Saturday, December 5, 2015

Northeastern Preview

The early hours of February, 4th 2015 saw the the Northeastern Huskies defeat BC in a stunning 3-2 upset, ending a dominating stretch for the Eagles who had won five Beanpots in a row dating back to 2010. Although the maroon and gold will have to wait a few months for a chance to rule the city of Boston once again, they will get their shot at revenge versus the Huskies this weekend. A lot has changed for both programs since that dreadful February night as Northeastern enters Saturday's contest with a 2-11-2 record while the Eagles are on an eleven game winning streak.

It's hard to believe what has happened to Jim Madigan's squad this season. Some (myself included) thought they were primed to make a run at home ice in the Hockey East playoffs given the fact that they retuned a lot of their top guns but it has been all downhill up to this point. Kevin Roy, who was one of the favorites for the Hobey Baker award before the year began, does not have a goal and suffered a concussion a couple of weeks ago. I do not think he will be in the lineup on Friday night but given the dire straits, he could certainly give it a go. NU brought in a fantastic freshmen class, headlined by Thayer alumni  Adam Gaudette, Lincoln Griffin, and John Barry. Only Gaudette has made an impact thus far, recording three goals and two assists while playing second line center for the black and red. Griffin, who was arguably the second best player in the ISL last season, has yet to post a point but I think that will change sooner rather than later given his skill and skating abilities. It has not just been the rookies that have been underwhelming for the Huskies as senior Mike McMurtry has just one goal, junior Dalen Hedges has been in and out of the lineup, and top defenseman Matt Benning has a -10 rating through fifteen games. Despite all the scoring and defensive mishaps, the most glaring problem for NU has been the play of their two goaltenders, Ryan Ruck and Derrick Roy. The former has garnered the majority of starts but has posted a lowly .891 save percentage and 2.98 goals against average. Roy has struggled mightily with a .833 save percentage and 3.01 goals against average. That does not bode well with the fact that they will be going up against the top offense in college hockey.

Boston College will be looking to extend their eleven game winning streak and perhaps more importantly, their undefeated start in Hockey East play. As of tonight, the Eagles are five points behind the UMass-Lowell River Hawks for first place but BC has three games in hand over UML. It is still too early to talk about postseason positioning but it appears as if four teams- BC, UML, PC, and Notre Dame-are separating themselves from the rest of the league.

The key for the maroon and gold will be to get off to a hot start. NU is one of the worst first period teams in college hockey, as they been outscored by a 22-4 margin in that timeframe. Northeastern plays their best versus BC when they score the first goal. In the Beanpot last winter, the Eagles had controlled the majority of the first period but a Huskie power play goal seemed to shift all the momentum in the opposite direction. Northeastern has had a very tough time at Kelley Rink where they have not won a game since March of 2008. All time, BC is 32-9-1 against the Huntington Hounds in Chestnut Hill. It remains to be seen whether or not Chris Calnan will play. If this was an NCAA tournament game, he would definitely give it a go, but given the fact that he will get two weeks of rest after next Thursday, the staff may be tempted to rest him for the remainder of the first semester. Calnan practiced without a red medical jersey on Thursday for the first time since his injury at UNH but he did not participate in drills with his normal linemates. NU tends to display an aggressive style of hockey which has led to a lot of trouble in the defensive end over the past few years. In order to maximize their success, the Eagles have to attack this group of defensemen, force turnovers, and get as many shots as possible. I remember how many easy breakouts the Huskies had in the Beanpot because BC didn't have the speed to send two guys in at all times. This time around, expect them to try to expose NU's blue liners deep in their own end. While they have some heavy guys up front like Aston-Reese, Kurker, and Gaudette, Northeastern's defense is not particularly big- most of their back end guys are smaller and like to move the puck up the ice. With the skill of this BC team, they sometimes try to make pretty plays instead of getting pucks to the net. I don't think that will be the case tomorrow as the staff likely put a major emphasis on getting pucks to the net, given how weak NU's goaltending has been.

Scouting Northeastern

Record- 2-11-2 (54th in pairwise)

Top scorers- Zach Aston-Reese (4-8-12), Nolan Stevens (5-4-9), John Stevens (4-4-8)

Key injuries- Forward Kevin Roy probably won't play due to a concussion.

Team offense- 2.20 goals per game (49th)

Team defense- 3.20 goals against per game (41st)

Power play- 13% (50th)

Penalty kill- 73.8% (52nd)

Penalty minutes- 10.60 penalty minutes per game (31st)

Keys for the Eagles-

1. Need a great first period. I find it hard to believe NU won't come out swinging for the fences so hopefully the Eagles can either calm the storm early and then get to work or just take over from puck drop.

2. Pucks to the net. It's difficult to fathom how horrible Northeastern's goaltending has been since Brad Theissen left after the 2009 season. Two goalies with sub .900 save percentages? That is unheard of.

3. Win the special teams battle. Neither NU's power play nor penalty kill has been very good this year. BC should be able to take advantage.

NOTE- Calnan is expected to play.

Great win for Vermont last night!

Go Eagles

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