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Off Season News and Notes

April 19, 2012

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Northeastern
  • Northeastern’s captains were announced at the year end banquet last week.  Vinny Saponari will be the Captain, with Robbie Vrolyk and Ludwig Karlsson as his alternates.  You can read about the event and all of the awards that were given out here.  Saponari, a transfer from BU, could be considered a bit of controversial pick, but personally I like it.  Its been clear since Saponari arrived at NU that he is extremely grateful for getting a 2nd chance.  He won a national championship with BU, and he also served as a leader on his Dubuque team that won the USHL title.  He looks like a changed man and I think he is the perfect guy to lead the team.  Vrolyk is an obvious choice.  No one outworks him.  Karlsson is interesting.  Definitely a popular guy among teammates and fans alike.  I guess he is going to lead by example.
  • Never say never, but I don’t think Northeastern will suffer any more losses this summer.  So that means the team is losing 5 forwards and just 2 defenseman.  They have 3 forwards and 4 defenseman coming in.  I’m speculating here, but even though the numbers matchup, I don’t think the scholarship money does.  I believe Bitetto, Quailer and the Daniels were all on pretty large scholarships.  Out of the guys coming in Darcy will almost certainly be getting a full ride or close to it.  I would guess Gunn and Belonger are getting a decent amount as well.  The three Canadians kids are all in their 20’s already, so I’m betting they aren’t getting much.  So while we can’t say for certain, I think that NU might have some money to go get another forward if thats what they want to do.   Don’t be surprised to see Madigan bring someone in this summer.
  • Who might that player be? Hard to say.  It could be another older kid from Canada, or it could be someone committed to another college for 2013 that wants to play in the NCAA next season.  St John Prep star Sam Kurker could fit the bill.  The Reading, MA native is committed to BU for 2013, but rumors have been swirling regarding him wanting to play college hockey next season.  BU doesn’t have a scholarship for him next year, so he may be on the open market.  Northeastern was among his final 3 before he decided on BU, but that was when Greg Cronin was still the coach.  Kurker had this to say about choosing BU: “It’s Division 1, a Hockey East and Beanpot school … everything you dream of”.  So you have to think NU could be a possibility.  
  • Another guy who is still out is Mike Vecchione of Saugus, MA.  Vecchione played at Malden Catholic before leaving for the USHL’s Tri-City Storm.  He decommited from UNH this winter when they asked him to come in 2013, and he has not committed anywhere yet.   
  • The schedule for next year is starting to take shape.  Fans on the USCHO forum have for the first time in history contributed something positive to society besides massive amounts of laughs.   They have created a master schedule for next year based on teams that have released info.  Northeastern has not released any info, but from spreadsheet we learn that NU will be hosting St. Lawrence of the ECAC the Friday after Thanksgiving.  We also know the Notre Dame and Michigan owe them return games.  Notre Dame will probably be at Matthews for 1 game this season.  Michigan will probably buy their way out of it, if they didn’t already do that in the initial agreement.  On the flip side, NU owes RPI a return game from 2010, but RPI’s schedule for next year does not include NU.  So maybe it was pushed back, maybe it was cancelled.  The two Beanpot games are given which means NU only gets 5 OOC games.  So that means there is still 2 (3 if Michigan bails) games to fill. A home game against Alabama Hunstville has been rumored on DHD.  We should have more on this as the summer goes on.
 Hockey East
  • We will continue updating our Hockey East Off-Season Movement article with any additional departures around Hockey East.  Our most recent update added the announced Captains for Maine and UNH.
  • UConn to Hockey East remains the big story.  Nothing official yet, but it is clear UConn is the favorite.  I just don’t see UConn being a successful team in Hockey East, especially playing games off-campus.  Hockey East would have been better off just sticking with the 10-team, bus league that we all know and love.
Alumni
  • Joe Vitale and the Penguins are down 3-1 in their first round series against Philadelphia.  Vitale has played in 3 of 4 games and he picked up a game misconduct last night.  The playoff games are the first of Vitale’s NHL career.  He has yet to register a point.
  • In the AHL, the playoffs begin tonight.  Tyler McNeely and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers are the 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.  They host the Connecticut Whale.  Brad Thiessen and the WBS Penguins are the 4 seed.  They host the Hershey Bears.  Anthony Bitetto has joined the Milwaukee Admirals, but he won’t play in their playoff series.  
  • All of NU’s ECHL players have seen their seasons end either by missing the playoffs or being knocked in the first round.    
  • Best wishes to Kyle Kraemer.  He was injured in Game 3 of his team’s playoff series when he was “head-checked” by an opponent.
  • Jamie Oleksiak and his Niagara are in the Eastern Conference Finals of the OHL.  They face Ottawa in a best of 7 that starts Friday.
Recruits
  • Cam Askew is headed to Cushing Academy in the fall.  He is accelerating his studies and is planning on playing for Northeastern in 2015.
  • Daniel Willett was selected by Plymouth in the OHL Draft.   Should he choose to sign with them, he would lose his NCAA eligibility.
  • While most of the recruits’ seasons have ended, the USHL playoffs are just getting underway.  Mike Gunn (’12), Ryan Belonger (’12)  and the Youngstown Phantoms head to Green Bay as the 4 seed in the East this weekend.
  • Zach Aston-Reese (’13) and Lincoln are the 1 seed in the West.  They host Fargo this weekend.  Colton Saucerman (’12) also plays for Lincoln, but he season was ended by a torn ACL.
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The New Era of Northeastern Hockey

