Column: Gaudette cements Northeastern legacy with inevitable Hobey Baker win

Photo courtesy Charles Krupa, Associated Press
Photo courtesy Charles Krupa, Associated Press

By: Dan McLoone

All due respect to Ryan Donato and Henrik Borgstrom, but they never stood a chance. The Hobey Baker Award was always destined to go to Adam Gaudette.

A 27-member selection committee confirmed something on Friday night in St. Paul that Northeastern fans have been witnessing all season in Boston – Gaudette is the best college player in the nation. For Gaudette, the Hobey Baker Award is the culmination of three scintillating years on Huntington Avenue. Three years of flexing his muscles as the scariest power play scorer in the nation. Three years of firing home one-timers while camped out at his favorite spot on the left dot. Three years of development that turned him from a nice complimentary scorer on a Hockey East Championship squad into one of the most dangerous open-ice skaters in the nation.

Northeastern has been fighting for decades to prove itself, desperately searching for the consistent success that would put it on the map as not only an afterthought when discussing the best teams in Boston, but into an actual bonafide NCAA hockey power.

Gaudette’s achievement is the crown jewel from three years of hard work for a program that has entrenched itself as a consistently dominant offensive force, immortalizing the forward in Husky lore and securing his status as one of the best players to ever wear the red and black.

Kevin Roy laid the foundation with a spectacular career and a Hockey East title. Zach Aston-Reese took it a step further by leading the nation in scoring last year to earn a Hobey Hat Trick nomination. But Gaudette is the one who scaled the mountain.

Roy captained an incredible team, but never produced the numbers needed to find himself in the Hobey discussion. Aston-Reese put up a gaudy stat line, but was beaten out by a player in Will Butcher who captained the National Champions in Denver. Gaudette was the first to combine both the eye-popping personal stats with the overall team success needed to reach the pinnacle of individual awards. And when the Hat Trick of Gaudette, Donato and Borgstrom was announced, there was never a doubt that the Braintree native would get his due recognition.

How certain was his coronation as the top player in the nation? I wrote this column on March 29th, eight days before Gaudette took the stage in Roy Wilkins Auditorium.

This isn’t to say that Borgstrom and Donato weren’t the right choices. But neither had the necessary stats or team success to dethrone Gaudette. Borgstrom, a Panthers draft pick, scored 23 goals to go with 29 assists for Denver, earning him NCHC Player of the Year recognition. But the reigning champs were bounced in their regional final by Ohio State, and the one extra round of tournament hockey wasn’t enough to dethrone Gaudette. Donato had the storyline factor going his way, scoring 26 goals for Harvard before potting five for Team USA at the Olympics and then proceeding to score five points in his first five games with the Bruins. But he only played 29 games for the Crimson due to international duties, and was unable to lead them to the NCAA tournament.

And then there’s Gaudette. The junior made Hockey East foes look foolish all season, leading the nation with 60 points on 30 goals and 30 assists. He scored a hat trick in the Beanpot Final to give NU its first title in the competition since 1988. He subsidized his nose for goal with a dominant presence on both sides of the ice, logging significant minutes on the penalty kill unit while creating numerous rushes the other way with his relentless backcheck pursuits. And the team success came with it, as the Huskies picked up an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

Granted, Gaudette certainly couldn’t have achieved the peak of individual performance alone, and he’ll be the first one to tell you that. His on-ice chemistry with Dylan Sikura developed on the third line during his freshman year and slowly blossomed into one of the most dynamic scoring duos in the nation. Nolan Stevens’ ability with the puck on his stick opened up so many more lanes for Gaudette and Sikura to take advantage of out wide when they played together. Stevens brand of quiet leadership allowed Gaudette to be a more vocal presence. Sikura, always the bridesmaid and never the bride, has been one of the nation’s top playmakers for two years with two Hobey Baker nominations, but has been overshadowed by the superior goal scoring numbers of Aston-Reese and Gaudette. You could argue that Sikura’s skill allowed those two to make the jump into the nation’s elite.

But Gaudette was able to capitalize on the immense skill that he was surrounded with, finishing as NU’s all-time leader in power play goals and surpassing 100 career points in his junior season. He played a pivotal role in erasing the pain of 1988 altogether, spearheading the team’s first Beanpot title since then. He served as an excellent ambassador for both the Northeastern hockey program and the university overall. And now, he’s living out his NHL dream with the Vancouver Canucks. Not bad for a local kid from Braintree.

