Archive | February, 2012

3 Way and 4 Way Tie Scenarios for Northeastern

February 29, 2012

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For any of these to occur, Northeastern will need to really play well this weekend.  If somehow they pull off 3 or 4 points, we could see some 3 or 4 way ties.  They best they can finish is 7th as UNH owns the tiebreaker over them.  The worst they can finish is 9th and out of the playoffs.  Hockey East did not include these ties in their release, so these may not be correct, but I am pretty sure they are.

 

NOTE: All of the scenarios rely on UNH losing and/or PC picking up either 0 or 1 points on the weekend.

NOTE: There is a 99.99999999964% chance that none of these happen.

4 way tie: (6) UNH ,  (7) NU,  (8) PC,  (9) UMass

This one is from the Hockey East release, so it is 100% accurate. This one is very unlikely.   NU and UMass would need sweeps .  UNH would have to lose their one game against Maine.  Pc would have to take just 1 point from Lowell.    The second two could very easily happen, but NU and UMass both sweeping is extremely unlikely.   But in this scenario, a UMass sweep would leave them out of the playoffs, which would be a very cruel fate for them.

3 way tie: (6) UNH, (7) UMass,  (8) NU

This one is also very unlikely, as it still requires sweeps from UMass in Northeastern.  In this case, both would pass PC who would have been swept by Lowell.  All 3 teams would make the playoffs at 24 points.  UNH would be the 6 after going 2-1 against both UMass and NU. Then we’d be right back where we started as UMass and NU would need the third tiebreaker, which goes to UMass, to decide the seeding.

3 way tie: (6) UNH, (7) NU, (8) PC

If UMass doesn’t get the sweep and NU does, they will be the 7 seed.  Even if PC picks up a 1 point, NU would still be the 7 since they own the tiebreaker against PC.

3 way tie: (7) NU, (8) PC, (9) UMass

Here is the big one.  This one, while still unlikely, is the only one you could realistically expect to happen.  And even that might be pushing it.   If NU and UMass both take 3 points, and PC gets swept, all 3 would be tied.  NU is 2-1-3 against the other 2, PC is 2-1-3 against the other 2, and UMass is 1-3-2 against the other two.  So it would go to head to head between NU and PC, which NU would win.  PC would follow, and UMass would miss the playoffs.

 

2 ways:  UNH has the TB over NU, NU has the TB over PC, and UMass has the TB over NU.

 

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The Path to the Playoffs for Northeastern

February 29, 2012

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Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

The final week of the regular season is upon us.  And if the Huskies don’t come to play this weekend, then they will find themselves headed home for the summer.  Northeastern currently finds themselves tied with UMass for the final playoff spot.  Both teams are 8-13-4.   With UMass owning the tiebreaker, the Huskies path is pretty clear: pick up more points this weekend then UMass does.

Both teams have a home and home this weekend.  NU has BU, with the first game on the road.    UMass has Merrimack, with the first game at home.  BU trails 1st place BC by 2 points.  The Eagles play last place Vermont this weekend, so they have Hockey East all but won.   A win for them on Friday will make it official.   So no matter what their result is on Friday, BU will likely find themselves out of the title race by Saturday.  It is unlikely that BU would start their backup goalie (he played last Friday) or start a weaker lineup, because Lowell only trails them by two points.   But it remains a possibility that they go into the final game with nothing to play for.

Merrimack, on the other hand, will have everything to play for this weekend.   They trail Maine by 1 for the final home ice spot.  Maine is off Friday so even the Warriors lose they will still have a chance to overtake Maine on Saturday.  And if they win on Friday, they will still probably need another win to stay ahead of Maine, who plays UNH on Saturday.

