Northeastern’s facing off against UNH on Friday, the puck drops at 7:05 at Matthews Arena. In addition to the game, Northeastern will also be honoring Don McKenney, former Northeastern head coach, and assistant coach to Fernie Flaman during our period of strength in the 1980’s, not to mention a 9 time NHL All-Star with the Boston Bruins.
Now, onto UNH. Before the past weekend, I would have predicted a dominating UNH performance. However, UNH got dominated by BU last weekend, losing 5-0. By all accounts their goaltending was subpar, they would have gotten better defense from swiss cheese, and their forwards didn’t do well. Gee, that sounds familiar… This will pit two teams with similar situations and both lacking in wins against one another. Should be an interesting matchup.
Defensively, both teams had a lot of issues. UNH paired up less experienced blueliners with more experienced ones, and it’ll be interesting to see if they change up that equation after being beaten like that, or push through in the hopes the underclassmen learn faster from their upperclassman partner. Northeastern also has their shares of defensive miscues, as evidenced by the last weekend. A big part of that is an opening up of the system to a more offensive oriented one, and it takes time for that new system to be fully implemented, and naturally there are growing pains. The question here is which team can tighten up better and shut down the opposing team’s forwards. Honestly, I don’t think either side has a clear advantage here.
For forwards, both sides have talented top lines, but need to add more firepower on their 3rd and 4th line. I think Northeastern will gain an advantage with the return of Karlsson and Quailer, who will likely contribute immensely. More importantly, it will relieve some pressure on the top 2 lines, as now the Huskies can roll with 3 strong lines and hopefully add even more offensive punch. UNH has a similar situation with 2 lines filled with talented upperclassmen, but was unsuccessful last weekend, so they’re looking to score. Again, I don’t see any obvious advantage here. Both sides need to step up and spread their scoring threat onto the 3rd and 4th line.
In terms of goaltending, UNH has a slight edge in DiGirolamo. Rawling was inconsistent against Maine, and if he has a crappy defense again, it won’t be good. Witt might even get the start, but right now it’s unclear. DiGirolamo has been relatively consistent and solid as a goalie, so I think UNH gets a slight advantage.
Special teams will be interesting. Northeastern hasn’t done well on special teams, but UNH went scoreless on 6 Power Plays (though it did better on the PK, going 4/5). I think more important is whether both sides can avoid penalties. The Huskies are being killed on large numbers of penalties, because it drains a team when it keeps playing the same few guys over and over again. UNH wasn’t much better, taking 7 penalties against BU. Whoever can avoid the penalty box will have the advantage here really.
Essentially, this game comes down to whoever used this week’s worth of practices to tighten up their system better. I think UNH will be able to pull itself together better and pull out a win in a tight game with a solid number of mistakes. I’m guessing UNH 4-3.