For Northeastern, having a Hobey Baker winner as an alum fits perfectly into the plan that head coach Jim Madigan outlined after the Huskies won Hockey East in 2016 – the Huskies are back. We’ve already seen the effects of the 2016 title in Northeastern’s recruiting classes over the past two years. Adding a Hobey Baker winner to the trophy case will only increase NU’s ability to compete on the national scene for years to come.

Josh Manson started it, countless other players have helped along the way, and Adam Gaudette will be immortalized forever for securing the final piece to the puzzle. Northeastern hockey is back in the national discussion. Thanks be to Gaud.

Adam Gaudette wins 2018 Hobey Baker Award

Photo credit, Northeastern Athletics
Photo credit, Northeastern Athletics

By: Josh Brown

For the first time in Northeastern history, the best player in college hockey played his home games at Matthews Arena. A historic season for alternate captain Adam Gaudette officially concluded on Friday evening when he was presented with the Hobey Baker Award at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Gaudette beat out Harvard forward Ryan Donato and Denver forward Henrik Borgstrom for the nation’s most prestigious individual honor. Earlier in the evening, Gaudette along with teammates Dylan Sikura and Jeremy Davies were named CCM/ACHA First-Team All-Americans.

“Coming to Northeastern has been the biggest thing in my life,” said Gaudette. “It helped me prepare to be a pro, and I can’t thank the coaches and the staff enough for that. In saying so, my career at Northeastern has come to an end and I can’t wait to start my career with the Vancouver Canucks. I just want to thank Coach Madigan, Coach Keefe, Coach Smith, Coach McLaughlin for all they’ve done. I’m just really happy that they brought me in to be a Husky and they saw something in me that no one else did and their trust and loyalty really paid off and I can’t thank them enough for that.”

“This year at Northeastern has been one of the most memorable years of my life,” Gaudette added. “I wouldn’t be here without the guys on the team, and I especially wouldn’t be here without my two linemates, Dylan Sikura and Nolan Stevens. Playing on a line with those guys was the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey. We accomplished a lot this year, winning a Beanpot for the first time in 30 years, and that’s something not a lot of people understand if you’re not from Boston. But that just meant so much to me personally and the team and the school and the community.”

A native of Braintree, Massachusetts, Gaudette ended the season atop the nation in goals (30) and points (60). He recorded 20 multi-point games in the 2017-2018 campaign (the most in college hockey), and he is just the tenth player in Northeastern history to rack up 60 points in a season. Earlier this year, he joined linemate Dylan Sikura, Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau and St. Lawrence’s Greg Carey as just the fourth player since 2012-2013 to net 50+ points in consecutive seasons.

Despite being a junior, Gaudette ended the season first in the nation in both active career goals (68) and active career power play goals (32). Additionally, he was third in the nation in active career points (142).

“We are incredibly proud of Adam for this tremendous honor,” said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan. “What he was able to accomplish this season is something that many players would dream of doing over a career. Every accolade he’s received this season is well-deserved, and to officially be recognized as college hockey’s top player speaks to his determination and incredible work ethic that Adam brings to the rink every day. His future in this game is extremely bright, and we thank him for everything’s he done for our hockey program and Northeastern University. We wish him the very best as he embarks on his professional career.”

Gaudette became the first Husky since Jason Guerriero in 2004-05 to win the Hockey East regular season scoring title (19 goals, 14 assists) this season. Of the now 10 Hobey Baker Award winners who have hailed from Hockey East, six won the conference scoring title (Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau, Jason Krog, Paul Kariya, David Emma).

On March 19, Gaudette was named the Walter Brown Award Winner, given to the best American-born college hockey player in New England. He was also named the Beanpot MVP (4 goals, 2 assists) after leading the Huskies to their first tournament title since 1998.

Gaudette signed a three-year, entry level deal with the Vancouver Canucks on February 26. He has appeared in the team’s last four games.

 

Gaudette named Hobey Hat Trick finalist

Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics

By: Josh Brown

For the second consecutive season, one of the three best players in college hockey played his home games at Matthews Arena. The Hobey Baker Memorial Award named forward Adam Gaudette to the Hobey Hat Trick on Thursday afternoon. Gaudette is joined by University of Denver forward Henrik Borgstrom and Harvard University forward Ryan Donato as the three players remaining in contention for the nation’s top award, which will be handed out on April 6 at the Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“We’re very proud of Adam for putting himself in a position to win college hockey’s highest individual honor,” said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan. “He has been one of the top players in the NCAA for the last two seasons, which is a testament to the level of work that he puts into his game daily both on and off the ice. It was a privilege to have him as a member of our team for the last three seasons. His work ethic and determination have certainly rubbed off on his teammates, which will positively impact our program well into the future.”

