Tag Archives: Witt Wagon

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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Preview: Huskies at UNH

October 29, 2011

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Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

 

The Huskies head up to Durham and Lake Whitt tonight to take on the UNH Wildcats.   Northeastern beat the Wildcats 4-0 at home a couple weeks ago and UNH will be looking to return the favor.

The Huskies have struggled in Durham recently, but they did manage to pull out a tie in their last trip up there.   UNH has struggled this year.  They sit at 1-4-1 and they have been outscored.  They picked up their first and only win last night against Union in overtime last night.  They have been outscored 25-11.   The Huskies are only 1-3-1 with their only win coming against UNH.

Cody Ferriero will return to the lineup, presumably for Zak Stone.   Will Rob Dongara finally make his return to the lineup?  We’ll see.  This could be a could chance to light a fire under an underclassmen that hasn’t looked good so far this year (I can think of two guys).

It will be interesting to see what the lines look like.  Ferriero practiced with Ludwig Karlsson and Steve Quailer before the season, but I would say its unlikely they get back together.

Ferriero will likely find himself on the 4th line so they can ease him back in.  One thing to look for though is the ice time of all lines.   Madigan has been running a short bench and the top 6 have been getting tons of ice time.  It may have caught up to them against BC.  With the return of Ferriero, they have veen more depth, so hopefully they can spread the ice time out a bit more and keep the players fresh.

The defense should look the same and I think you all know who we want to see in net.  #WittWagon.

For anyone not making the trip, be sure to listen to WRBB’s coverage of the game.

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We Want Witt

October 25, 2011

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Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

This isn’t a Rawlings sucks post.  (We can argue that later)   This is about Clay Witt and why it is important that he gets a chance to play.

Witt isn’t Mike Binnington.  He is a good goalie that was brought here to play, not to be a career door opener.  And every single chance he has gotten (in games that acutally count), he has done a great job.  But still, he never gets a chance to start.

Chris Rawlings is a good goalie, but he isn’t Brad Theissen.  He isnt a guy you can’t not start.  He is a guy that has good days and bad days, like most goalies.  And he is also a guy that has been looking to make the jump to the NHL ever since he got here.

So if Rawlings leaves after this year, where does that leave NU?  We don’t know.  And thats the issue.  Witt may be perfectly capable of stepping up or they may need to bring in Jon Gillies early.   But no one will ever know because Witt doesn’t play.  There is no reason that a coaching staff should not know if a guy is ready after he has been here for two years.  But that looks to be the path we are heading down.

Witt needs to play.  He has earned his chance.  Rawlings has consistently proven that he is anything but consistent.  And Witt may very well be The Guy next year.  Wouldn’t it be nice to know that even if Rawlings leaves, the team will still be fine at goalie? These shenangins have gone on too long.  It just baffles me how a team (and two seperate coaching staffs) can be so reliant on 1 goaltender when his backup has been great everytime he has come in for him.  And the starter has never been dominant for an extended period of time.  Isn’t anyone on the coaching staff at least curious to see what this guy’s got?

I know I am.  And with every game and every soft goal Rawlings gives up, the calls grow louder.  I don’t know what its going to take for Witt to get a fair shake, but we are all aboard the Witt Wagon and we arent getting off until he is given the chance and plays worse than Rawlings.

Come on Mad Dog, start Witt.  Worst case scenario, you have to pull him…just like Rawlings.

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Who Should Start Friday?

October 11, 2011

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Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

Well that didn’t take long.   One weekend into the season and we already have a goalie controversy.  Its been brewing since last year, but after the exhibition game it looked like it might be put to rest for a little while.   But here we are one week later and its back on the table.

Chris Rawlings is the starter.  For now.  The 6’5 Junior from British Columbia has played in 66 games as a Huskies posting a 2.75 GAA and .917 Save Percentage, along with 8 shutouts.   There is no denying that he has put up great numbers in his 2+ years here.   But the goals he lets in are usually on the weaker side, which can affect a team mentally in ways that dont show statistically.   His size is also his best skill, which also has its downfalls.  But you can look no further than his shutout against BU in his freshman year to see that he is a great goalie.   He may never be Brad Theissen, but Rawlings is a great goalie.  Albeit, one that can frustrate fans and probably coaches.

Then there is his challenger, Clay Witt.  The 6’1 Sophomore from Florida became a fan-favorite…by not playing last year.  Like on any struggling team, the back-up goalie is everyone’s favorite player and the answer to all problems.   In limited action (Just 7 games,  3 starts), Witt has been great.  He has 1.86 GAA and .940 Save Percentage.  He reminds me of Tim Thomas a little bit, with the way he seems to just be all over the place and not so much worried with technique.   (Not saying he is as good, just similar playing styles).   As last year wore on, the calls for Witt increased.  After a 41 save effort against BU in the final week of the season, many hoped he would get a start in the playoff series.   He didn’t, but he did come on in relief of Rawlings in both the quarterfinal series and semifinal game.  There was a small faction who believed he should be the starter going into this year.   But that was never the plan and letting in 6 goals in 20 minutes during the exhibition killed any discussion.

But on Sunday, Witt replaced Rawlings midway through the 3rd and played well in the eyes of Coach Madigan.  The fact is Northeastern has 2 good goalies.  And Madigan planned to give Witt more time anyways.   Even though, the defense is probably more responsible for the 9 goals that have been given up over 2 games, a goalie switch for Friday is not out of the question.

I think Witt deserves a chance to start and maybe a goalie change can put some energy into the defense and get them going.  I also think its good to send the message to Rawlings that nothing is guaranteed and that both goalies are going to have to work hard for playing time.   That can only help their development.

So what say you Husky fans?  Who should get the call Friday?  Feel free to leave a comment and tell us the reasoning behind your vote.

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