By Josh Brown and Ryan Fallon
The #14 Northeastern Huskies (18-12-4, 10-8-2 in Hockey East) needed just one point in the last weekend of regular season play to secure home ice advantage for the Hockey East Quarterfinals. They played a Boston University team which had one of its worst seasons in years. But they couldn’t get one. The missed opportunity for the Huskies dropped them to the #5 seed meaning that they will travel to Durham, NH this weekend to play the #4 seed University of New Hampshire Wildcats (19-16-1, 11-9-0 in Hockey East) in a best-of-three series. The Huskies got swept by the Wildcats in a home-and-home series earlier this season by scores of 3-0 and 4-1.
The Huskies have beaten all odds so far this season. A team that was predicted to finish as a cellar dweller in Hockey East, has been as high as #9 in the USCHO national rankings. The squad has also shown a resiliency that was lacking in so many Huskies teams of previous years. Whether it be period to period, game to game, or week to week, Northeastern so many times this year has bounced back and shown that it is a team that can take a couple of punches without being knocked out. They will need this resiliency more than ever to win two games at one of the most hostile environments in college hockey – the Whittemore Center on the campus of UNH.
The injury bug is a big concern for the Huskies this weekend. After forward Dalen Hedges and defensemen Josh Manson and Matt Benning got hurt in a road contest at UMass-Amherst a couple of weeks ago the Huskies have had to dip into their bench more than they have all year. We saw Hedges return against BU, but will he be 100%? Perhaps more importantly, though: will the two anchors of the Huskies blue line corps, Manson and Benning, be in the lineup and effective? The Huskies faithful sure hopes so.
A lot can be said about these Huskies, but nothing is more obvious than this: Clay Witt is having a legendary year. The Hobey Baker Award candidate has a 16-10-3 record on the year with a stingy .935 save percentage. If the Huskies are to have a chance to hush the Wildcats they will need Clay Witt to be what he’s been all year long: the best goaltender in the nation.
Dick Umile, the head coach of the Wildcats has once again done a great job of with his team. The Wildcats are a fast team that can seem even faster on the Olympic-sized ice surface at the Whittemore Center. The Huskies are going to need to establish themselves as the more physical team early and often to try to slow down the high paced run-and-gun Wildcats. The injury bug is also a concern for UNH, though. Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, the brother of NHL star and Olympian James van Riemsdyk, is battling a painful knee injury he suffered against Union a few weeks back. Reports say he will not be in the lineup this weekend. Sophomore Brett Pesce has stepped up in van Riemsdyk’s absence and done an admirable job on the blue line. He has 5 goals and 13 points overall in 10 games since van Riemsdyk went down.
Other players to watch for UNH include junior forward Matt Willows, who has enjoyed a breakout campaign to the tune of 18 goals and 17 assists. Nick Sorkin has posted the exact same numbers in a bounce-back senior season. Kevin Goumas has had another stellar season as well, finishing third in Hockey East in scoring at 45 points. Keep an eye on defenseman Eric Knodel too; the senior captain is fourth on the team in points and is a large presence on the blue line at 6’6”.
A couple of notes credited to GoNU.com, the official website of Northeastern athletics: a win against New Hampshire would be the Huskies first playoff win against the Wildcats since 1989. A win would also be the Huskies first victory at UNH since Nov. 16, 2007. A 19 win season is within reach for NU, which would be tied for the sixth most in program history. This would give the Huskies a 10-win differential from last season as well, which would be the fourth largest turnaround in Huskies history.
Games one and two of the series will be played on Friday and Saturday at 7:00 pm. Sunday’s game three (if necessary) will be a matinee, played at 4:30 pm. We’ll have all the action here for you on WRBB, with Ryan Fallon, Joe Nolan, and Josh Brown.
Behind the Numbers:
Both the Huskies and the Wildcats are talented offensive teams, ranking second and third overall this season in scoring with Northeastern averaging 3.18 goals a game and UNH not far behind at a 3.14 mark. In league play only this season, New Hampshire sits at second with a 3.20 goals per game average whereas Northeastern drops to fifth, falling to 2.50 a game. Both teams sit dead even in defensive scoring a game averaging 2.55 a game.