For Northeastern, they have been in this situation before.  2 years ago, they entered the final weekend of the season with a home and home against BU.  There playoff spot was virtually clinched.  They just need 1 point or some help from Maine.  They got neither.  Maine’s starting goaltender was suspended for drinking and UMass pulled off an unbelievable sweep in Orono.  That combined with Vermont pick up a tie on the final night kept Northeastern out of the playoffs.   Last year, the Huskies split the season ending series, then beat BU 2 out of 3 at Agganis to knock them out of the playoffs.  Winning that series will hopefully be the beginning of better times for them at Agganis and against BU.  In their only meeting this season, NU blew a 2 goal at home, on NESN and ultimately lost 4-3.

For UMass, the opponent may be different, but the situation is the same.  This is the third year in a row that UMass has gone into the final weekend trying to secure a playoff spot.   Last season, PC made a late charge to take the 8th spot from the Minuteman and the Friars pulled off an upset in the final game to make things interesting.  But UMass would hold on for a tie against Maine that sent them through.   This year, they end with Merrimack, who they last beat on 12/12/09.  For the last time they beat Merrimack at Lawler, you have to go all the way back to 3/8/08.

 

So the Huskies have their work cut off for themselves.  It all comes down to get more points than UMass.  The one exception to this would be if UMass ties both games and NU wins one.  In that case, Northeastern would advance through the second tiebreaker, conference wins.   There is no way the Huskies can lock up a spot on Friday, but they can easily be mathematically eliminated.  A UMass win and Northeastern loss on Friday will eliminate the Huskies.  But a Northeastern win and UMass lose on Friday will not eliminate the Minuteman.

And for you eternal optimists out there, if NU can take 3 points from BU, and Lowell sweeps PC (as they should), then the Huskies would sneak into 7 seed and play Lowell in the first round.   Unless UMass gets 3 or more points as well.  In that case, the Huskies would play BC as the 8 seed.

 

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Who is Clay Witt?

February 27, 2012

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Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

When Brad Thiessen turned pro after the 2008 season, Northeastern had a bit of a goalie crisis.  So Greg Cronin turned to the BCHL player of the year, Chris Rawlings.  Rawlings was undrafted and the BCHL isn’t the best junior league out there, so expectations varied, but with no other options the #1 job was his.  His freshman season was one you’d expect from a freshman.  He had some big performances, but overall it was just a middle of the road year.

So when Clay Witt was recruited to come in the following season, it was unclear how the playing time would be split.  Witt went undrafted, despite being mentioned on the NHL’s Central Scouting list before the draft.  Witt was coming off a good season in the USHL, so it seemed reasonable to expect him to challenge Rawlings for the #1 spot.

But that never really happened.  Rawlings was the guy and Witt was given just 3 starts on the season, plus 4 relief appearances.   Witt took full advantage of every chance he got, posting 1.86 GAA and .940 save percentage, albeit in very limited action.  But his play down the stretch is what his season was remembered for.  In the finally game of the season, he made 41 saves to lead the Huskies to a 4-3 victory over BU at Agganis Arena.   7 days later, he put in another great performance at Agganis, this time in the playoffs.  After jumping out to a quick 1-0, Northeastern found themselves down 3-1 just 12 minutes in.  Rawlings was pulled and Witt came in.  The Huskies couldn’t comeback and win the game, but Witt saved 29 out of the 30 shots he face and kept his team in the game.

His performances were so good that there was talk among the coaching staff about letting Witt start the deciding Game 3 of the series the next night.   Cronin decided against this though and Rawlings led the team to a huge win and a spot in the semifinals.  In the semifinals, Witt would once again get called into action.  With Northeastern down 4-2, it was Witt who started the 3rd period.  He gave up a goal to make it 5-2, but then the Huskies mounted a comeback.  The comeback would ultimately fall short, but Witt finished the night with 5 saves on 6 shots and another impressive performance.

Though used sparingly, Witt’s late season performances made it seem like he was a lock for more playing time this season.  Even when the coaching staff changed, it seemed reasonable to believe that Witt would challenge Rawlings for the starting gig and at least get the occasional start.

The season did not go as planned though.   Witt’s first action of the year came when he entered the exhibition game in the second period.   In his 20 minutes of action, Witt allowed 6 goals on 14 shots and just looked lost.  After the game, Madigan dismissed the performance and admitted it was hard for a guy to come into the middle of the game cold.