April 2, 2012

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When Greg Cronin left last summer, he left behind a program that was trending upwards.  The team was coming off a strong second half that included a huge playoff victory at BU.  The overtime loss in the Beanpot and the 1 goal loss in the Hockey East Semifinals, both to BC, were tough to swallow, but it was hard not to be proud of the team for really turning it around after a rough start.

Fueling the optimism was the fact that the recruiting class coming in was considered to be Cronin’s best yet.  Despite losing the top scorers to graduation and early departures, people were definitely excited about this team and the future of Northeastern hockey.

When Cronin left, that optimism took a hit.  No matter who they brought in, the new coach was going to have to steady the ship and keep all of the recruits on board before anything else. Unless they hired from within (Sebastien LaPlante), that was always going to be a tough task.  Even with LaPlante, they likely would have lost one or two.  But overall, it seemed like the next coach that came in would have a solid base and they would pick up where Cronin had left off.

When Jim Madigan was hired, he decided not to take that course. He chose to blow up the foundation Cronin built and start down his own path.   Most of the time when a new coach comes in, they do clear out memories of the old regime and craft the team into their own model.  Madigan’s supporters this year have been quick to point out that Cronin did the same thing when he came in.  To be fair though, the situation Cronin walked into was a far cry from the one Madigan did.  Unlike when Cronin came in, Madigan had plenty of talent to work with.  Still, he decided that he was better off doing things his way and getting his guys in.

Was this the right move by Madigan? We can’t say.  Not now at least.  If Madigan brings in his guys and can get a Beanpot or an NCAA tournament win, I don’t think anybody is going to still be upset about missing the playoffs this year.  But if Madigan’s plan can’t take the program to new heights, then it will probably feel like he did waste what Cronin left here.