The Hockey East Player of the Year joins Brad Thiessen (2009) and Zach Aston-Reese (2017) as the third player in Northeastern history to be named to the Hobey Hat Trick.

A native of Braintree, Massachusetts, Gaudette ended the season atop the nation in goals (30) and points (60). He recorded 20 multi-point games in the 2017-2018 campaign (the most in college hockey), and he is just the tenth player in Northeastern history to rack up 60 points in a season. Earlier this year, he joined linemate Dylan Sikura, Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau and St. Lawrence’s Greg Carey as just the fourth player since 2012-2013 to net 50+ points in consecutive seasons.

Despite being a junior, Gaudette ended the season first in the nation in both active career goals (68) and active career power play goals (32). Additionally, he was third in the nation in active career points (142).

Gaudette became the first Husky since Jason Guerriero in 2004-05 to win the Hockey East regular season scoring title (19 goals, 14 assists) this season. Of the nine Hobey Baker Award winners who have hailed from Hockey East, five won the conference scoring title (Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau, Jason Krog, Paul Kariya, David Emma).

On March 19, Gaudette was named the Walter Brown Award Winner, given to the best American-born college hockey player in New England. He was also named the Beanpot MVP (4 goals, 2 assists) after leading the Huskies to their first tournament title since 1998.

Gaudette signed a three-year, entry level deal with the Vancouver Canucks on February 26. He is expected to make his debut on Thursday night against Edmonton.

No. 8 Northeastern falls to No. 10 Michigan in first round of NCAA Tournament

By: Christian Skroce

WORCESTER, MA – For the second time in three seasons, the Northeastern University men’s hockey team ends their season with a loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, this time to the Michigan Wolverines.

In what promised to be a high scoring matchup between two of the nation’s top offenses, it was the defenses that ruled the day early on. After a scoreless first period, it was Michigan forward Cooper Marody who finally broke the deadlock with just five minutes left in the second period. Northeastern would respond quickly though as just three minutes later Dylan Sikura fired home a power play goal off a pinpoint pass from Jeremy Davies to even the score at one going into the third period.

The scoring continued after the second intermission as Dexter Dancs’ backhanded shot put Michigan back on top 2-1 with 15 minutes left in the third period. After a frustrating next seven minutes, the Huskies tied it up once again as Eric Williams blasted home a long-range effort with eight minutes to go in the game. The Wolverines would respond though as Marody once again gave Michigan the lead with just 4:30 left in the third period. Michigan would not look back as the Wolverines cruised to a 3-2 win after the Huskies failed to generate quality opportunities in the final minutes of the game.

Freshman goalie Cayden Primeau got the start in net, making 29 saves on the evening. Hayden Lavigne made 19 saves in the net for Michigan in route to the win.

 

No. 7 Northeastern advances to Hockey East semifinals with 7-2 win over UMass

Photo courtesy Maddie Meyer, Getty Images
Photo courtesy Maddie Meyer, Getty Images

By: Josh Brown

BOSTON – For the second time in three seasons, the No. 7 Northeastern University men’s hockey team is on to the TD Garden for the Hockey East semifinals.

While Friday’s Hockey East quarterfinals Game 1 against UMass was a nail-biter until the bitter end, the Huskies scored early and often and never looked back en route to a 7-2 win in Game 2 of the series on Saturday in front of 2,538 fans at Matthews Arena.

The victory gives Northeastern (23-8-5) a program record 14 home wins on the 2017-2018 campaign. It is also gives Jim Madigan’s squad a season-long seven-game winning streak.

Freshman goalie Cayden Primeau got the start in net, making 28 saves on the evening. Ryan Wischow made 14 saves in net for UMass (17-20-2) and Brad Arvanitis stopped seven shots in the third period in relief.

Jeremy Davies got the scoring going early for the Huskies, potting his sixth goal of the season less than four minutes into the opening frame. The sophomore defenseman received a pass from Biagio Lerario at the point and danced around a defender before beating Wischow five-hole.

With just 31 seconds remaining in the first, Nolan Stevens scored his first of two on the night after Lincoln Griffin sent him a pass from behind the net that the senior captain jammed past Wischow.