But just a week later, that was what Witt found himself doing once again.  In the second game of the season, the Huskies were down 6-2 in Maine and Rawlings was pulled for Witt with 10 minutes left.   Witt saved all 11 shots he faced and it seemed an awful lot like the end of last season.   Witt could still not get a start, but it wouldn’t be long before his next action.   Just 2 weeks after the Maine game, Rawlings was once again pulled in favor of Witt.  And once again Witt saved all the shots he faced.  (7 in 12 minutes).    This was enough to finally get Witt a chance to start.

The following week, Witt started for the Huskies as they traveled up to UNH to face the Wildcats.  The team did not perform well and Witt was no help.  Despite making 33 saves, Witt allowed 5 goals and made several mistakes.  And that was basically it for Witt.  The team soon turned it around and went on a long winning streak that Chris Rawlings was a huge part of it.  Witt found himself relegated to the bench.  His next chance would come in early January in another exhibition game.  Witt played the second half of the game, and allowed 3 goals on 18 shots.  But once again, he just seemed shaky.

He would wait a month for his next action: relief in the first round of the Beanpot.  With the Huskies down 5-1, Witt started the third period.  The sophomore made 15 saves, but allowed 2 goals.  And with the team in front of him basically quitting, it was tough to really gauge his performance, but at the same time.

He would get his second start of the season the following week in the consolation game.  Another unimpressive performance by the team and by Witt, saw his take the loss after giving up 3 goals.  He did make 36 saves, but once again there was some shaky moments.

This past weekend, Witt once again found himself in mop up duty.  After entering early in the first, Witt made 14 saves, but allowed 4 goals.

So who is Witt?  Is he the guy who stepped up back time last March? Or is he the guy who just looked off everytime he has come in this season?   Madigan has said all the right things and has given Witt credit for coming in cold, but obviously part of his extreme reliance on Rawlings is a lack of faith in Witt.  I think part of Witt’s struggles can be blamed on a lack of playing time, but he hasn’t really earned any additional playing time with any of his performances lately.   Its always tough to find games to test your backup goalie in a conference as deep as Hockey East, but this guy has been here two years now and I don’t think anyone really knows how good he is.  Thats on the coaching staff.  Both the previous one and the current one.   And now we could be looking at a situation where Rawlings leaves and Gillies goes to Major Juniors, which would mean Witt is the guy next season.  So the coaches have really handcuffed themselves here.  I wouldn’t say it is likely, but it is definitely a possibility that Northeastern will go into next season relying on a Junior goaltender that may not even be good enough for this level.   That would be a disaster.  And since no one ever took the time to find out, the coaches have no idea if they should be looking to bring some in.  Hopefully it all works out: Gillies comes here and takes the #1 role from the get go and Witt can get some work in occasionally.    But this is Northeastern we are talking about, so its best to prepare for the worst.  And the worst is a very scary possibility.

 

 

 

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NHL, Meet Brad Thiessen.

February 26, 2012

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Back in October of 2006, The Northeastern Huskies took on the Boston College Eagles for the first game of the season. In net, BC was touting the 24th overall pick of the 2004 NHL Draft in Cory Schneider, whose level of play is currently having some NHL teams consider converting him from an underused backup into the starting goaltender he should be. On the NU end was an overage, average-sized goaltender from Aldergrove, British Columbia named Brad Thiessen. It was his first start after winning the job outright as a freshman, and while Schneider put on a display of consistency, Thiessen struggled to find his in the 5-2 loss that night in Chestnut Hill. Despite these differences, not one, but both guys would make their way to the NHL.

Over the next three years, Thiessen improved steeply, culminating in an impressive junior year which saw Thiessen garner both All-American and Hobey Baker finalist honors. It’s a true testament to his propensity to improve and play with a level head. The Pittsburgh Penguins rewarded Thiessen with a two year deal, and the experience of seeing the Penguins win a Stanley Cup. Thiessen was a part of the  team’s taxi squad before being relegated to the AHL. He would go on to earn his keep with AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre Scranton, winning the AHL’s goaltender of the year award and starting the the league’s annual all-star game in 2010-2011.

