The season opener is finally upon us, as Northeastern takes on UMass in Matthews Arena tonight. Needless to say, I’m very excited for this. With the game just a few hours away, lets compare the two teams and then make a prediction:
Northeastern comes into the game already taking a hit. NU loses essentially their 2nd line with Quailer, Ferriero, and Karlsson all out for various reasons. In their place is Morra-Stone-Manno, hardly an equal replacement. Manno will be interesting because he decommitted late from UMass this summer to come here. Northeastern has a solid 3 lines, but many of the players need to prove themselves this year. Look for the top line of McLaughlin-Dongara-Vrolyk and the second line of J. Daniels-Pimm-Saponari to get a lot of time. They’ll need to carry a lot of the offense.
For UMass, they start with a dangerous line featuring their top 3 scorers from last year: Hobbs-Syner-Pereira. That will likely be their top line and their main offensive catalyst. After that, I’m not sure about their lineup. They have a lot of underclassmen looking to advance and take more ice time. My guess is this game will be a lot about the top 2 lines or so for each team, and if either side can get their bottom 2 lines to provide action they’ll have an advantage.
Advantage: Tie. Kind of a cop out I know, but I don’t see any major advantage on either side. UMass has the better overall 1st line, but no major known threat other than that (unless someone really explodes). NU has 2 solid lines but has a lot of offensive question marks and people need to break out for them to have an advantage.
Here I think the difference is more stark. Northeastern returns 4 of 6 defensemen, and brings in some good recruits. Josh Manson is solid and played well, and my guess is Ben Oskroba will be the 6th dman. The question here is whether the Bitetto-Eibler pairing can shut down UMass’ top line. Bitetto-Eibler didn’t do well in the exhibition game, although they provided a lot of offense. If they can shutdown UMass, it’ll really benefit the Huskies.
UMass returns 5 Defensemen, and have an all around solid blueline. I think it remains to be seen if they can shut down the Huskies top line and provide offense.
Advantage: Northeastern. I think the Huskies have an all around better defensive corp, and if Bitetto and Eibler can play like they played the end of last year they’ll be able to really provide shutdown offense and puckmoving skills.
For Northeastern, it’s pretty clear. Chris Rawlings will start in the net. He played pretty solidly last year, and is now a junior. If he continues to get better, he’ll be a great ace in the hole for the Huskies.
For UMass, their likely starter Jeff Teglia, who played a few games last year, is sick. Instead is Kevin Boyle, a freshman who played in the BCHL (the same league Rawlings came from).
Advantage: Northeastern. Rawlings is known and solid in net, despite some inconsistencies. Boyle will be playing his first game so he may be shaky, may be okay, who knows? That’s UMass’ problem at this point.
This is a bit of an unknown quantity. Neither were particularly good last year (though NU had an advantage). In the exhibition, Northeastern’s power play was very good, while their penalty kill was atrocious. UMass only had their scrimmage, where the PP didn’t look good for them.
Advantage: Tie. Neither team has proven themselves yet. Whoever takes more penalties, though, will not be helping themselves out.
Final Prediction: Northeastern 3, UMass 2. I think Northeastern’s goaltending is the trump card here, I bet a lot of mistakes are made on both sides and some stretches of control for both sides during the game, but I think Northeastern wins it out.