Something that will surely be a factor in the series is the play of special teams, something in which New Hampshire has a large advantage. The Wildcats have a remarkable penalty minutes average, at 7.8 penalty minutes a game in conference, while killing it off power plays 82.8% of the time. The Huskies sit middle of the pack taking 11.6 penalty minutes a game while killing power plays at a rate of 86.8%. When the Wildcats get on the power play, they are second in the league in scoring, with a 24% success rate. The Huskies sit near the bottom of the conference, second-to-last, converting at a dismal 9.1% rate.
The Huskies this season are 7-5-2 at home and are 9-5-1 on the road. When the Huskies have a lead after the first period they are 11-0-2 on the season, where they are only 3-6-1 when trailing after the opening frame. Scoring first will be key for Northeastern as it’s 14-3-2 when succeeding in that department.
Despite New Hampshire’s average 9-8-1 home record, the “Whitt” has given the Wildcats an advantage all year long. One upside for NU is that the games will be taking place during UNH’s spring break, which could potentially quiet down the Wildcats faithful. New Hampshire is also a team that plays well when ahead, posting a 9-1-0 record when leading after the first period and a staggering 17-1-0 record when ahead after two periods.
Game one of the series will be crucial for both teams, as in Hockey East Tournament history, the team that drops game one of the series has only come back to win 11.2% of the time.
By Josh Brown
In one weekend all the hopes of a home playoff game at Matthews Arena were squashed for Huskies fans after the Boston University Terriers (10-20-4, 5-12-13) swept Northeastern (18-12-4, 10-8-2) in a home-and-home series.
The loss drops Northeastern to fifth in Hockey East, where they will have to travel to Durham to play the fourth seed University of New Hampshire in two weeks in a best of three series to move on to the Hockey East Semifinals at the TD Garden. Despite the sweep, the Huskies did earn a bye week for the first round of the tournament due to some help around the league.
In Friday’s game, despite playing without a handful of suspended players, Boston University jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period on goals by Kevin Duane and Danny O’Regan.
The Terriers would extend the lead to 3-0 7:49 into the 2nd period on a Robbie Baillargeon goal.
A couple minutes later Braden Pimm notched his 19th goal of the season, unassisted, to bring the Huskies to within two goals, but unfortunately for the boys of Huntington Avenue, that would be as close as they got.
The third period featured some back-and-forth hockey but no goals until Ahti Oksanen scored an empty net goal to secure a 4-1 win for Boston University.
The teams combined for 12 penalties on the night, seven by Northeastern and five by the Terriers, with neither team being able to capitalize on any chances. Northeastern out shot BU by a margin of 32-27.
Clay Witt ended the night with 22 saves, where as Terriers goalie Sean Maguire stopped 31 in the one goal effort.
Saturday’s game produced a better effort by Northeastern, but the Huskies still fell short on senior night at Matthews Arena.
Before the game Northeastern honored seniors Cody Ferriero, Bryan Mountain, Zak Stone, and arguably the most improved player from last year for the Huskies, the assistant captain Braden Pimm.
The Huskies also honored Northeastern Olympians, most notably women’s hockey silver medalist Kendall Coyne and Steve Langston, a bronze medalist in the bobsled.
Once again Boston University jumped out to an early lead, this time on a Matt Lane goal assisted by Doyle Somerby and Mike Moran just over five minutes into the game.
Northeastern answered a couple minutes later on a Braden Pimm goal that hit off the helmet of Terrier goalie Matt O’Connor and snuck into the net to tie the game at one at the first intermission.
Zach Aston-Reese was able to give Northeastern their first lead of the series midway through the second period on a snipe in traffic past the glove of O’Connor. Kevin Roy made a nice pass in transition that found the stick of Aston-Reese who was ready to bury it home.
Unfortunately for Northeastern that would be the last time they lit the lamp, as less than three minutes later Matt Lane scored his second of the night, and Doyle Somerby followed that up with a goal of his own to bring the Terriers back within one.
Northeastern came out relatively flat in the third period and it showed on a Mike Moran goal just 7:39 into the final frame to give the Terriers a 4-2 lead, which would prove to be the final score.
Northeastern out shot Boston University 41-21 in the game, but O’Connor was able to make 39 saves in route to the win. Clay Witt had 17 saves of his own on the night, in what was a rough weekend for the netminder.
Coach Jim Madigan was obviously very displeased with the way his team played over the weekend.
