It may be getting hot outside, but the WRBB crew still has winter on our minds. Whether it be T.J. Williams pursuing his NBA dream or the hockey team releasing its 2017-2018 schedule, we break down all the news you need to know on this year’s edition of the WRBB summer podcast. Enjoy!
CHICAGO – As was the case for much of the season for Zach Aston-Reese and Northeastern, a promising start did not translate into a desirable finish. Sitting up on stage in the Aon Grand Ballroom, Aston-Reese watched as defenseman Will Butcher of the University of Denver was awarded the 37th Hobey Baker Award, a recognition that he was one of the three finalists for.
Butcher is certainly a deserving winner, helping Denver to the NCAA title game on Saturday night, but many at Northeastern thought that this was the moment Aston-Reese would receive the award recognizing the nation’s top player. The Huskies may not have lived up to the hype that saw them ranked second in the Hockey East preseason poll, but the senior forward and Pittsburgh Penguins signee shattered all expectations that anyone had for him coming into the year, posting one of the strongest statistical seasons in program history and establishing himself as an individual force.
While the disappointment may be palpable, Husky fans shouldn’t diminish the magical season their assistant captain posted. Instead, they should take a step back and applaud him for what it was: the culmination of a phenomenal four years on Huntington Avenue that transformed Aston-Reese as a player and the identity of the entire Northeastern program as a whole.
There was plenty of hype surrounding Jim Madigan’s eleven freshman recruits in 2013, and most of them gave Northeastern fans plenty to be excited about for the future. But if someone told you that one member of that freshman class would go on to become just the second Hobey Hat Trick finalist in program history, smart money probably wouldn’t have been on Aston-Reese.
Matt Benning, Dalen Hedges, and John Stevens all impressed during their debut seasons, while Mike Szmatula looked like a budding future star after posting 15 goals and 24 assists. But hidden behind these other players that looked to be part of a bright future in Boston was a six-foot winger from Staten Island.
Aston-Reese tallied just eight goals and 11 assists during his debut campaign, but as many of his classmates transferred or left the program over the next few years, Aston-Reese doubled down on his commitment. Benning went pro after helping the Huskies win the Hockey East Championship. Szmatula transferred to Minnesota. Hedges succumbed to injuries and left the program.
In an up-and-down season for the Huskies, Aston-Reese did everything he could to carry the team to the finish line.
But amidst all the change, Aston-Reese continued to improve. He upped his scoring during his sophomore season, finishing with 23 points despite playing in four fewer games. It was during his junior year, however, when he finally blossomed.
When early-season struggles led Madigan to tinker with his lines, he unlocked a top three that would terrorize opposing defenses for two years. Paired with John and Nolan Stevens, Aston-Reese posted 29 assists, nearly tripling his total of 10 from the previous campaign, as he developed as a distributor. He added 14 goals and learned to cut down on silly stick penalties that kept him on the bench in key moments during his first two seasons, becoming a crucial member of both the Northeastern penalty kill and power play units.
When the dust had settled after the Huskies made their improbable run to the Hockey East crown in 2016, Aston-Reese, like many of his teammates, had to make an important decision on his future at Northeastern. The core of the defending Hockey East champions could have been absolutely decimated, with Kevin Roy graduating and the potential early losses of Benning, Aston-Reese, and the Stevens brothers. But coming back was an easy choice if it meant another season of that top forward line that had already clicked.
Unfortunately, 2017 did not play out as Aston-Reese or the Stevens brothers envisioned in that regard. Injuries kept the brothers off the ice for significant chunks of the season, forcing Madigan to once again mix and match his offensive lines.
But he never had to worry about Aston-Reese’s offensive production. In fact, Madigan frequently moved guys who were struggling to find the back of the net up to skate with ZAR. Lincoln Griffin could use a spark? Let’s throw him up with Reeser. Sam Kurker needs to get it going? Put him on ZAR’s line. Matt Filipe needs to be more consistent? 12 can help him out.
