Tag Archives: Zak Stone

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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Final: Huskies 4, UMass Amherst 3 (OT)

February 4, 2012

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Northeastern extended thier win streak to 3 games last with a 4-3 OT victory over UMass Amherst.

Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

The Basics

  • Robbie Vrolyk had 2 goals, Adam Reid scored his first career powerplay goal, and then Vinny Saponari won it with  a goal in OT.
  • Alex Tuckerman and Mike McLaughlin both had 2 assists.  Drew Daniels, Ludwig Karlsson, Garrett Vermeersch, and Zak Stone also had assists.
  • Chris Rawlings saved 28 out of 31 shots, but he was pretty shaky for most of the first two periods.
  • Both teams had 31 shots.
  • NU was 1-5 on the PP.  UMass was 1-4.
What You Need to Know
  • The Huskies jumped out to a quick 2 goal lead thanks to some hard work down low.  But they quickly gave UMass 2 goals of their own, thanks to some sloppy play in the defensive zone.
  • Chris Rawlings did not have a good night.   He was flopping a lot and he was on his back and out of position for all 3 goals.
  • Robbie Vrolyk scored twice.  The junior has 10 career goals.   5 of them have come against UMass Amherst.
  • The third line of Vrolyk-McLaughlin-Tuckerman continued their hot streak.    All 3 had a slow start to the year, but since McLaughlin has come back and they have been playing together consistently, they have given the team quality minutes every weekend.
  • The new “second” line however did not work.   Braden Pimm was good, as usual, but Justin Daniels and Rob Dongara continue to disappoint.  Its a tough situation.   The 1st line and 3rd line are playing well and you would hate to break them up.   But you could argue that anyone on the 4th line could do just as much as Daniels and Dongara have with top 6 minutes.   There were several times when Adam Reid took shifts instead of Dong.  Hopefully, they will continue to do that until they find something that works.
  • On defense, both Luke Eibler and Anthony Bitetto had strong games.   UMass would have probably had a few good shorthanded chances that Bitetto broke up.   Eibler was a physical presence all night and moved the puck pretty well on top of it.
  • The two biggest things to takeaway from this game are that the Huskies were unable to come back despite blowing a lead, and that they were able to finally win in Overtime.   And that is despite not playing very well for a good portion of the game.
Lines:
Karlsson-Vermeersch-Saponari
Daniels-Pimm-Dongara
Vrolyk-McLaughlin-Tuckerman
Reid-Stone-Manno
D:
Bitetto-Cornell
Eibler-Manson
Ellement-Daniels
Thoughts
The injuries are obviously going to be a huge obstacle for them to overcome, but the Huskies proved tonight that they can survive.    All 4 goals were just the result of hard work and finishing rebounds.   Unfortunately, the Huskies won’t have the benefit of playing rebound machine Kevin Boyle every night, but hopefully this game can serve as a gameplan.  2 of the best scorers on the team are gone    and that means that other people going to need to step up.   A couple players were guilty of trying to do too much last night, but as a whole the team did a good job in working hard to comeback after giving up 3 unanswered goals.
It was good to see another power play goal.   Mike McLaughlin has been a revelation on the PP unit.  He isn’t a big scorer, but he can move the puck and he makes good decisions.   Adam Reid was a nice addition.  He works well in front of the net, and he showed that on his PPG.   The Power Play isn’t lighting up the scoreboard, but it has gotten better in the past couple weeks.
It wasn’t a great game for Northeastern, but for once they just found a way to win a close game instead of finding a way to lose it.  Now they enter the Beanpot on a 3 game win streak.  But more importantly they opened up  a 2 point lead on UMass and they have worked themselves back into the 8th spot.    There is a long way to go, but picking up points in this game was essential and they took care of business.
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Preview: Huskies vs UMass Amherst

February 3, 2012

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Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

The Beanpot is looming for the Huskies, but they have a huge Hockey East game on their plate before they can worry about that.  The Huskies play host to UMass Amherst who they are tied with for 7th in Hockey East.

This game will have big implications on the Huskies playoff hopes.  Despite being tied in the standings, UMass has played 2 less games than the Huskies.   And if UMass can get a win or tie tonight, then they will win the season series and own the crucial tiebreaker.   So a loss tonight would give UMass a 3 point lead in essence and they would have 2 additional games to be played.

UMass is 0-8-2 in road games this season.   One of those ties came at Matthews in the season opener.  Danny Hobbs, TJ Syner, Bredan Gracel and Conor Sheary are the ones to watch.  The only question for the Minuteman is who will be in net.  Kevin Boyle was in net for both of the first two games, but he hasn’t seen much action of late.  Its been mostly a rotation between Steve Mastalerz and Jeff Teglia.  Neither of whom NU has faced before.

Northeastern is 23-33-3 in the games directly before the Beanpot.  They are 4-2-0 against UMass in those games.

The stats have become less embarrassing for the Huskies after last week.   The Power Play is finally in double digits (11%) and they are averaging 3.0 goals per game after last week’s outburst.

The Huskies could be without Steve Quailer, which would cause some lineup reshuffling.   In that case, the best bet would probably be to move Manno up to Quailer’s spot.   Then put Stone back in the lineup in his 4th line spot.   It will be interesting to see how Madigan handles it, if Quailer is indeed out.