“They played smarter than we did, and they deserve the four points.” Madigan said. “Disappointed that we didn’t respond back tonight with a win after what I thought was the worst effort of the year last night.”
Turnovers, much like the prior night, hurt the Huskies again in the home finale.
“We turned three pucks over just inside the offensive blue line and gave them three goals.” Madigan added.
“We have to get our own guys after this weekend in the right mindset.” said Madigan when asked how his team will bounce back before having to travel to one of the most ferocious environments in college hockey, at New Hampshire.
The Huskies will do just that, as they will have just under two weeks to prepare for what is expected to be a roller coaster Hockey East tournament.
By Josh Brown
The #9 Northeastern Huskies (18-10-4) hockey team has clinched a first-round bye in the Hockey East tournament, after picking up 3 huge points against Maine (15-11-4) despite playing without captain Josh Manson, Matt Benning and Dalen Hedges.
The Huskies fell behind 2-0 early in Friday’s game after a Connor Leen goal at the end of the first, followed by a Steven Swavely goal just 24 seconds into the second period gave the Black Bears the early lead.
The Huskies would not roll over, as just over seven minutes later Colton Saucerman brought the Huskies within one on a shot that went sailing past Black Bear goalie Martin Ouellette. A couple minutes later Kevin Roy scored the equalizer on a shot by Saucerman that Roy tipped in for the goal.
John Stevens gave Northeastern a 3-2 lead at 14:14 of the second period on assists from Braden Pimm and Dax Lauwers. 1:36 later Maine was able to get an equalizer of their own when Byron Blaine beat Clay Witt top shelf to send the teams into the locker room tied.
A back-and-forth third period stayed scoreless until 13:57 of the period, when Mark Anthoine put Maine up by 1 with under 7 minutes to play. It looked like the Black Bears were going to come away with the victory until with 1:11 left in the game Braden Pimm scored off an athletic pass by Mike Szmatula to send the game into overtime,
Neither team could find the back of the net in overtime, as both Witt and Ouellette bailed their respective teams out with huge saves, and the game would end in a 4-4 tie.
Head Coach Jim Madigan was pleased after the game with how his team responded when falling behind 2-0.
“I like the way we battled back,” Madigan said, “We got down 2-0 early in the second and I liked the way we bounced back, and I think we’ve shown some pretty good resolve this year.”
Saturday proved to be a better result for the Huskies, who this time were able to jump out to the early lead.
Zach Aston-Reese would collect his first of two goals on the night just 3:41 into the game on an assist from Kevin Roy and Mike Szmatula to give the Huskies the early lead. Just 3:03 later that same line would find the back of the net again, as this time it was Mike Szmatula lighting the lamp on helpers from Aston-Reese and Roy.
As the Huskies did the night before Maine would not role over, and at 16:46 of the first period Ben Hutton would score a power play goal to get the Black Bears within one. Early in the second period Devin Shore would tie the game at two after he beat Clay Witt, who ended the contest with 33 saves.
Mid-way through the second period, Braden Pimm would get in on the action thanks to a pass from Roy to give the Huskies the lead. Aston-Reese would put Northeastern up two in the third on Kevin Roy’s 4th assist of the night, and Szmatula’s 2nd.
Maine would put some pressure on Northeastern, getting the game to within one with an extra attacker thanks to Ben Hutton’s second goal of the game. That is as close as Maine would get as Northeastern was able to kill off a ferocious Black Bears attack and hang on for the 4-3 win.
Kevin Roy talked about how he was able to wrack up 5 assists on the weekend.
“These past few games I’ve had the opportunity to pass the puck more than shoot so I’m just doing anything to help the team to find guys open.”
Coach Madigan was happy taking three points, on what was arguably the most important weekend of hockey for Northeastern in years.
“I thought it was a great weekend of hockey. With two evenly matched teams…I was thrilled with obviously the way our guys battled and showed a lot of resolve from Friday night into tonight.”
Madigan was also pleased with the way his team responded despite a couple key injuries.
“Faced a little adversity with a few guys being out of the line-up. I like the way the guys in the line-up responded today…we talked about it all year long, it’s 28 guys we have on this roster, it’s going to take all 28 to get to where we want to get to…”
The Huskies have one lone regular season weekend series remaining as they have a home-and-home with Boston University Friday and Saturday night. Northeastern has a chance to move all the way up as far as the 2 seed, with a top 4 seed landing home ice for the playoffs.