In an up-and-down season for the Huskies, Aston-Reese did everything he could to carry the team to the finish line. Dylan Sikura and Adam Gaudette both submitted phenomenal seasons and were a big part of the offensive success that Northeastern enjoyed, but when the team needed the big goals, it was Aston-Reese who would deliver. His 31 goals were tops in the nation, while his 63 total points were tied for first. He fittingly climbed to 12th place on the school’s career records for both goals and points while scoring at such a fast pace that most of the nation was chasing him the entire year.
Winning the Hobey Baker Award would have immortalized Aston-Reese in Northeastern lore forever. But, much like the story of the season for Northeastern, giving everything he had just wasn’t quite good enough to separate him from the pack. Even though he didn’t leave Chicago with any hardware, Aston-Reese can return to his new professional career in Wilkes-Barre content with his accolades: assistant captain, NCAA scoring leader, Hockey East Player of the Year, Hobey Baker finalist, Hockey East Champion. Damn good hockey player.
CHICAGO- Despite a historic season that saw him win Hockey East Player of the Year honors, Northeastern assistant captain Zach Aston-Reese left the Aon Grand Ballroom in Chicago without the nation’s most prestigious hardware on Friday evening.
University of Denver defenseman Will Butcher beat out Aston-Reese and Union College forward Mike Vecchione for the Hobey Baker Award. But even so, the moment served as a time to celebrate one of the most influential players in program history.
“It meant a great deal for me,” said Aston Reese, a Pittsburgh Penguin signee who is just the second player in Northeastern history (Brad Thiessen in 2009) to be named a Hobey Hat Trick finalist. “It meant a lot for my family and Northeastern as a whole.”
“I was a little bit immature when I came in,” said Aston-Reese, “and it was just a process for me to be able to control my emotions and change my attitude. Coach (Madigan) has been working with the Penguins and the Islanders so he knows what it’s like to be a professional, and I’m definitely seeing that now as a pro hockey player – that you have to leave your attitude at the door because you’ll be gone in a second if they sniff that out.”
Aston-Reese finished the 2016-2017 campaign either atop or tied the nation’s leads in goals (31), goals per game (0.82), shorthanded goals (four) and hat tricks (three). His 1.66 points per game is tied for best in the nation, and his 63 total points make him just one of twelve Division 1 players to reach the 60-point plateau in the last five seasons.
Earlier in the afternoon, Aston-Reese was named a CCM/AHCA First-Team All-American. The Staten Island native is the 19th player in Northeastern program history to receive the honor.
“I always had a pretty good work ethic, and I think just getting stronger each summer,” said Aston-Reese. “I think a lot that changed was my mindset and my approach to the game. I just got more mature and consistency is such a big thing. So I was trying to look forward to make a career out of it and what exactly [sic] I needed to do and consistency is a big thing.”
Following the conclusion of his senior season, Aston-Reese signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has already netted three goals and four assists with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the club’s AHL affiliate.
“There’s different aspects to it,” said Aston-Reese of the adjustment to professional hockey. “I had really good coaches here and they taught me the game and it’s been translating well to the AHL level.”
In a historic moment for Northeastern hockey, the Hobey Baker Memorial Award named senior assistant captain Zach Aston-Reese to the Hobey Hat Trick on Thursday afternoon. Aston-Reese is joined by Union forward Mike Vecchione and Denver defenseman Will Butcher as the three players remaining in contention for the nation’s top award, which will be handed out on April 7 at the Frozen Four in Chicago.
“We are so proud of Zach for all of his accomplishments this season,” said head coach Jim Madigan. “He asserted himself as one of the top players in the nation from start to finish, and is very deserving of this honor. He represented our team and our university with class and professionalism throughout his time at Northeastern, and his leadership skills over the last two years cannot be understated. The foundation that he and his fellow seniors have set will have a positive impact on our program for years to come.”
