Game day Preview: Alabama-Huntsville

This weekend, Northeastern faces off against the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers, from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Here are the lines: https://twitter.com/wrbbsports/status/388785447843155968/photo/1

 

Nothing really surprising. Gunn must be injured or in trouble, because otherwise he’s a top-4 defenseman here. Schecter made the last open defensive spot for now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Madigan slots in Harms tomorrow. Nathan Ferriero has a Game DQ from the Dalhousie game, but I expect him back tomorrow night.

This is an exhibition game against a team that was also voted to finish last in it’s league. It’s a great chance for Northeastern to flex it’s abilities against a team that isn’t already running on fumes, and see what it gets.

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Game Recap: Dalhousie University

First things first, it’s important to remember a few things. This is an exhibition game, and obviously has no impact on the season. Secondly, it’s important to note that Dalhousie only had 16 skaters, 2 of whom left the game at different points. Northeastern played with 5 forward lines and 4 defensive lines, and were thus able to really outskate the Tigers

Having said that, I was generally quite pleased with the game. There really were only one or two chances were Dalhousie really could have scored, nearly all their shots were on th outside and were poor chances. The Huskies did a great job of cycling and moving the puck around, not to mention shooting (as opposed to holding onto shots forever).

The big thing last night was to see who played themselves onto a spot for next weekend against Alabama-Huntsville. I think John Stevens easily earned himself a spot, with his 3 points and excellent stickhandling skills. Mike Szmatula and Dalen Hedges were also very good and will likely be starting off the season in the lineup. Nathan Ferriero received a game DQ, but I’m guessing he’ll be in the second game next weekend. Benning was supposed to be a top defensemen and proved himself worthy of a top spot.

So overall, a good start. It’s definitely nice to start with a win to get fans excited and the team thinking positively. Alabama-Huntsville is going to be harder than Dalhousie, but Northeastern should be able to handle them.

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Game day preview: Dalhousie University

Hockey is only an hour away! Enjoy the hour of unbridled joy right now before you descend to screaming and throwing things at every missed shot, poor call, and weak goal.

This is an exhibition game, which means it has no impact on anything. The most important thing is for the Huskies to remain uninjured. Judging by the line sheets, we’ll see just about the entire team playing tonight. If I had to guess, Madigan will play all 3 goalies in different periods, and keep rotating lines.

Canadian teams are always hard to compare stats to, because their setup is completely different. Most Canadian players were former CHL players who didn’t go onto the AHL/NHL, and thus are often older than NCAA players. In addition, for whatever reason, exhibition games have a tendency to get very nasty, with tons of penalty minutes racked up on both sides.

It’s hard to take a lot away from exhibition games. As long as we see some flashes of brilliance and no one is hurt, I’ll be happy regardless of the score.

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Hockey East Previews: #7 and #6

#7: Merrimack College Warriors

Reasons for Optimism:

Merrimack returns the most offense of all Hockey East teams (with 91% of their offense returning), including their top 10 scorers. Merrimack also has an excellent goaltender in Sam Marotta, who had a .925% SV and 2.28 GAA.

Reasons for Pessimism:

Merrimack’s offense was only 7th in the league last year, and with so many strong teams this year, they’ll need their offense to really step things up to make a fight of it.

Bottom Line:

Merrimack has a high upside in this league. If Marotta plays as well as he did last year and the offense improves, they could be fighting for the top spots. However, BC, Lowell, Providence and Notre Dame all look like very formidable foes and BU and UNH always compete. I placed Merrimack in 7th in large part because I have my doubts that by the time playoffs roll around the Warriors have managed to hang onto a top seed in this tough league.

#6 Boston University Terriers

Reason for Optimism:

As the expression goes, BU doesn’t rebuild, they reload. The terriers attract so much toop-tier talent year after year that even when top scorers and top goalies leave, they stay near the top of the pack. BU can count on an excellent goalie in Sean Maguire (and Matt O’Connor has good stats as well). BU can count on a solid defense and dynamic offense.

Reason for Pessimism:

Boston University returns just over half of their total offense from last year, by far the lowest in the league. They’ll need to see a lot of new production from their incoming players as well as returning players in order to stay where they were last year (and even then they went 15-10-2 in league play). In addition, the departure of Jack Parker and a new coach is always a wrinkle, an uncertainty for the Terriers.

Bottom Line:

In a previous year, the Terriers would probably be talked about as a top-4 contender. However, BC is always a top team, Lowell shows no signs of slowing down, Notre Dame has a lot of potential, and teams like Providence and UNH showed a lot of promise last year. With BU needing to boost their offensive output by a such a high amount, and with such talent around them, I don’t think they’ll be a top-4 team this year.

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Hockey East Predictions: #9 and #8

#9: University of Maine Black Bears

Reason for Optimism:

The Black Bears squeezed into 8th place last year, despite an offense that ranked last in the league. Maine returns 4 out of the top 5 scorers from last year’s team, and all 4 of those players were freshman, so they will presumably will be able to provide a lot more offense with another year under their belt. Goalie Martin Ouellette will be a senior this year, and put up solid numbers last year with a GAA of 2.42 and SV of .917%.

Reason for Pessimism:

Despite Maine returning 4 out 5 of their top scorers, they ranked last in offense, and overall are 8th in returning offense (and 9th in returning goals scored). Maine also ranked 9th last year in both the Power Play and Penalty Kill.