The Huskies piled on four more goals in the second period, courtesy of Adam Gaudette, Dylan Sikura, Brandon Hawkins and Stevens. Gaudette’s goal was number 30 on the season, making him the 11th player in team history to reach the milestone.

UMass forward Niko Rufo and Lincoln Griffon traded goals in the opening ten minutes of the third period and Minutemen junior Brett Boeing scored the final goal of the game with 3:10 remaining.

The Huskies will take on Providence in the Hockey East semifinals on Friday night at TD Garden. Puck drop is scheduled for 8 p.m. Josh Brown, Joe Barbito and Christian Skroce will have complete coverage, with pregame beginning at 7:45 p.m.

 

Sikura leads No. 7 Northeastern past UMass in Game 1 of Hockey East quarterfinals

Photo courtesy of NHL.com
Photo courtesy of NHL.com

By: Josh Brown

BOSTON – Who else but Dylan Sikura?

With Game 1 of the Hockey East quarterfinals knotted up at two midway through the third period, the senior assistant captain received an Adam Gaudette pass in the high slot and ripped a wrist shot past UMass goalie Ryan Wischow.

Ball game.

The late tally proved to be the winner, as the No. 7 Northeastern men’s hockey team beat UMass, 3-2, in front of 1,919 fans at Matthews Arena on Friday night.  The victory gives Northeastern a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.

Freshman Cayden Primeau got the start in net for the Huskies (22-8-5), making 29 saves on the evening. Wischow stopped 28 pucks on the other end of the ice for UMass (17-19-2).

After a tight-checking, clean first period produced zero pucks in the back of the net, the Huskies scored two on a five-minute power play midway through the second period. UMass freshman forward Jake Gaudet received the game misconduct for crushing defenseman Garrett Cecere behind the net.

Nolan Stevens scored first at the 8:51 mark of the period when he tipped home a Jeremy Davies (two assists) shot from the point. Exactly four minutes later, with just 16 seconds remaining on the power play, Sikura netted his first of the night on a one-time feed from Davies at the left dot.

UMass cut the deficit to one just 22 seconds later when Austin Albrecht fired a shot from above the left circle that beat Primeau glove side.  The Minutemen carried that momentum into the third and tied the game just under three minutes into the period on Brett Boeing’s second goal of the year.

Although UMass controlled the tempo for the rest of the period, Sikura scored his 19th of the season at  the 13:48 mark to put the Huskies in front for good.

Northeastern will look to punch its ticket to the Hockey East semifinals when they take on UMass in Game 2 of the series on Saturday night at Matthews Arena. WRBB will have complete coverage, with pregame coverage getting underway at 6:45 p.m.

 

“I can’t think of a tougher one.”: Northeastern falls to Charleston in CAA Championship

(Image Credit: GoNU)
(Image Credit: GoNU)

by Matthew MacCormack

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — The emotion in Bill Coen’s voice was evident.

Coen — the 2017-18 CAA Coach of the Year — is usually a stoic soul, but something extra seeped into his voice as he sat at the podium in the North Charleston Coliseum after Northeastern’s 83-76 overtime loss to Charleston in the CAA Championship.

“I can’t think of a tougher one,” Coen said of the loss.

“I thought we had our chances. Just lost our composure a little bit in a couple of key moments, had some inopportune turnovers and missed free throws that kept the door open just long enough for Charleston to make a run.”

The Huskies led by as many as 17 points in the second half, but Charleston stormed back — led by senior guard Joe Chealey’s 32 points and his perfect 16-16 clip from the charity stripe — to secure the win and earn their first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 1999. Redshirt junior Vasa Pusica tallied a team-high 30 points on 6-10 shooting from three, but the Huskies made too many mistakes down the stretch, including coughing up 20 turnovers.

Chealey missed a potential game-winning three at the buzzer, with the sides tied at 65. The Cougars outscored NU 18-11 in the extra frame, spurred by two huge threes from junior Marquise Pointer (9 points) who had hit just one field goal in regulation.

Charleston (26-7) receives the Colonial Athletic Association’s automatic bid to the Big Dance with the victory.

Northeastern (23-10) was denied a bid after reaching the tournament back in 2014. The Huskies are a strong candidate to receive a bid to a postseason invitational tournament, such as the NIT or CBI.

Northeastern led, 65-60, with 40 seconds left in regulation after a block from sophomore Shawn Occeus and an ensuing pair of free throws from redshirt sophomore Donnell Gresham. On the next possession, Chealey drew a foul on a three-point attempt, and hit all three free throws to pull the Cougars within two points.