The Hockey East Player of the Year joins Brad Thiessen (2009) as the second player in Northeastern history to be named to the Hobey Hat Trick.
A native of Staten Island, New York, Aston-Reese finished the 2016-2017 season either atop or tied the nation’s lead in goals (31), goals per game (0.82), shorthanded goals (four) and hat tricks (three). His 63 points this season make him just one of ten Division 1 players to reach the 60-point plateau in the last five seasons. In addition, Aston-Reese joined Boston University’s Jack Eichel (2014-2015) and Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau (2013-2014) as one of three Hockey East players to reach the mark in a maximum of 35 games over the past five years. The latter two won the Hobey Baker award in their respective seasons.
In addition to scoring the sixth most points of any Northeastern player in a single season, Aston-Reese ends his career on Huntington Avenue ranked 12th in both career points (148) and career goals (66).
His breakout performance this season earned him a two-year, entry-level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins two weeks ago. Aston-Reese has already netted two goals and four assists in four games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the club’s AHL affiliate.
BOSTON – It may have been a new day, but it was the same story for the Northeastern hockey team.
The Huskies (18-15-5) were swept out of the Hockey East Quarterfinals by BU on Saturday night thanks to blowing their second consecutive 2-0 lead. The Terriers (23-10-3) didn’t need overtime tonight, completing the comeback in the final period in the 3-2 win.
With their backs against the wall, the Huskies came out firing once again in the first period. Biagio Lerario scored his first career goal just 2:23 into the game and Nolan Stevens doubled the lead nine minutes later with his tenth tally of the year.
The Terriers were well verses in coming back from a 2-0 deficit, having beaten Northeastern 3-2 in overtime on Friday, and got right back to work on offense when Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson cut the lead in half with 5:22 left in the second period.
Leading 2-1, the Huskies played with much more offensive pace throughout the final two periods than they did the night before but just couldn’t solve BU netminder Jake Oettinger (24 saves) for a third time. Ryan Ruck (25 saves) stood on his head at times for Northeastern to preserve the lead, but the relentless Terriers offense finally broke through.
Nick Roberto tied the game up just three minutes into the third period. For the second consecutive night, the referees reviewed the goal for a potential offsides call on BU, but the tally was upheld after a long review. Head coach Jim Madigan only talked for 47 seconds after the game, as he did not want to get suspended for commenting on the two offsides calls or how they influenced the series.
The Terriers mounted offensive pressure on Ruck down the stretch and were rewarded with a power play opportunity with just 1:34 left in the game after Garrett Cockerill was called for hooking. Ruck made a handful of spectacular saves during the kill effort, but Chad Krys broke through with 24.9 seconds left in the game hand the Huskies their second straight heartbreaking defeat.
The Huskies finish the season with no chance for an NCAA at-large bid. The loss also ends the Northeastern playing careers of seniors Zach Aston-Reese, John Stevens, Brendan Collier, Sam Kurker, Tanner Pond, Mike Jamieson, Ryan Rosenthal, Garrett Cockerill and Jake Schechter. The Terriers advance to the Hockey East Semifinals, where they will take on either Boston College or Notre Dame.
BOSTON – Coming off a convincing sweep of Connecticut in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs, it looked like Northeastern was going to have its way with a BU team that had last week off after clinching a share of the league’s regular season crown. But after falling behind 2-0, BU showed why it is unbeaten against Jim Madigan’s Huskies in the last seven meetings.
Goals by Dante Fabbro and Chase Phelps knotted the score at two, and Jordan Greenway notched the game-winner just 3:11 into overtime to send the Terriers to a 3-2 victory in game one of the Hockey East Quarterfinals.
Fighting for a rebound in front of the net on the power play, the big 6-foot-5 Greenway capitalized on the chaos and fired the puck into the back of the net.
Not to be lost in defeat is Ryan Ruck’s performance in net, as the sophomore sent aside 32 shots from a BU offense which entered the zone at will in the latter two periods.