Either way, its too early to tell if this the right course of action or not.  But its the course Northeastern is on.  For the second year in a row, its been a difficult summer for Northeastern and when the team takes the ice next season, it will be one major step closer to a Madigan-designed team.  “Cronin’s guys” have been heading for the exits: some by their own will (Bitetto), some because they had no reason to stay (Dongara).  There will be more departures before this summer is over.  Besides Chris Rawlings, Luke Eibler will probably be the biggest reminder of Cronin next year.  Look at the likely Top 6 forwards

1. Ludwig Karlsson (never played for Cronin)

2. Vinny Saponari (never played for Cronin)

3. Braden Pimm (3rd/4th liner under Cronin)

4. Garrett Vermeersch (Member of Cronin’s Doghouse.  4th liner in Cronin’s last season)

5. Cody Ferriero (President of Cronin’s Doghouse.  Suspended once, benched multiple times in just 1 year under Cronin)

6. Adam Reid or Joe Manno (never played for Cronin, Manno committed to Madigan)

Defense isn’t much better.  Just Drew Ellement and Luke Eibler will have played under Cronin.  And of course, Madigan has gotten commitments from his own recruits and let some of Cronin’s go (McKee, Renz).

Its a bit shocking when you look at it.  Obviously Madigan was going to mold the program in a way that suited him, but it is surprising just how quickly he has cleared out Cronin’s guys.  And for fans who watched Cronin turn this program around, that can be a little hard to swallow.  All will be forgiven if Madigan can win, but right now it feels like Northeastern hockey is back to square 1 and it might take a few years for this plan to get going.

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You Know What Happens When You Assume, Right?

March 29, 2012

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I don’t know Chris Rawlings personally, but from what I hear he sounds like a good guy.  His career at NU has had its share of highlights and its share of lowlights.   And had he left after this season, I think his legacy would have been a positive one in most people’s eyes.  Unfortunately he didn’t leave after this season, and whether its right or wrong, he may have just become one of the biggest villains in recent NU hockey history.

Since he stepped on campus, Rawlings has had his eyes on pro hockey.  He has spent the offseasons attending NHL Development camps for various teams and it he had left after his freshman or sophomore year no one would have been surprised.  In fact, it was a bit surprising that he did come back this season for his Junior year.  As the story goes, he stayed, despite offers from Philadelphia and Columbus, because his girlfriend still had 1 year left at Northeastern.

So everyone, including the coaching staff, assumed he was leaving after this season and planned accordingly.  For the coaches, that meant getting one of the best goalie recruits in the country back on board after Cronin left and getting him prepared to matriculate this fall.  For the fans, it meant looking forward to seeing that recruit/savior, Jon Gillies, next season.

Elite goaltenders are hard to find, but they are the great equalizer in hockey.  Look at Merrimack or Lowell or Northeastern in 2008-2009 or even the Bruins last year.  If there is one guy on the ice that can help your team punch above its weight, its your goalie.  Gillies is one of these elite guys.  So its no surprise that the Quebec Remparts, who owned his QMJHL rights, were also very interested in him.  It didn’t help that their GM/coach is a guy named Patrick Roy.  What goalie wouldn’t want to learn from him?

But Gillies continued on his patch for Northeastern.  He signed his NLI for 2012, reaffirmed his commitment, and was even sporting the red and black N on his goalie helmet.  There was still a chance that the team that took him in the NHL draft this summer would push him to the Q, but it finally seemed reasonable to expect Gillies to be here in the fall and to be excited about it.

Then the plan fell apart.  Rawlings faltered down the stretch and probably played himself out of a contract (or at least a good contract) and decided to come back for his final season.  Gillies decided he didn’t want to a waste a year of development backing up or, at best, splitting time with Rawlings.   So Northeastern is now left with 1 more year of Rawlings instead of 2-4 years of Gillies.

Madigan did the right thing in releasing him from his NLI.  The situation that Madigan presumably sold Gillies on was impossible, and it would be unfair to make Gillies come here and slow down his development.

So now a guy that Northeastern desperately needs will go off and be successful somewhere else.  Since he is released from his NLI, that could be another college.  Either way it will be painful for Northeastern fans who already have to deal with watching Johnny Gaudreau dominate at BC.

For Northeastern, it is just another reminder this program is headed in the wrong direction. That NCAA tournament bid was just 3 years ago, but things have been so bad since then that sometimes it feels like 10.  Hopefully this is the low point, and its all uphill from here.  But thats what everyone thought last summer too, so who knows?  Lets just hope there is some good news soon.

