.24 goals against per game), it’s the offense that is truly noteworthy for the Black Bears. Maine is dead last in the conference in scoring offense, averaging under two goals per game. The closest team to them, Vermont, is an over ten percent increase in scoring away. The special teams aren’t helping things either. Their powerplay is converting at the second worst rate in Hockey East, and they’ve given up the second highest amount of goals on the penalty kill. Maine also has a fun tendency to allow teams to score late in games, giving up the highest total of third period goals in the conference. Things could be better up in Orono.
As has been well documented, Northeastern has been cruising. They should have no trouble against Maine at home. While the Huskies are locked in to the sixth spot in the tournament, there are some implications of this game. Maine, UConn, Merrimack, and UNH are all possible first round opponents. If Northeastern sweeps Maine, they’ll stay in the eleventh spot and play the Huskies again. If Maine can get a point and UNH sweeps UConn, UConn will fall to eleventh. If Maine gets two against Northeastern and Merrimack is swept, they could fall to eleventh. UNH falling to eleventh is a distant possibility if they’re swept by UConn, Maine gets three points, and Merrimack gets two. Also, there’s the distant, but still existing, possibility of an NCAA tournament appearance! Even though the Huskies’ place is set, there are things riding on this game for them.
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.
11/27/15: Northeastern 2, Lowell 3 (OT)
11/28/15: Northeastern 7, Colgate 1
While they didn’t win the Belpot this weekend, I’d say the Friendship Four was pretty, pretty good for the Huskies.
Northeastern looked to be the better team for the majority of the first game against Lowell. They even managed to not give up a goal in the first period. While leading for the majority of the game, the Huskies managed to outshoot the Riverhawks. The way that game ended was obviously disappointing (and so Northeastern it hurts). You had to know exactly what was coming before it happened, with the Huskies putting Lowell on the powerplay at a minute left. The game-winning goal also wasn’t anything to write home about, leaving a Riverhawk wide open in the slot. I don’t think taking the fourth ranked team in the country to overtime is anything to be too upset about. Northeastern played really well on a bigger surface (which doesn’t suit their style) and outplayed a top team.
Saturday the Huskies, like many of you this weekend, met up with an old acquaintance to try to score again. And score they did. After a 1-1 first period, Northeastern exploded for five second period goals. The Huskies pretty much had their way with Colgate all day. This was their first win since the week one matchup with the Raiders, and it was a decisive one.
This weekend didn’t go as well as it could have gone. They didn’t make the championship game. They blew three leads throughout the weekend, including one that cost them the first game. The penalty kill is still a disaster. But they skated well with a top five ranked team, and took them to overtime. They got their first win since week one and completely dominated that game. The goaltending is looking better every week. So, no, they didn’t win, but you can feel pretty good about the team coming out of the Friendship Four.