Northeastern got the early 2-0 lead just 9:52 into the game via their two Hobey Baker hopefuls in Zach Aston-Reese and Dylan Sikura. Aston-Reese beat BU goalie Jake Oettinger (33 saves) on an off-angle shot that sailed over the right shoulder of the netminder, and Sikura tapped in a freebie to give the Huskies the early lead.
The Terriers made it a one-goal game at 7:33 in the second period when Fabbro sent a weak shot on net from above the right face-off dot that beat Ruck. Phelps scored the long overdue game-tying goal midway through the third, beating Ruck five-hole to force overtime.
Following a Jeremy Davies hooking call, Greenway sent the Terriers faithful home happy with his ninth goal of the season.
The two teams will get right back at it Saturday night for game two. Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m.
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Northeastern had its share of peaks of valleys in the 2016-17 season, but Saturday’s 82-54 loss to Towson to end the year may have been the low point.
The Huskies (15-16) never led on Saturday night at North Charleston Coliseum, as the No. 3 Tigers dominated the six-seeded Huskies from tip-off to final whistle. NU shot just 27% from the floor and 20% from three-point land, as the physical Tigers won the rebounding battle (42-25), and throttled Northeastern in bench-scoring (44-12).
“We came to a basketball game and a football game broke out. We didn’t bring our helmets or pads,” head coach Bill Coen said post-game. “Tonight, it was all about them exerting their will pretty much everywhere on the floor.”
Zane Martin came off the bench to lead Towson with 17 points, and William Adala Moto and Brian Starr each chipped in 12 for the Tigers, who advance on to face No. 2 Charleston in a semi-final matchup on Sunday.
Towson did a stellar job containing senior guard and CAA Player of the Year T.J. Williams all evening. Williams led the Huskies with 15 points, but went just 3-16 from the floor in his final collegiate game.
“I tip my hat off to them,” Williams said.
“I felt that they came with a good game plan. I tried to make some plays down the stretch to find some players on my team. We got some good looks but the shots didn’t fall.”
The Tigers (20-12) jumped out to a 15-3 lead, with Adala Moto dropping eight points in that stretch. The first-half lead ballooned to as large as 16, as the Huskies seemingly couldn’t buy a bucket.
There was some hope late in the second half, when NU cut the deficit down to 12 points off a three from Bolden Brace with 6:42 to go. After a Husky steal, a three from Jimmy Marshall rattled in-and-out, and Martin responded with a three of his own to push the lead back to 15. The game got no closer.
“We made a nice little run there,” Coen said.
“I thought Jimmy’s shot was down, but then right away they come back and bang a three. It was a little bit of a back-breaker and a dagger.”
Williams and Marshall logged their final minutes in Black and Red. Williams graduates with 1,377 career points, good enough for 15th in NU history.. His scoring output this year (642 pts) was the sixth highest single-season mark in program history.
“We knew it would be a physical game,” Williams said.
“I wish the outcome of the game would have been different, but they came ready to play.”
BOSTON – Try as they might, the UConn Huskies just cannot seem to solve the riddle that is Northeastern.
The highest-scoring power play in the nation showed up in a big way down the stretch for Northeastern (18-13-5), as the Huskies tallied four goals on the man advantage, including three goals during a five-minute major power play, to complete the series sweep of UConn (12-16-8) with a 6-2 win to open the Hockey East playoffs.
Brendan Collier got the scoring going just four minutes in, wristing home a shot from the slot for his second goal of the weekend. Zach Aston-Reese doubled the lead eight minutes into the second period, tapping home a puck to light the lamp for the 30th time on the year.
Graduate student Brian Morgan made it 2-1 at the 12:20 mark of the second period, but Adam Gaudette responded just 2:10 later with a power play tally to make it 3-1. The goal was
Gaudette’s 16th on the man advantage, extending the single-season program record that he had previously set last week against Maine.