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Northeastern Misses the Playoffs, Who Should Take the Blame?

March 4, 2012

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Here is the deal: Northeastern should never be missing the Hockey East playoffs.  NU is in Boston, they play in a historic rink, with a brand new weight room.  They get to play in the Beanpot.  They have great student support. They offer good academics.  Hockey is the biggest sport on campus. And now with GONUxstream, you can watch all home games for free.  With all these assets, they should be an attractive option to both coaches and recruits.  And that should be turned into positive results on the ice.  Or at least the ability to finish in the top 8 of a 10 conference that features several teams that do not have these assets.

But in 2 out of the past 3 years, that has not happened.   And for some reason, most people seem OK with it.   I don’t care about how bad this team has been in the past.   Losing is unacceptable.  And people need to start acting like that.   So who is to blame for the failure?  Well a lot of different people, some more than others.  But here is a good start if you are looking to play the blame game.  (and you should be.   If you support Northeastern and you are OK with mediocrity, you are part of the problem)

The Players

The problems run deeper than just the players on the ice, but this is probably the best place to start.   Being bad is one thing.  Being talented and wasting it is an issue.   This team was very much the latter.   This team was talented enough to make the playoffs.  They showed that with wins over Notre Dame (x2), Michigan, Lowell, BU, and Minnesota.  But that effort was not brought on a consistent basis.  It was actually a rare occurrence.  There were far too many games that this team was outworked by an opponent who just wanted it more.   And when you miss the playoffs by 1 point, its hard to forget about all of the winnable games that were lost because of a lack of effort.    The way the team quit in the Beanpot was beyond embarrassing.  And if any fan stopped going to games after that, I would not blame them.  When a team plays like that, it doesn’t deserve support.   The worst part of the season may have been the final game.  With nothing to play for, the Huskies played their best game of the season.  They finally looked like they cared.   And they showed their potential.   To finish behind less talented teams, like Providence is just unacceptable.  (This cannot be applied to the few guys that absolutely worked their asses off every chance they got: Mike McLaughlin, Robbie Vrolyk, Zak Stone, and Steve Morra.   There were a few others, but these 4 guys didn’t take a single shift off all year, despite their teammates not returning the favor).

The Coaching Staff

No coaching staff will ever be perfect, but this group left a lot to be desired this season.  Early in the season, spreading out ice time was a huge issue and it took far too many 3rd period/OT collapses before Madigan decided to change it up.  Eventually they got the lines to click and got the ice time figured out and thats when the win streak happened.  By the end of the year, there were so many injuries that the lineup was going to a mess no matter what.  You can’t blame them for that.  But here is what you can blame them for: SPECIAL TEAMS.  Here are the facts.  The Huskies in even strength situations: +21.   The Huskies during Special Teams situations: -17, including scoring just 21 PP goals while giving up 11 shorthanded ones on their 153 power plays.   If you had to pick one single reason why the Huskies missed the playoffs, this would absolutely be it.   Northeastern’s complete and year-long failure on special teams, especially the power play made them a team that was fighting for a playoff spot instead of home ice.   It took the coaches over half the year to figure out the passive box wasn’t working on the PK.   And they never figured out how to fix the PP or even who to put on it.  The stats are bad enough but when you add in how demoralizingeffect  giving up a shorthanded goal had on the team  and their playeafter that, its just brutal.   How many times did the Huskies not convert on a PP late in the third in tied or 1 goal games?  A million?   Just unacceptable.  Even if you don’t have the pieces to have a great power play, you should at least figure out a way to stop the other team from scoring while you have the man advantage.  The one other thing you can blame the coaches for is their refusal to go with Witt.  They stuck with Rawlings through stretches where he clearly didn’t have it and Witt never got a chance.  So by the end of the season, it was either stick with a struggling Rawlings or go with the guy who had seen the ice 4 times all season.  There was no reason for them to be in that situation.  They should have known what they had in Witt.  He turned in a tremendous performance in the final game and with a little more ice time, the Huskies may have picked up that 1 point they needed.