Pusica was called for a travel on the next play, giving Charleston the ball with 18 seconds left in regulation. It only took Chealey eight seconds to tie the game, 65-65, with a layup in the lane.

Northeastern had a chance to take a lead with 10 seconds left, but Gresham dribbled the ball out of bounds on the ensuing possession. Chealey’s buzzer-beater rimmed out, forcing overtime.

The Cougars took the lead right away in overtime on a bucket from sophomore Jarrell Brantley (18 points, 11 rebounds). Pointer’s two threes and a jumper from senior Cam Johnson put Charleston up 75-69. Northeastern got it to within three on a triple from sophomore Bo Brace, but the Cougars scored the last four points of the half on free throws to seal the deal.

Sophomore Grant Riller added 20 points for C of C. Occeus (18 pts), Boursiquot (12 pts, 5 rebs) and Gresham (8 pts, 12 rebs) all made contributions for NU.

Coen had high praise for his team, which was projected by the media to finish 6th in the CAA Preseason Media Poll.

“This group is such a likable group,” Coen lamented after the game.

“A couple times during the game I thought we had it pretty well in hand and were playing good basketball. It’s not like you came to a championship game and didn’t play your best. Charleston just played a little better.”

PREGAME PRIMER: Huskies face No. 1 seed Charleston with tourney bid at stake

huskies!

by Matthew MacCormack and Justin Littman

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. —

It’s the matchup everyone wanted to see.

The North Charleston Coliseum will play host to Tuesday night’s Colonial Athletic Association tournament championship, with the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line. Top-seeded Charleston (25-7) takes on the No. 2 seed Northeastern Huskies (23-9) in a battle of conference co-regular season champs.

It’s sure to be a more exciting matchup than the team’s previous two meetings this season — both Charleston victories. The Huskies are playing with a different swagger since their last loss to C of C — a 69-64 defeat back on February 1st at Matthews Arena in Boston. Since then, the Black and Red have rattled off nine straight victories, good enough for the sixth longest winning streak in the nation.

Charleston has the type of dynamic star power you look for in a conference champ. Head coach Earl Grant can turn to savvy scorers in All-CAA First Team guards Joe Chealey and Grant Riller, as well as All-CAA Second-Team forward Jarrell Brantley, a do-it-all post presence.

Northeastern brings a balanced, defensive-oriented attack, spearheaded by the CAA Player of the Year runner up in point guard Vasa Pusica and CAA Defensive Player of the Year Shawn Occeus. Bill Coen, the CAA Coach of the Year, has gotten the most out of a deep group.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. Click here to listen to WRBB’s pre-game coverage live from the Coliseum, beginning at 6:30.

WRBB’s pre-game primer has all you need to know about Tuesday’s winner-take-all matchup:

How Northeastern Got Here

You don’t have to look any further than the CAA’s Preseason Media Poll to realize how low expectations were set for the Huskies this year.

Northeastern was projected to finish 6th in the conference, and no NU player made a preseason All-CAA team. Three major factors allowed the Huskies to exceed expectations:

  • The redshirt junior Pusica — a transfer from University of San Diego — exploded onto the scene, giving the Huskies a go-to, crunch-time scorer (17.6 ppg) and unselfish distributor (5.1 apg)
  • Occeus, a sophomore, grew into a lock-down perimeter defender, leading a defense that limits opponents to 29.5% from three –third best in the nation.
  • Coen settled on an eight-man rotation that gives the Huskies incredible depth. A bench unit led by CAA Sixth Man of the Year sophomore Bo Brace provides diverse skills.

The Huskies had two blow-out victories over 7th-seeded Delaware (74-50) and 6-seed UNCW (79-52) to get to the championship round.

How Charleston Got Here

(Image Credit: Sports Chat Place)
(Image Credit: Sports Chat Place)

The Cougars were the CAA favorite from the beginning of the season. After losing to UNCW in the title game last year, Charleston returned their top three players in Chealey (the CAA Preseason Player of the Year), Brantley and Riller.

Chealey, a senior, is a classic scoring point guard. He averages 18 points per contest, thanks in large part to his ability to get to the line — his 7.16 free throw attempts per game ranks 25th in the nation.

Junior forward Brantley (16.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg) missed almost the entire non-conference slate, but he’s been a beast in CAA play. He’s surprisingly agile at 6’7, 250 pounds, and brings a versatile offensive skillset alongside an ability to guard multiple positions on defense.