Connecticut made it 3-2 with two minutes left in the second period courtesy of a Miles Gendron goal. UConn carried that momentum into the third period, creating numerous chances on Ryan Ruck, who held strong and finished the evening with 32 saves.
Down by just one goal with 9:25 to go in the game, UConn lost the momentum when Evan Richardson was handed a game misconduct for contact to the head on Garrett Cockerill. Northeastern capitalized on its ensuing five-minute power play, as John Stevens netted two goals in the span of two minutes to make it 5-2. Jeremy Davies added one more before UConn finished killing the penalty to blow the game open.
Play got chippy down the stretch as Jake Schechter and Brian Morgan were given 10-minute game misconducts for a getting in a post-whistle scrum, but Northeastern held on to earn a series sweep and move to 10-0 all-time against Hockey East’s other Huskies.
Northeastern advances to the Hockey East Quarterfinals next week, where they will travel to either Boston University or UMass Lowell depending on the results of Sunday’s game three between New Hampshire and Merrimack. Game one of the best-of-three series will be on Friday.
BOSTON – As they say, beating a team for a ninth time in a row is the toughest thing to do in sports. It did not pose too much of a challenge for Northeastern on Friday night, though.
The Huskies of up north began their defense of the Lamoriello Trophy with a 3-1 win over Connecticut, leaving them one game away from a berth in the Hockey East Quarterfinals.
While much praise has been levied to Northeastern’s offense this season, it was the goaltending of Ryan Ruck that propelled Jim Madigan and company to victory. The sophomore stopped 30 of the 31 shots he saw on the night.
Garret Cockerill gave Northeastern a 1-0 lead just 10:36 into the first period, ripping a shot from the high slot that sailed past UConn net-minder Adam Huska (26 saves). The goal was Northeastern’s nation-leading 51st on the power play this season.
Midway through the second period, Brendan Collier extended the NU lead to 2-0, tipping in a loose puck in front of the net for his fourth of the season.
While both teams had a plethora of opportunities in the third period, neither team could light the lamp until Connecticut made it a one goal game with 1:21 left courtesy of a tally from Benjamin Freeman in 6-on-4 play.
Northeastern would answer just 38 seconds later when Nolan Stevens raced in front of a pack of UConn defenders and slotted home an empty-net goal to seal the deal. Connecticut threatened with what appeared to be a goal with 24 seconds left, but Tage Thompson was called for offsides.
Northeastern will look to punch their ticket to the Hockey East Quarterfinals on Saturday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m., with pre-game coverage beginning at 6:45.
Northeastern takes on Towson in the first round of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament on Saturday night. WRBB coverage begins at 8 p.m, with Jeremy Leopold, Justin Littman and Matt MacCormack on the call on our exclusive live stream: http://www.wrbbsports.com/listen-live/.
CHARLESTON, S.C — It seems all-too fitting that after 30 games, the Northeastern men’s basketball team sits exactly at .500.
The Huskies’ performance in the 2016-17 regular season has been, in a word, schizophrenic. Senior point guard T.J. Williams (21.6 ppg, 5.3 apg) pieced together one of the best seasons in program history, carrying the Huskies to multiple wins almost single-handedly. But the core around the newly-minted CAA Player of the Year has been inconsistent: a revolving door hampered by inexperience and injuries. Consistency and continuity have eluded the Huskies all year long.
The season’s bright spots were riveting. NU (15-15, 8-10 CAA) pulled off gritty road wins at basketball bluebloods Connecticut and Michigan State, upended America East regular season champ Vermont in the Green Mountain State, and beat out conference foe Elon in double overtime with just seven active players.