Peter Roby

You’d think the Athletic Director would work hard to make sure the school’s biggest sport is successful, but Roby does just the opposite.   He suspended Greg Cronin during the crucial stretch of last season for sending too many texts to kids that had already committed.   Possibly the most minor violation possible.  One that probably happens all over college sports.  He made it impossible for Cronin to do his job, and basically forced him out.  Whether you liked Cronin or not, him leaving set the program back.  If Cronin stays, so does what would have been one of the best recruiting classes Northeastern ever had. (led by Johnny Gaudreau who has flourished at BC) And there is a chance Jamie Oleksiak would have stayed. Dan Cornell did a great job this season but the difference between him and Oleksiak is just enormous.  Roby knew what the repercussions were when he forced Cronin out, but he did it anyway because Cronin actually cared about winning games and clashed with Roby over it.  When Cronin left, Roby was forced to make the biggest hire of his tenure, he conducted a “national search” and wound up with the following 5 candidates: 1. Sebastian LaPlante 2. Jim Madigan 3. Darren Yopyk 4. Mark Carlson 5. Greg Carvel.  Um what? You are telling me a head coaching job in Boston at a Hockey East, Beanpot school could not appeal to anyone better than these 5?   And then he hires the one guy out of this group with no coaching experience, and in turn pissing LaPlante off so much that he leaves the program.  If he wanted an alum to run the program, why not LaPlante?  The guy who had been an assistant with the team.  And then just to make sure the hockey team could not be successful, he limited the amount of paid recruiting visits Madigan could go on and only allowed 1 scout on the road at a time.  The man hates hockey for whatever reason.  And his Tee-Ball coach attitude is what is holding Northeastern Athletics back.  Everyone gets to play and everyone gets trophy.   If Roby had it his way, we probably wouldn’t even keep score.

Northeastern Administration

Northeastern seems intent becoming one of the top schools in the country.   But somehow it has never occurred to them that Athletics can be a big part of that.   They allowed the AD to cut football, but they still have a hockey team that plays in the premier hockey conference and a basketball team that plays in one of the best mid-major conferences.  But does the school support them? Barely.  Do they use that as an advertising pitch? Of course not.  And do they make an effort to improve Athletics? Hell no.   If you want to be considered a top school, having a well-run, successful Athletics Department needs to be part of your focus.  So when it sucks and thats not an issue, heads need to roll.  Mediocrity is not OK, and lately NU hasn’t even achieved that.   Its time for that to change and its gotta start from the top.   Fire Roby and start supporting the teams and maybe we can finally have some quality teams and the fan support they deserve.

 

 

Simple Solution: Fire Roby, Make Madigan AD, Bring Cronin Back.

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Saponari, Huskies End the Year on a Positive Note

March 4, 2012

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Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

Things didn’t go according to plan for Northeastern this season.  A year after heading to the TD Garden for the Hockey East Semifinals, the Huskies found themselves already eliminated from playoff contention heading into the final game of the season.  Coach Jim Madigan said that the Huskies had just pride to play for.  Nowhere was that more true than in the case of Vinny Saponari.

Saponari, who was kicked out of BU 2 years ago, has been quiet in his first season on Huntington Ave.  That’s not to say he hasn’t been an asset, though.  His stats may not have reached the same level they did in his second year at BU, but having his veteran presence on the team has been good for a young group.

