Here we are again. For the third straight year, Northeastern is in the Beanpot championship game. This time around it’s BU lining up on the other side.
I’ll say it. BU is really, really good. They’re the third ranked team in the country. The Terriers are in first in Hockey East and are up four points on second place BC with a game in hand. Their first round game against Harvard, although going to double overtime, was one of the most dominant performances I’ve seen in a while.
We all know about Eichel. He’s amazing. Everybody and their mother is talking about how great the BU offense is, and they’re right. BU is scoring an average of 3.69 goals per game. They’re powerplay is converting 26.3% of their chances. They’ve scored an incredible 49 goals in the third period. We all know about their offense.
What has gone under the radar is how good the defense is on this BU team. It has been a huge part in the quick turnaround. BU has the third best defense in Hockey East with four of their regular defensemen being freshman. Goalie Matt O’Connor is ranked second in goals against average and save percentage, behind only Mike Santaguida in both categories. Although it doesn’t get the same amount of love as BU’s offense, the defense has been excellent.
The keys to this game for Northeastern are the same ones we’ve seen before. They can’t give up penalties. BU is the best powerplay team in Hockey East and Northeastern is next to last on the penalty kill. Witt (presumably) will have to be excellent again in net because BU will put up a ton of shots. With the inevitable third period surge the Terriers will have, at no point can you feel comfortable with a lead. This is certainly an uphill battle for Northeastern, but it’s just one game. Northeastern has already beaten one third ranked opponent; who’s to say it can’t happen again?
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.
1/16/15: Northeastern 4, Vermont, 1
1/17/15: Northeastern 2, Vermont, 2
Like I said in the preview, I knew we had this one the whole time. Never a doubt in my mind. This weekend Northeastern marched right into Gutterson Fieldhouse and walked out with both Hockey East points and a tie in that in-conference non-conference game on Saturday.
Friday night’s win was one of the best games the Huskies played all year. Other than taking way more penalties than their opponent (again), they did just about everything right and, to use one of my favorite cliches, played a complete game. The penalty kill was good enough. Derick Roy got the start and was great in goal. Northeastern was able to sustain possessions in the offensive zone and was quick to get Vermont out of their own end. The four goals scored by Northeastern in that game were more than Vermont had allowed in any game all season. It was a great performance that I think we all saw coming.
I wasn’t able to see most of Saturday’s game, but from what I can see in the box score, it was tougher game than the previous one. The Huskies took another five penalties in this game and it cost them. Both of Vermont’s goals came off the powerplay, including a 5 on 3. Derick Roy was in net again for Northeastern and stopped 30 shots as the Huskies were outshot in the game, especially in the third period. Roy has been great recently, which Coach Madigan says is the reason for him getting the starts, not due to any injury to Witt. I hope that’s actually the case.
Although ties are always a little disappointing, this weekend was not. Taking the two Hockey East points is a big coup for this team. Vermont is a very good team and has certainly shown it this season. Northeastern will be looking for all the conference points it can get as it looks for home ice in the Hockey East tournament.
1/2/15: Northeastern 3, St. Lawrence 3
1/3/15: Northeastern 4, St. Lawrence 2
I forgot to write a preview for this week’s games against St. Lawrence, sorry. I was still in break mode and unprepared for this weekend, and it looked like both these teams were, too. However, the Huskies were able to come away with three points after hosting the Saints for both games.
Both games this weekend featured Northeastern comebacks and scoring late in the game, which is usually a recipe for a pair of exciting games. That was not the case. These games were filled with sloppy play, penalties, and an ABSURD amount of St. Lawrence offsides. There were 53 combined penalty minutes this game, prompting St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel to whine about the refs. We know Hockey East refs are bad. They are not favoring Hockey East teams; they just aren’t very good at their jobs. Relax.
The penalty situation once again came back to bite the Huskies in the first game. They were given eight opportunities and used them to score all three of their goals. The opposite was true in the second game with Northeastern killing all the penalties and converting two of their five powerplay chances. I’ve harped on it over and over this season so I won’t get into the penalty stuff again but they are not taking them at the absolute worst times (looking at you Aston-Reese).