The X-Factor, though, may be the sophomore guard Riller. He’s gone bonkers since the last time these two teams played, averaging 26.4 points per game on 64% shooting from the field and 55% from three over his last nine games.

The Cougars scraped by No. 8 seed Drexel (66-59) and No. 4 seed William & Mary (83-73) to move on to the final.

Three Keys to the Game

Occeus vs. Riller

It’s the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year (Occeus) against the hottest scorer in the league (Riller).

So far in the tournament, Occeus has locked up the CAA Freshman of the Year in Delaware’s Ryan Allen ( 5 pts, 1-10 shooting) and UNCW’s Jordon Talley (6 pts, 2-12 shooting), who was coming off a career-high 37 in the Seahawks’ quarterfinal victory over Hofstra.

Riller’s averaged 21 points over two games in the tournament, shooting 42% from three.

This is gonna be fun.

The Turnover Battle

The Cougars have the best turnover margin in the CAA. They won’t force many turnovers, but they do an outstanding job taking care of the ball. Only Virginia and Michigan have fewer turnovers per game on the year. The Cougars are 18-1 in games where they win or tie the turnover battle, including an 11-0 mark against CAA foes.

Charleston won the turnover battle in each of their previous victories over Northeastern. While the Huskies have thrived on forcing turnovers throughout the season, taking care of the ball has been their Achilles’ heel. They have more turnovers per game than any other CAA team, and have a negative turnover differential despite the great defense. The Huskies have not lost the turnover battle in four games, and will need to keep the momentum going tonight.

Crunch-Time Scoring

Charleston has the experience and talent to thrive when the defense tightens up at the end close games. The last time these teams met, the Cougars used a 5-0 run with just over two minutes remaining to break a tie and seal the victory. Joe Chealey has been the go-to guy for Charleston, and the senior will likely have the ball in his hands once again down the stretch. Northeastern has Vasa Pusica, who has proven to be plenty capable at the end of close games. The Huskies will rely on Pusica, and perhaps the shooters around him, to execute in crunch-time.

LISTEN: Huskies win 9th straight, advance to CAA Championship

(Image Credit: GoNU)
(Image Credit: GoNU)

by Michael Petillo

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC — After their first two meetings of the year needed overtime to decide a winner, many expected a close contest when Northeastern and UNCW met for a third time in the semi-finals of the CAA tournament on Saturday night in the North Charleston Coliseum.

This time around, however, it was a different story as the Huskies used a pair of huge runs to down UNCW 79-52 and extend their winning streak to nine while taking the next step towards a potential NCAA tournament bid.

They’ll face Charleston tomorrow night at 7 p.m. with the CAA tournament title and a trip to the big dance on the line.  Coverage begins at 6:30.

“We’ve been talking about defense and rebounding in our meetings and our preparation a lot,” said Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen.

“I thought tonight we answered the bell.”

First team all-CAA point guard Vasa Pusica turned in yet another stellar performance with 20 points and 6 rebounds to lead NU, but it was the contributions from the supporting cast that allowed Northeastern to run away with the game in the second half.

Sophomore Shawn Occeus made several big plays on offense in the second half to finish with 18 points in addition to showcasing his trademark defense with a block and a pair of steals. He was also integral in slowing down Seahawks’ guard Jordon Talley who scored only 6 points after hanging 37 on Hofstra in their quarterfinal game last night.

“People are starting see why [Occeus] was the Defensive Player of the Year,” Coen said.

“We need that type of effort and I think it sets the tone for us. Everything just fell into place in the second half.”

Occeus said that Talley’s record-tying game the night before — his 37 tied the record for most points in a CAA tournament game — gave him added motivation.

“Anytime you see a person you’re gonna match up against the night before go off, it juices you up a little bit,” Occeus said.

On the interior, big men Anthony Green and Tomas Murphy did well to limit UNCW forward Devontae Cacok and the team as a whole did an excellent job on the glass.  The Seahawks finished the season as the best rebounding team in the CAA, mainly thanks to Cacok, and Northeastern managed to out-rebound them 44-41.

The Huskies are now just one game away from claiming an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. All that stands in their way is No. 1 seed Charleston.

“Coach talks about staying in the moment,” Occeus said after the win.

“We know tomorrow’s a big game but right now we just want to focus on the bad things we did tonight and the good things we did tonight to improve, and go into tomorrow night and have the best game of our season.”