While the Northeastern fans have enjoyed watching such a talented skater, BU fans, for the most part, have not forgiven the former Terrier.  In addition to harassing him on Twitter (including not just one, but 2 fake Vinny Saponari Twitter accounts), they have targeted him with chants and signs every time the teams have met.  And up until last night, those meetings had not gone well for the Huskies.   In the first meeting back in January, the Huskies blew an early 2 goal lead at home.  That loss proved to be the sign of things for come as the Huskies season began a downward spiral that the team was unable to recover from.   And then there was Friday.  The Huskies returned to Agganis for the first time since knocking BU out of the playoffs there last spring.  It was also Saponari’s first time playing there as a visitor.  And, as if the game needed any more drama, the Huskies playoff lives were on the line.  The Huskies jumped out to an early lead, while BU seemed determined to kill Saponari.  BU’s Patrick MacGregor even broke a pane of glass when he missed laying a huge hit on Vinny.  Saponari survived, but the Huskies went on to lose and be eliminated from the playoffs when out-of-town results went the wrong way, rendering Saturday’s season finale meaningless in terms of the standings.

But it was never going to be meaningless for Vinny Saponari.  With the pressure off, the Huskies came out playing harder than they have all season.  And Saponari was no exception.  The game felt like a playoff game the whole way through: high intensity, tons of hits, up and down action, and plenty of Jack Parker shenanigans.  So when the game went to overtime, it was hard to be surprised.  About halfway through the OT period, Luke Eibler had a chance to win it for Northeastern, but BU’s senior goaltender, Grant Rollheiser, made the save.  But the save produced a rebound.  A rebound that fell right to a Northeastern stick.  A Northeastern stick belonging to none other than Vinny Saponari, who sent the puck into the back of the net to give the Huskies the win.  The goal happened to occur right in front of the section of BU fans.  Saponari skated right over to them. jumped into the glass and then held up the Northeastern logo on his jersey for all to see.  The entire team mobbed him right there. It may have been a meaningless goal, but don’t tell that to Saponari.   It was the perfect ending for the imperfect season for both Saponari and the Huskies.  It may not have meant anything, but it can serve as a building block for next season, one that needs to be better than this season was.  One that is going to need contributions from Saponari.

And if Husky fans didn’t love Saponari after his game winning goal, then they will certainly love him after his refusal to shake Jack Parker’s hand after the game.   You can call it immature or whatever you want, but to Husky fans, its just awesome.  The BU fans may hate him, but after last night, Northeastern fans definitely love him.

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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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Who Should Start in Goal This Weekend? (Poll)

February 22, 2012

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As we enter the penultimate weekend of Hockey East play, points are at a premium for Northeastern who is currently tied with UMass for the final playoff spot.  So as they prepare for two must-win games, there is a decision to be made (or at least there should be):  Who should get the call in net?

Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Case for Rawlings

He has been the guy all year.  He has put up decent numbers.  During the win streak, he was rock solid and he was a big part of the team’s success.   Witt has had chances this year and he has not forced Madigan’s hand.    Rawlings has been The Guy for 3 years now, you aren’t going to sit him with 4 games left and your playoff lives hanging in the balance.   He does let up some shaky goals, but he usually settles down after that and makes a ton of saves.    You stick with the guy that got you there.

 

The Case for Witt

Here are some interesting stats for you.  Chris Rawlings in February (career) 7-6-3, .9191 save percantage, 3.03 GAA.  In March 2-5, .8800 save percentage, 4.25 GAA.    So in 23 career games in February and March, Rawlings has a 9-11-3 record, a .9095 save percentage, and a 3.35 GAA.   I understand its a bit of a small sample size, but thats not exactly reassuring.  And since he has been letting up soft goals every game lately, why not sit him down for one game?  Rawlings has played the 2nd most minutes among Hockey East goalies this season.  Only Joe Cannata has more.  That tells me that other teams are willing to give their goalies a night off every now and then.  Why hasn’t Madigan done that?  Rawlings looks worn down and he seems to have regressed as the season has gone on.  Maybe all he needs is a night or two off.   Witt hasn’t looked great this year, but he proved in his freshman year that he has a capable goalie.  With Rawlings on his annual decline, maybe its time to give Witt a shot.

 

 

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