Week 16 Reaction: Another One

John Stevens

1/15/16: Northeastern 4, New Hampshire 2

1/16/16: Northeastern 6, New Hampshire 2

The Huskies pick up their first two conference wins of the season as they continue to roll through the second half.  Northeastern completely outclassed UNH in just about every aspect of both games on their way to another sweep.

Northeastern absolutely dominated Friday night’s game at Historic Matthews Arena.  UNH barely even saw the offensive zone.  They couldn’t do anything to take the puck from the Huskies and make it out of their own end.  The Wildcats ended up getting outshot 36-25 in the game.  The only time New Hampshire looked even remotely threatening was for a few minutes late in the second period, resulting in their first goal of the weekend.  After that, it was all Northeastern.

Saturday night’s game had an entire weekend’s worth of action in half of a period.  After a first period where absolutely nothing happened, the Huskies took a lead early in the second.  They went on, like the previous night, to have some second period struggles for the rest of the first half of the period, giving up good chances and being bailed out by Ruck.  UNH eventually put one home to tie it up.  Then it got nuts.

In four and a half minutes the Huskies scored four times and gave up a powerplay goal.  Excluding that penalty they took, Northeastern had their way with UNH.  They were making perfect passes all over the New Hampshire zone.  It was reminiscent of the preseason game against Simon Fraser.  Absolutely unbelievable.

While it’s easy to point out that New Hampshire is just a bad team (and they are really bad), it shouldn’t count against how well Northeastern has been playing.  The offense is firing on all cylinders.  After scoring just 24 goals in their first 13 games (up to the Thanksgiving tournament), the Huskies have scored 37 in their last 10.  They’ll only get better on the offensive side when Roy and Hedges eventually come back from injury.  Ruck has significantly improved from his early season struggles.  Northeastern has also done a much better job staying out of the box since that point in the season.  From the Belfast tournament on, the Huskies have cut down on taken penalties by almost two a game.  As they still have by far the worst penalty kill in Hockey East.  Northeastern has markedly improved on two of their biggest early season weaknesses, while minimizing exposure to a third.

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Week 16 Preview: New Hampshire

Matt Benning

The Huskies resume Hockey East play this weekend against New Hampshire, a popular dark horse pick to make some noise in Hockey East this year.

Despite the preseason optimism, the Wildcats are just slightly higher than consensus would have had them pegged.  They sit in a three way tie for seventh in the conference, and at 30th in the Pairwise.  If you ask me, UNH should feel lucky to even be there.

The Wildcats have an abysmal 46.1 close CF%, the second worst in Hockey East.  Only UConn has worse numbers in that category.  Goaltender Danny Tirone is one of only two qualifying goalies with a worse save percentage lower than our own Ryan Ruck (whose save percentage is steadily rising).  Tirone clocks in at .898.  While it’s a flawed statistic, it’s also worth noting that his 3.30 GAA is worst in the conference among qualifying goaltenders.

So, how has UNH found themselves in a decent spot so far in the season?  Well, first we should look at the schedule the Wildcats have played so far.  Their eight wins have come against Maine, Dartmouth, Bentley, Merrimack, Union, and AIC.  The only real quality opponent in that group is Union.  Three of their wins have come from Maine alone.  It’s not exactly the toughest bunch.

That weak schedule has led to UNH having the second highest scoring offense in Hockey East, behind only BC.  Along with that comes the Wildcats’ 12.67 shooting percentage.  Again, only BC ranks above them in the conference.  UNH’s shooting percentage is over twice that of Maine, the team accounting for three of their wins.  There’s nobody even close to those two teams’ shooting percentages.  While BC might actually be a 12% shooting true talent team, there’s just no way UNH is.  You can expect that to regress down to a more reasonable number as the sample size grows and competition gets more difficult.

Another aspect of the Wildcats’ game leading to their decent place in the standings is their special teams.  New Hampshire has Hockey East’s best powerplay by far.  They also have one of the best penalty kills.  UNH has to use that penalty kill far less frequently than anyone else in the conference.  The Wildcats have 35 fewer penalty minutes than the second least penalized team in Hockey East.

Basically, the Wildcats are a crap team that’s been getting lucky.  They’ve played a bunch of crap teams in the first part of the season, boosting their record above where it should be.  They’ve been shooting at a far higher percentage than they have any right to be, and have been able to capitalize on special teams.  All Northeastern needs to do this weekend is to avoid taking penalties, and get solid goaltending.  Ruck has played much better recently than he did at the beginning of the season.  With the exception of last tame, the Huskies had done a good job staying out of the box.  Northeastern should be able to keep the positive momentum they’ve been building into and through this weekend, hopefully picking up their first Hockey East win(s) along the way.

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.

Week 6 Preview: New Hampshire

Mike Szmatula

That’s right, Northeastern fans!  It’s homecoming!  After a long road trip your Huskies men’s ice hockey team is finally returning home to Matthews Arena (don’t tell anyone the last game played was a home game).  Northeastern takes on the New Hampshire Wildcats in a home-and-home this weekend.  The bad news: Northeastern has only one win in their last ten matches with New Hampshire.  The good news: UNH is the only team behind the Huskies in the Hockey East standings.  It should be noted, however, that New Hampshire has only played two Hockey East games, as opposed to the four for Northeastern.

The Huskies have a fairly good chance of coming away with their first win of the season.  New Hampshire is playing at a lower level than the teams Northeastern has played so far in this season, with the exception of maybe UMass, so there’s that.  Unfortunately, Northeastern hasn’t even really been competitive in those games (except for the Lowell tie), so UNH playing poorly doesn’t necessarily mean Northeastern will do any better this time.  It also remains to be seen at this time if Clay Witt will make his return to the crease.  For some reason GoNU.com is referring to the goaltending situation as a “platoon” even though Roy has started the last six games.  Witt hasn’t even dressed, so they aren’t particularly useful in determining the goalie situation.

I’m optimistic Northeastern comes out of this weekend with a win.  UNH hasn’t been great and you have to think there’s at least a tiny bit of a fire being lit under Husky ass this week.  Remember, it was New Hampshire who last season ended the Huskies’ season in the Hockey East tournament so they should be extra fired up, right? Right?