Fast forward to this season, and Thiessen has been in a rut. He’s gone from having a .922 save percentage the year before to a .885 for 2011-2012. The prospect of Thiessen making the run for a cup he experienced has faded significantly. But again fortune (and Penguins GM Ray Shero) have rewarded Thiessen’s determination again. With backup Brent Johnson falling ill on top of his own share of struggles, Ray Shero has used the goaltender exemption to bring Thiessen up, giving the Penguins three goaltenders for a few days, which avoids creating issues with Johnson’s one-way contract. But just as it seemed Thiessen was going back after a short stay, the Penguins have not only decided to keep Thiessen up for the day, but he’ll be making the start this afternoon against the Columbus Blue Jackets at 1pm. So call it luck, a low pressure start, a tryout, or whatever you want but Thiessen’s made it and that’s all that matters. Cheers to the former Husky, he’s earned it.

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Final: Huskies 4, Maine 2

February 25, 2012

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With their backs to the wall, Northeastern pulled out a huge victory last night over Maine, 4-2

Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

The Basics

  • Garrett Vermeersch, Justin Daniels, Vinny Saponari and Adam Reid had goals for Northeastern.
  • Anthony Bitetto, Joseph Manno and Justin Daniels had 2 points.  Steve Quailer and Luke Eibler also had assists.
  • Chris Rawlings made 29 saves and didn’t allow any soft goals.
  • The Huskies were outshot 31 to 28.
  • NU 2-5 on the PP.  Maine was 0-2, but got 1 shorthanded goal.
  • Mike McLaughlin and Alex Tuckerman both sustained concussions.
What You Need to Know
  • The Huskies came to play right from the get go.   And Garrett Vermeersch scored on their first PP of the game to give them an early lead.
  • The second period got off to a bad start.  Maine grabbed a goal 15 seconds in to tie it.
  • Then the Huskies reverted to their old habits when Maine gave them a 5 minute major.  NU couldn’t get the puck of their own zone and Maine scored eventually to take the lead.  NU looked to have tied it, but after a lengthy review, it was ruled McLaughlin kicked the puck in.
  • Justin Daniels, who picked up 3 points, tied it up for a real a minute later on a tough angle shot.   
  • The game looked destined for OT until Joe Manno found himself on a breakaway.  His attempt was saved, but Adam Reid was there to put home the rebound with just 1 minute left.
  • The Huskies then sealed the deal with an empty netter.  Steve Quailer broke in, but then in an unselfish move, passed it to Vinny Saponari.
Lines:
Karlsson-McLaughlin-Saponari
Quailer-Vermeersch-Pimm
Reid-Daniels-Tuckerman
Manno-Stone-Morra
 
D:
Bitetto-Manson
Eibler-Cornell
Ellement-Daniels
 
 
Thoughts
What a game and what a win.  With Steve Quailer back in the lineup, the Huskies actually came to play.   Every line had some chances and the Huskies actually looked like a team that wanted to be there for the first time in a while.
 
Chris Rawlings finally played like a guy who plans on being a pro.  He was moving well and made some big saves.   But most importantly, he didn’t let in any soft goals.  The defense helped him out by limiting chances for the Black Bears.
 
It looked like another game that NU was going to blow after wasting multiple PP chances late in the game, but they pulled it out.
 
Manno may not be able to score, but he just keeps getting breakaways.  And Adam Reid always seems to be in the right place and the right time.  Just a great sequence of events to get the game winner.  Both of these freshman are going to play a huge role next season.  
 
I was ready to write this team off, but this was very encouraging.  In a must win game, they came to play.  And they came back from a deficit for once.  It was an impressive win and it gives the team and the fans some hope that playoffs may be in sight.  
 