Ryan and Joe recap last week’s game in Amherst and prep for the biggest series of the season this weekend against Maine.
By Josh Brown
Despite three, late third period UMass-Amherst (8-19-4) goals, the Northeastern Huskies (17-10-3) were able to outlast the Minutemen 5-4, to claim fourth place in Hockey East at the end of the weekend. The 17th win on the season for Northeastern is its highest win total since the 2008-2009 season.
The Huskies struck first, getting on the board at 14:53 of the first period on a Kevin Roy goal, after a little back and forth passing between Roy and Mike Szmatula led to the puck sailing over the glove side of Minutemen goalie Steve Mastalerz, to give the Huskies the early lead.
Despite the 1-0 lead, and only being out shot 11-10 in the first period, the consensus was that Northeastern was being outplayed by UMass, who displayed an array of finesse and physical play in the first 20. Also in the first period, Huskies freshman Dalen Hedges suffered an undisclosed injury, and did not return to the game in what was the first of an injury filled night for Northeastern.
At 3:43 in the second period Northeastern extended their lead to 2-0 on Adam Reid’s 6th goal of the season, moments after Clay Witt made what could be considered the save of the night, diving to stop a UMass shot to keep the lead for Huskies.
UMass answered late in the second period on Ben Gallacher’s first goal of the season, before being promptly matched two minutes later on a Ryan Belonger goal assisted by Kevin Roy, making the score 3-1 Northeastern at the end of the second.
The action really started to pick up in the third as at just 1:53 in the period Tanner Pond found the back of the net after tipping a Zach Aston-Reese shot by the blocker of Mastalerz. Less than three minutes later Aston-Reese got on the scoreboard himself on a breakaway to give the Huskies what seemed like an insurmountable 5-1 lead.
The Minutemen wouldn’t roll over as just 10 seconds later Michael Pereira got his 10th goal of the season shorthanded to cut the lead to 5-2. Still playing shorthanded, captain Conor Sheary also snuck one past Clay Witt to get UMass within two.
Still chipping away, midway through the period Zack LaRue cut the lead to one, scoring on a tip from a Colin Shea shot which was set up by Ray Pigozzi.
That would be as close as the Minutemen would get though, as Northeastern was able to close out UMass and take the 5-4 victory behind 32 saves by Clay Witt. That total is the third straight game for Witt where he has made more than 30 saves.
Northeastern finished the game with only three defensemen after two injuries, most notable Josh Manson, as well as a Mike Gunn 10-minute misconduct with 4:45 left to play in the game.
Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan was happy to escape Amherst with two points, after what was almost a drastic collapse by the Huskies.
“I like the resiliency that we showed, I liked the way we continued to battle all the way through,” Madigan continued, “obviously I don’t like giving up a four goal lead and holding on, but we’ll take the two points…”
The Huskies will now look ahead to a huge two game home stand against Maine on Friday and Saturday, with four crucial Hockey East points at stake for both the third place Black Bears and the fourth place Huskies.
By Josh Brown
Close but just short.
That was the case for the #12 Northeastern Huskies (16-10-3) Monday night in the Beanpot Championship as they fell 4-1 to the #1 ranked Boston College Eagles (22-4-3), in what could arguably be called Northeastern’s best executed game of the season. The win is Boston College’s 5th consecutive Beanpot title, and the second straight against the Huskies.
Northeastern came out strong in the first period out-shooting the Eagles 16-11 behind a relentless offensive attack and strong defense across the board for the Huskies.Despite this, Boston College scored the lone goal of the first period on Kevin Hayes 21st goal of the season assisted by Bill Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau.
In a reversal of fortune in the second period the Eagles out-shot the Huskies 14-8 but Northeastern scored the only goal of that period on John Stevens’ 6th of the season assisted by Kevin Roy. The Northeastern defense was able to block 12 shots in the second period alone, which helped take the ease off Clay Witt, who once again was his team’s backbone all game long.
Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan was confident where his team was at, after heading into the locker room tied after two periods.