There were two main positives I saw through the garbage that was this weekend’s games. I loved seeing the ability to come back, especially in the first game. Although they didn’t come away with the win, they came back from a 3-0 hole two salvage a point. It’s a much needed ability in a season that started out as poorly as this one did. The other thing I liked was the way both goalies came to play. Friday we saw our usual great Clay Witt performance and on Saturday Derick Roy got his first win of the season. Both goalies were excellent this week and will need to be going forward for Northeastern to continue success. So, even though the quality of play wasn’t very good this weekend, Northeastern earned three points and once again showed promising signs for the rest of the season.
12/3/14: Northeastern 1, Providence 5
12/6/14: Northeastern 2, Providence 1
I have no clue what to make of this team. I got nothing. Some days they look like doormats, sometimes they look like they world beaters. Wednesday was the former and apparently Saturday was the latter. When it looks like they play well at home and poorly on the road, they do the opposite. You know nothing, Jon Snow.
Wednesday at Matthews the Huskies looked awful. With the exception of about half of the first period, they were completely outmatched in just about every aspect of the game. After taking an early lead, Providence scored five unanswered goals. Northeastern was having the same problems they had to start the year. They struggled to clear their own zone and could not sustain possession in Providence’s. It was painful to watch.
But then, apparently we were good in Providence on Saturday? Couldn’t watch the game, but listening to the audio broadcast on WRBB I came away with the impression that the Huskies were actually the better team and deserved the win. Jim Madigan’s postgame comments seemed to further that thought, calling it the best 60 minute effort the team has had. If that is the case it was certainly hard to tell from the stat sheet with the Huskies being outshot by the Friars by 12. Thankfully, Clay Witt again came up huge, posting 37 saves and keeping Northeastern in the game. Since I didn’t see the whole game it’s hard for me to say how well the team actually played.
One thing that I can say for sure is that penalties continue to kill Northeastern. I know I’ve said it in like 90% of my posts, but it remains the biggest problem for the team. In the two games this past week the Huskies took 13 penalties. That’s not out the norm for this team; they average 12.9 penalty minutes per game. This issue is exacerbated by the team only killing 72.5% of those penalties. 38.8% of the goals Northeastern has allowed this season have come while on the penalty kill. I don’t mean to keep harping on it, but it continues to be a huge problem with the team and is not addressed. Madigan didn’t mention penalties once in his press conferences this week, but blames things like effort and toughness for losses. I don’t really know what to make of this Jekyll and Hyde team, but the penalty issue needs to be addressed.
11/29/14: Northeastern 3, Minnesota 2
I’M GOING TO WARN YOU ALL RIGHT NOW. THIS POST IS GOING TO BE IN ALL CAPS.
THIS SATURDAY YOUR NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY MEN’S ICE HOCKEY TEAM BEAT THIRD RANKED AND LAST YEAR’S RUNNER UP MINNESOTA. THE HUSKIES DIDN’T JUST GET A COUPLE LUCKY BOUNCES (SCHEDULING ASIDE), THEY LEGITIMATELY OUTPLAYED THEM. NORTHEASTERN POSSESSED THE PUCK WELL. THEY WON ON THE FACEOFF DOT. THEY DID IT.
NORTHEASTERN OUTSHOT MINNESOTA BY THIRTEEN. THEY SOMEHOW MANAGED TO HAVE MORE POWERPLAYS THAN PENALTY KILLS (ALTHOUGH STILL MANAGED TO ALMOST BLOW THE GAME BY TAKING PENALTIES. GET IT TOGETHER). THE ROY/HEDGES/MCMURTRY LINE CAME ALIVE (I UNDERSTAND THE ARGUMENT FOR PUTTING SZMATULA AND ROY TOGETHER, BUT HEDGES LOOKED GREAT CENTERING THAT LINE). WITT WAS AMAZING AS ALWAYS. BENNING KILLED A GUY. EVERYTHING CAME TOGETHER FOR THE HUSKIES TO BEAT THE GOPHERS. I CAN’T REMEMBER THE LAST TIME I WAS WATCHING A NORTHEASTERN GAME AND MY HEART WAS POUNDING LIKE IT WAS ON SATURDAY. WHAT A GAME ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE END. FANTASTIC GAME WINNER BY ROY AT THE END. FANTASTIC WIN TO GIVE NORTHEASTERN THEIR 500TH AT MATTHEWS. THE HUSKIES SHOWED THAT THEY HAVE THE ABILITY TO SKATE WITH ANYONE IN THE COUNTRY. BIG WEEK COMING UP BUT THINGS ARE LOOKING UP FOR THIS TEAM AND I LOVE IT.
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…