 
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Preview: Huskies vs. Maine

February 24, 2012

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Well guys, this is it. For real. The season started in doubt, and now it looks like it will end in doubt.  Northeastern went 1-7-2 to start the year, 7-0-1 the next 8 games, and finally 3-8-2 in 2012. This team can dominate western and central college squads all they want, but when it comes down to brass tax, winning in-conference and making other teams think twice about taking a penalty is more important.  So this particular weekend, the Huskies have a chance to set precedence for the future, and improve on their mentioned weaknesses going forward. #11 Maine (18-10-2 overall, 13-9-2 HE) sits at fourth in Hockey East, and will play just as hungrily as Northeastern, since it is not only looking to solidify home ice (keep in mind Maine has a huge advantage being 4 hours away from everyone else) and maybe take a top 3 seed.

Maine is 15-4-1 in its last 20 games, and boasts one of the best offensive attacks in college hockey, with a potent senior top line and power play. They’re a handful to say the least.  Maine may prove to be too much to handle, but they give Northeastern a final chance to prove themselves.  The Huskies power play is abysmal, but has shown signs of life recently. On the other side, Maine has been known to take a good deal of penalties and not kill them effectively. If Northeastern can shut down Abbott, Diamond, and Flynn, stay out of the box (Maine’s power play makes Northeastern’s look like dodgeball), and establish an effective special teams offensive, they may be able to pull off the double @ home weekend sweep. But one can only dream of such things. You’d have to ignore the Huskies’ glaring weaknesses in preventing bad goals and scoring impressive ones in order to for this to come true, and that would be downright ignorant.

Nonetheless, the only way into the playoffs has been set: Win more than UMass Amherst. The Huskies are deadlocked with the Minutemen but a tie-breaker gives Massachusetts the advantage (they play UNH and Merrimack to close the season). It would certainly help to get Steve Quailer back after a four week hiatus due to a leg injury, and Robbie Vrolyk is questionable after sustaining an injury last weekend against Providence.

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2012 Recruiting Class: Projecting Next Year’s Roster

February 23, 2012

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Incoming: 6

Jon Gillies, Goalie, Indiana Ice (USHL), 18 years old

Mike Gunn, Defenseman, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL), 20 years old

Colton Saucerman, Defenseman, Lincoln Stars (USHL), 20 years old

Cam Darcy, Forward, US National Team Development Program, 18 years old

Ryan Belonger, Forward, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL) , 20 years old

Michael McMurtry, Forward, Gloucester Rangers (CCHL), 20 years old

This class is not without its question marks.   Jon Gillies will be picked in the NHL Entry Draft this summer and Patrick Roy’s QMJHL team (Quebec Ramparts) owns Gillies rights.  The team that drafts him could try to push him down that road.  But really it all depends on Chris Rawlings.  If he leaves, Gillies will be here next year to take over.  If he stays, Gillies will probably go the MJ route and Northeastern will miss out on one of the best goaltenders in this group.  Colton Saucerman suffered a serious knee injury in December and he is out for the rest of the season.   I have no idea if he will be ready for the start of next season, but I would guess no.   Since he is already 20 years old, Saucerman will be here next season, but he may be redshirted.   Cam Darcy is also eligible for the NHL draft, but he is a local kid and since he will probably be a later rounder pick, there won’t be much pressure from an NHL team to go MJ.   Ryan Belonger will definitely be here along with Michael McMurtry, who was recently announced.  Belonger will be a lower line guy most likely, but he will be in the lineup.  McMurtry is by all indications a recruited walk-on.

Definitely Outgoing: 1

Mike McLaughlin, Graduation

The Captain is the lone senior on the team.   He will graduate in May and plans on attending Grad School.  McLaughlin has been named to the Hockey East All-Academic in all 3 of the previous seasons.

