Check out the highlights from NU’s Game 2 win at the Whittemore Center in Durham. The decisive Game 3 is today at 4:30PM.
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.
Northeastern honored its participants in the Sochi Winter Olympics last night. Kendall Coyne (Women’s Hockey, Silver Medal) and Steve Langton (Men’s Bobsleigh, 2 Bronze Medals) met with the press.
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.
By Jeremy Leopold
Marcus Thorton may not be a senior, but the junior William & Mary (17-10, 9-5 CAA) guard put up another stellar performance in a lopsided 81-67 victory over the Northeastern Huskies (9-20, 6-9 CAA) on the Tribe’s Senior Night.
All five William & Mary’s starters were seniors playing their final game in Kaplan Arena. But it was Thorton coming off the bench (he still logged 32 minutes) who stole the show, putting up 25 points along with four assists and two rebounds. For their part, Northeastern, a team statistically among the best defensively in the CAA, put up little resistance against Thorton and company, struggling with foul trouble and never getting closer than five points in the second half.
“I thought the emotion was on their side with Senior Day and I thought they played very, very well and just way too much Marcus Thorton. He’s a terrific player and every time we thought we kind of rallied for a comeback he had an answer for us,” said Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen.
While Thorton, a CAA player-of-the-year candidate, had another great performance, Northeastern junior forward Scott Eatherton, also a candidate, struggled with foul trouble all game, playing only 18 minutes and logging five points and three rebounds along with a lone block. He still trails only Towson’s all-CAA forward Jerrelle Benimon in the national double-double race by one with 17.
“He picked up his third and his fourth pretty quickly and never really got into a rhythm offensively, and we rely on him, we need him to do a lot of things, not only score, but rebound and defend, so without him it makes the game a little bit more challenging,” said Coen.
Thorton not only lead all scorers with his 25 but put up that number efficiently, shooting 9-14 (64 percent) from the field and 5-7 (71 percent) from three, improving his already excellent 41 percent clip from deep.
“I think I was just more aggressive and probably playing more freely,” said Thorton in comparison to his nine point outing on Wednesday against the College of Charleston. “Sometimes I start thinking too much and that kind of takes a toll on my game, so, just having confidence in myself and never losing my confidence and playing more freely and trusting our offense I think helped me a lot today.”
For Northeastern, it was freshman guard T.J Williams leading the offense with 16 points to go along with his team-leading five assists. This is the second straight game Williams has lead the Huskies in scoring.
“I just think he’s playing at a really high level, he’s playing at a very confident pace, he’s distributing the ball, he’s scoring the ball,” said Coen. “That’s what happens at this time of the year, freshmen are no longer freshmen, and he’s certainly playing more like an upperclassman.”
With the win, the Tribe are guaranteed the third seed going into the CAA tournament. For the Huskies, the loss puts them two games behind in the loss column in the race for fourth. With only one game remaining, Northeastern would need a win and some help to get that fourth seed.
Northeastern’s final regular season game is against the Drexel Dragons, on March 1 in Mathews Arena. It will be the Huskies’ Senior Night, where they will honor their lone player in his final year, Chris Avanant, prior to the game.
Game Notes: David Walker added 12 points for the Huskies. Demetrius Pollard also contributed with ten points and four assists. Zach Stahl finished with nine points and ten rebounds, one point short of his second double-double of the year.
For the Tribe, senior forward Tim Rusthoven filled out the stat sheet with 12 points, five assists, five rebounds, and a block in just 17 minutes. Senior Guard Brandon Britt put up 11 points and three boards.
Ryan and Joe recap last week’s game in Amherst and prep for the biggest series of the season this weekend against Maine.