After starting out conference play 5-0, Northeastern looked like Colonial Athletic Association contenders. Head coach Bill Coen’s squad then won just three of their final 13 games, as the Huskies seemed unable to overcome a wave of injuries. Opening day starters Donnell Gresham and Jeremy Miller have missed most of the season, and the recent absences of starters Devon Begley (wrist) and Alex Murphy (personal reasons) have thinned out the bench.Three freshman have been forced to take on pivotal roles: Bolden Brace, Max Boursiquot and Shawn Occeus.
The roller-coaster season will culminate in this weekend’s CAA tournament. The winner of the tournament will snatch an automatic bid and dance on to the NCAAs.
Despite the competition moving to the Charleston Coliseum for the first time, the Huskies first-round matchup hasn’t changed. Just like last season, NU earned the No. 6 seed, bypassing the play-in round and setting up a matchup with No. 3 Towson. The Tigers will be looking to avenge last year’s 71-60 loss.
Towson provides a tall task for Coen and the rest of the NU coaching staff. The two teams split the season series, with each side gaining a single-digit victory at home (Towson won 74-64 at SECU Arena; Northeastern got by with a 69-62 win at Matthews Arena).
We’ve outlined three keys for NU to be successful in Saturday night’s matchup:
Note: All-CAA Third team member John Davis will miss his fifth straight game for Towson after suffering a gunshot wound in early February. Davis was the team’s third leading scorer (11.8 ppg) and leading rebounder (7.6 rpg).
Stay out of foul trouble
Most intramural basketball teams have more healthy bodies than the Huskies had in last weekend’s North Carolina road trip. Just seven players made the trip for the final two games of the season at Elon and UNCW. While the Huskies emerged with a win and a loss from the road trip, playing well with only seven active players isn’t sustainable.
Jeremy Miller (knee) looks like he’ll be back in the lineup, but the word is still out on whether Begley (an All-CAA defensive selection) and Murphy (the team’s second-leading scorer) will be available in Charleston.
This is a particularly dire problem when you consider the Huskies’ first round opponent. Towson has a reputation as the most physical team in the conference, and the numbers back it up; the Tigers averaged more than 26 free throw attempts per game this season, which led the CAA. Northeastern, on the other hand, averaged just over 20.
Here’s another one: Towson is 14-2 when they shoot more free throws than their opponents.
Especially with an undermanned bench, the Huskies must play sound defense without fouling to have a chance to win. Pay particular attention to Towson senior forward William Adala Moto, who attempted 13 free throws (and hit 12) when NU loss at Towson, but attempted just four (and hit three) when the Huskies were victorious at Matthews Arena.
Connect from deep
You know the old cliché “live by the three, die by the three”? The Huskies take that tired phrase to an extreme.
In their 15 wins, the Huskies shot 40.8% from beyond the three-point line. This mark, if extrapolated across the whole season, would rank 8th nationally.
During the Huskies’ 15 losses, that number drops to 33.6%, which would rank right around 250th in the country.
The Huskies don’t usually have a problem getting open looks; Williams draws a lot of the defense’s attention, allowing for easy drive-and-kick opportunities. The biggest factor is, quite literally, whether or not those shots fall. Look for freshman Bolden Brace, fresh off a career-high 40 points at Elon last week, to have his fair share of open triples.
Stay competitive on the boards
From a CAA perspective, Towson is an elite rebounding team; thanks to a slew of physical big men and athletic guards, the Tigers led the conference with a rebounding margin of +7.9 (i.e, Towson pulls down 8 more boards than their opponents, on average). But the Tigers aren’t just good rebounders at a mid-major level; they rank 8th nationally in rebounding, one spot ahead of No. 4 Gonzaga, who was undefeated until a loss last week to BYU.
Staying competitive on the boards is as much mental as it is physical, and the Huskies did a stellar job, relatively, in their two bouts with Towson this year. Overall, the cumulative rebounding total from those two contests was 62-61 in Towson’s favor. The Tigers lost all four of the games in which they lost or tied the rebounding battle this year, and with Davis on the sideline, the Huskies have a legitimate shot to grab more caroms than their fearless opponents.