“I like the way our team played, [they] competed hard. They battled for the whole game and through two periods I liked where we were,” Madigan continued, “If you can be 1-1 or up a goal or down a goal going into the third period, you’ve got a chance to win. I just liked where we were going into that third period.”
Despite the consensus that Northeastern outplayed the Eagles in the first two periods, the tide changed in the third with the Eagles out-shooting Northeastern 16-6, and scoring three goals to seal the game.
The first one came at 14:30 of the period on a Patrick Brown tip off of a Isaac MacLeod shot that just right by the shoulder of Clay Witt. Johnny Gaudreau gave the Eagles a two goal lead at 18:44 of the period on an empty-net goal, followed by another Patrick Brown goal with the 50 seconds left in the period that got over the glove of Witt.
Witt ended the night with 37 saves on 40 shots, and ended the Beanpot saving a combined 64 of 67 shots he faced.
Coach Madigan talked about Witt’s performance, and how he kept this Huskies team in the game all game long.
“I thought he played fabulous. I thought both goalies played really well tonight and Clay gave us a chance to win,” Madigan added, “It’s 1-1 after two periods and their goalie makes a great save to keep it out of the net… and Clay makes a few good saves there and he just couldn’t get the tip. It was well placed and he just couldn’t get it. But he was really good. He’s given us a chance to win all year long.”
Kevin Hayes took home Beanpot MVP honors as Eagles freshman goalie Thatcher Demko got the Eberly Award, given to the goalie who accumulates the highest save percentage in the tournament.
The season is still by far not over for the Huskies, who have Hockey East Championship and NCAA Tournament goals in mind. The Huskies will travel to Amherst to try and get revenge on Massachusetts who beat them 3-0 Friday night.
By Josh Brown
For the third time in four years the Northeastern Huskies will play in the Beanpot Championship game. The Huskies defeated Harvard 6-0 in the Semifinals Monday night at the TD Garden. The win was Northeastern’s largest margin of victory in a Beanpot game since beating Boston College 6-1 in 2009. Six different Huskies scored in the winning effort. The Huskies will face Boston College in the championship game, who defeated Boston University 3-1 in the 8:00 game.
Northeastern got on the board quickly, only 5:57 into the game, on a Dalen Hedges unassisted goal. 6 minutes and 11 seconds later Kevin Roy got in on the action, scoring his 6th career Beanpot goal assisted by John Stevens and Hedges.
It was a penalty ridden first period for the teams who combined for 9 penalties for 31 minutes, including a Josh Manson game misconduct for contact to the head. In what was a change of pace for the usually out-shot Huskies, Northeastern was able to get 15 shots on Raphael Girard as opposed to the 8 Harvard got on Clay Witt.
31 seconds into the third period, Northeastern extended their lead to 3-0 on a Torin Snydeman goal assisted by Mike Szmatula. 3:51 later Szmatula got another helper, this time feeding the puck to Braden Pimm. Colton Saucerman also got an assist on the goal.
The second period featured much of the same penalty wise with the team’s combining for 18 penalty minutes in the frame, with the Huskies raking up 4 penalties in that span.
In what seemed to be a theme on the night, Northeastern scored early in the third on a Colton Saucerman goal, assisted by John Stevens and Kevin Roy to give the Huskies a 5-0 edge. With time running out, and Northeastern’s win all but sealed Mike Szmatula picked up his third point on the night with his 8th goal of the season, to send the Huskies faithful home with Beanpot fever once again.
Clay Witt ended the night with 27 saves, in what was Northeastern’s first Beanpot shutout since 2011 vs Harvard. 76 total minutes were amassed between the two teams in the contest.
Coach Madigan sees a different Northeastern team as opposed to the Huskies who lost 6-3 to Boston College last year.
“This is a different team than last year…there’s an infusion of young, energized men out there,” Madigan stated.
Madigan’s freshman class chipped in with 2 goals and 6 assists, on what was yet another impressive effort by the Beanpot newcomers.
Szmatula was in awe to be playing in the tournament he has watched all throughout childhood.
“Growing up, I always watched it on TV…tonight we just wanted to give ourselves an opportunity to play in the finals,” Szmatula said.
When it comes to the Beanpot championship game Madigan emphasized the importance of goaltending, special teams and playing disciplined hockey. The Huskies will face Umass-Amherst Friday night at Matthews Arena before taking on the Eagles for the trophy.