Bottom Line:

Maine needs to see offense ratchet up this year, and Ouellette to continue his solid performance, as well as an improvement in their special teams. A “sophomore slump” could be devastating if it kept their offense down. If their offense improves and Ouellette continues to backstop the team, they could do well, but if the opposite happens they could easily be battling for the basement.

#8: University of Vermont

Reason for Optimism:

Vermont returns the second highest percentage of offense in Hockey East, with 87% of points returning, and their team is quite veteran, with only 3 seniors who played most games graduating.

Reason for Pessimism:

Despite returning a lot of offense, UVM also ranked 9th in offense. UVM often runs a more defensive game in general with a strong emphasis on goalies and defense, but they’ll need offense to step it up. Their goalie, Brody Hoffman, put up decent but not incredibly impressive numbers.

Bottom Line: 

UVM needs Hoffman to step it up, and their offense to do a little better than last year. Vermont’s veteran team will be a big plus this year, and if Hoffman plays well and they get some more points, the Catamounts could make a play for the middle spots in Hockey East.

 

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2013-2014 Season Preview: #11 and #10

It’s that time of year where the air starts to get cold again, everyone returns to campus for the fall semester, and hockey is around the corner. With Northeastern not competing in the Hockey East tournament, that means that the hockey season has been gone for far too long. Luckily, however, the Huskies start the season less than a month away, with an exhibition game on October 5th against Dalhouse University.

As I’ve done the last two years, I try and make predictions about how the Hockey East field will look at the end of the year. Last year was a hit and a miss, as I picked Northeastern to finish 6th (a hilarious choice in retrospect), but got Lowell correct at first (which was an uncommon choice at the time).

So without further ado, here are my #11 and #10 picks:

#11 University of Massachusetts Minutemen

Reason for Optimism:

UMass returns an average amount of offense from the previous season, particularly their top three scorers from the year before. In addition, their defensive corp has 4 seniors this year and a junior, so they’ll have an experienced blueline to fall back upon.

Reason for Pessimism:

Amherst’s returning offense was middle of the pack last year, ranking 6th out of 10, and didn’t have a ton of impressive stats last year, when they finished 9th overall, also missing the playoffs. The biggest problem is their goalie situation. None of their three goalies had good numbers, and with 2 of the 3 transferring, their only returning goalie is Steve Mastalerz, who played 15 games, with a sub-.900 SV and a Goals-Against Average of 2.96.

Bottom Line:

UMass is a team that has some decent offense and an experienced defense, but if their goaltending continues to cause problems and their offense doesn’t explode, I don’t see them going very far.

#10 Northeastern University Huskies

Reason for Optimism: 

Northeastern returns 3 of their top 4 point scorers, including rookie sensation Kevin Roy. Roy put up 17 goals and 17 assists last year, and will be looked upon to add even more this year. Northeastern will return 4 defensemen, including 2 defensemen (Mike Gunn and Colton Saucerman) who started the season fresh from long term injuries, and will likely be much improved after having a full season to be ready for the season.

Reason for Pessimism:

Northeastern ranked 8th out of 10 in offense last year, and is 9th in terms of returning offense, and their defense was none too special. Northeastern also brings in lots of new players, which might take time to gel with the system. Finally, the Huskies are relying on a relatively untested goaltender in Clay Witt, who’s never played a full season yet.

Bottom Line: 

Northeastern has a very good schedule, which includes an exhibition game and 6 non-conference games before the Huskies have to dive into the regular season. This might be helpful in getting the younger players up to speed with the game and the system that Madigan runs. Finally, though Clay Witt is relatively untested, Rawlings last year really wasn’t that good at all.

If Clay Witt proves himself to be a solid D-1 goalie, the defense steps up, and the offense contributes as they’re expected to, the Huskies could wind up higher. But there are too many uncertainties and better teams above them to make that incredibly likely.

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2014 Recruits and Beyond

Given that I have been quiet for extremely long here, it’s time for an update. With the USHL draft just wrapping up, that gives me a good excuse to take a good look at where NU’s future recruits will be playing next year.

What’s interesting to see is that almost everyone will be playing in the USHL, minus two players who are likely too young to wind up on team’s rosters. This is a major turnaround from the last two years, where we had recruits all over the place in Canada and the United States. With recruiting being so far in advance, by the time players reach the USHL many of them have already committed, and most are committed by the end of their first year. When Madigan came in, it was hard for him to pick up players for 2011-2012, and the cupboard for 2012-2013 had already been looked over by many teams. 2013-2014 will be better, but 2014 and on is when Madigan was really going after an open talent pool with much of the NCAA.

Of the 8 players slated to come in from 2014 onwards, 7 of them were drafted by the USHL (the lone holdout was David Melaragni, who was born in 1998 and unlikely to make it onto a USHL roster this year). 5 of them are almost definitely going to be on USHL teams (the only one unlikely is Lincoln Griffin, born in 1997 and like Melaragni unlikely to make a USHL roster). Here’s who’s playing where:

Chad Duchesne- Sioux Falls

Ross Olsson- Cedar Rapids

Garrett Cockerill- Des Moines

Zachary Aston-Reese- Lincoln

Josh Couturier- Des Moines

Jason Cotton- Tri-City

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