Possibly Outgoing:

Steve Quailer, Graduation

Alex Tuckerman, Graduation

Vinny Saponari, Jets

Anthony Bitetto, Predators

Ludwig Karlsson, Pros

Chris Rawlings, Pros

Luke Eibler, Pros

Braden Pimm, Pros

Joe Manno, Pros/MJ

All of these guys are not leaving, but its pretty likely that some of them will.  Thats just the way it goes in college hockey.  You could put almost the whole team on this list, but I would say these are the guys that are the most likely to either receive offers/consider offers.

Quailer and Tuckerman are an exception however.  Both have only used 3 years of eligibility due to missing a full season with an injury.  Both should be graduating this May, which leaves them with a decision.   They could stay and enroll in Grad School in order to play one more season or they could just get on with their careers.   Quailer is a Canadiens draft pick. And if the Canadiens do not sign him this summer, then they will lose his rights.   Quailer has been much better this season and the Canadiens are probably going to want him.  So while he is not officially gone, it seems like a near certainty.   Tuckerman, on the other hand, is not drafted by any NHL team.  If he leaves he will likely find himself playing in the ECHL, so there is a chance he stays and enrolls in Grad School.

Bitetto would be a Junior next year, but he could probably play in the AHL next year if he wants to. The soon to be 22 year old has had an up and down, but the Predators like him and he did attend their Rookie Development camp this past summer.  If he does go, lets hope he takes his buddy from Comm Ave, Garrett Noonan (also a Predators draft pick), with him.    Saponari is the other guy on the list that has already been drafted.   The Georgia native was drafted by his hometown Trashers, but they now moved to Winnipeg.  This is his first year at Northeastern after playing two at BU, but he is already 22, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he were to begin his pro career after this season.  That said, he may have unfinished business in the NCAA and he worked hard to return to Hockey East after getting kicked out of BU, so he may stay and finish his degree/eligibility.

The next group is a little different.  None of them were drafted but all could sign with any NHL team as a free agent if they want.  Rawlings, 23, seems most likely to leave.   There was been speculation after each of his first two season that he would leave and sign a pro deal, but each time he has returned.  The rumor mill suggests that he stayed this year since his girlfriend was still in school.  She is graduating this year and it seems like this is the year Rawlings finally makes the jump after attending multiple NHL summer training camps the past couple of season.  Next is Karlsson, who just turned 21.  The Swede has had a tremendous freshman season that will have likely earned some offers.  The situation will remind fans of Brodie Reid and Jake Newton, who both left after good freshman campaigns.   Karlsson has been much better than Reid was, and Reid’s stats were boosted by his great play on the PP unit.  Karlsson will get these offers, and since he is unlikely to stay 4 years and graduate at 25, he will be seriously considering those offers.  Eibler would be a 22 year old Junior next season.  The Capitals were interested in him last summer, but he decided to stay.   He has been a solid presence for Northeastern and I wouldn’t be shocked if he decides to leave.   I wouldn’t consider it very likely though.   Pimm would also be a Junior next season, and he is already 22.  He has been great so far this season and I am sure a few teams will be interested.  Pimm is a bit of a wild card on and off the ice, so there is no use in speculating what he may do.  But he will be given the chance to leave, if he is interested.

The last guy on the list is Joseph Manno.   Manno is draft eligible this summer.  He has had a quiet season, but he projects to be a late round pick this summer.  Depending on who drafts him and how he has enjoyed his first year of college, Manno could choose to return home to his native Canada to play Major Juniors.   After decommitting from UMass last summer, he went that route and he has many friends that play there.   NU fans will be hoping he stays though, as he has shown some potential this season and could be in line for Top 6 time next season.

2012 Projections

Theses are purely speculative.  Everything I know and have heard is written above.  These are just my guesses/gut feelings.

Goalies: Gillies, Witt, Mountain

Defenseman: Eibler-Manson, Ellement-Daniels, Gunn-Cornell  (Oskroba, Hoeffler)

Forwards: Saponari-Daniels-Manno, Vermeersch-Pimm-Ferriero (when healthy), Vrolyk-Darcy-Reid, Dongara-Stone-Belonger (Morra, McMurtry)

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