Some Interesting Statistical Notes on NU:

  • The Huskies are 8-2-0 when leading after the 2nd period, 0-5-2 when trailing, and 2-4-1 when tied.
  • The Huskies are 3-11-3 when scoring less than 4 goals.
  • The Huskies are 6-2-1 in games following a win
  • The Huskies are 8-0-2 when Cody Ferriero scores a point, 4-0 when Adam Reid and Dan Cornell score a point, and 3-0 when Josh Manson, Zak Stone, and Robbie Vrolyk score a point.
  • In games when Quailer-Pimm-Ferriero line isn’t together, the Huskies are 2-7-2
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Preview: Huskies vs Lowell

January 21, 2012

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The season series with Lowell is on the line for the Huskies tonight, but more importantly, the Huskies could be fighting for the playoff lives.

The 8 game win streak was great, but since almost all of the games were non-conference, the Huskies conference record is still awful thanks to a terrible start.   The teams around them keeping winning as the Huskies have gone 0 for 3 in the new year.

Tonight is a must win for the Huskies.   Another loss puts them in a deep hole with no much time to dig themselves out.   This team needs to find a way to get back to the way they played during the win streak.  That may require a shake up at the bottom of the lineup.  Rob Dongara won’t be playing tonight.  Thats a start.   I’d like to see them keep the first two lines as they have been, the third line should be Mann0-McLaughlin-Tuckerman and the fourth should be Reid-Daniels-Stone.  Stone and Manno need to be in the lineup.

Rawlings could maybe use a rest too.  The goals last night were not is fault, but he didn’t see, like his normal self.  Give him the night off, he deserves one.

I don’t know what to do about the special teams, but just change them any way you can.

Its not panic time yet, but if the Huskies can’t win tonight its officially time to worry about missing the playoffs for the second time in 3 years.

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Final: Lowell 4, Huskies 0

January 21, 2012

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Northeastern lost to Lowell 4-0 last night, which makes it 3 straight losses for the Huskies.

Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

The Basics

  • For the first time all season, the Huskies were shutout.
  • Chris Rawlings saved 28 out of 32 shots.
  • The Huskies were outshot 32-28
  • NU was 0-5 on the PP. Lowell was also 0-5, but they picked up a shorthanded goal and a goal seconds after one of their PP’s had ended.
What You Need to Know
  • This one was ugly.
  • Northeastern started slow and it cost them when Lowell picked up an early goal.
  • After that NU managed a few chances, but couldn’t find the net.
  • The second period might have been one of the worst periods of the season.  Lowell completely dominated a Northeastern team that looked like they were asleep.  Lowell picked up 3 goals, including a shorthanded one.
  • The Huskies came out a bit tougher in third, but never really pushed Lowell.
  • Rawlings looked off all night.  He was moving and react very slow and just didn’t seem to be the same goalie we’ve seen recently.
Lines:
Karlsson-Vermeersch-Saponari
Ferriero-Pimm-Quailer
Tuckerman-Daniels-Dongara
Reid-McLaughlin-Vrolyk
D:
Bitetto-Cornellth
Eibler-Manson
Ellement-Daniels
Thoughts
Where to being with this brutal game?  Lets start with the special teams.
Technically the PK killed all 5 penalties last night, but Lowell scored their first goal just 5 seconds after a penalty had expired.   The Passive Box isn’t getting it done.  Its time to get aggressive and force teams into mistake rather than sitting around hoping they make one.
The real issue is of course the power play. 9/95 is disgusting.  9.5% is by far the lowest in Hockey East.  And with the Huskies giving up shorthanded goals in two consecutive games, they have now given up the 2nd most in the conference with 5.  The Power Play is so bad that it gets worse the bigger the advantage is.  Last night, the Huskies had a 5 on 3, and just like the one against BU last weekend, they passed and passed and passed and passed.  When they finally succeed in passing the puck into the net, I am sure it will look great.  But they failed yet again last night and when they eventually whiffed on a shot, Lowell ended up with a breakaway that would have been a goal had Ludwig Karlsson not dragged the guy down and took a penalty.  Its got to the point where I actually dread seeing a penalty on the other team because it just leads to embarrassment for NU.
Now onto the lineup:  Dongara, McLaughlin, and Vrolyk all bring something to the table.  But all 3 of them cannot be in the lineup at the same time.   That has been proven again and again this year.  Manno and Stone need to be in the lineup every night, if that means Dongara and Vrolyk have to take a seat, so be it.
With results around the conference going against Northeastern, their playoff chances are growing smaller every weekend.   Time is running out for the Huskies and performances like this one aren’t going to relieve any fears.
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Final: Huskies 3, Lowell 2

December 11, 2011

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Northeastern pushed their win streak to 6 in the final game of the first half with a 3-2 win over Lowell on Saturday.

Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

The Basics

  • Adam Reid, Anthony Bitetto, and Steve Quailer were the goalscorers for the Huskies.
  • Zak Stone, Dan Cornell, and Cody Ferriero picked up assists.
  • Chris Rawlings made 38 saves on 40 shots.
  • The Huskies were outshot 40-32.
  • NU was 0-1 on the PP.  Lowell was 1-3.
What You Need to Know
  • The Huskies weren’t at their best offensively, but they were able to overcome a good Lowell team by playing solid defense.
  • NU took the lead early in the second period on a bit of hard work.   Dan Cornell made a smart pinch to keep the puck in.  Adam Reid was able to win the battle behind the net and throw the puck out front to Chad Ruhwedel who put it by Lowell goalie Doug Carr.  If the name Chad Ruhwedel doesn’t sound familiar to you, that’s because he plays for Lowell.
  • Lowell tied it up and the score was 1-1 heading into the third.
  • Northeastern took the lead a few minutes into the third thanks to Anthony Bitetto.  Bitetto knocked a Lowell pass out of the air in the neutral zone.  He took the puck and led the rush into the zone where he found Cody Ferriero on top of the faceoff circle.  Ferriero ripped a slapshot and Bitetto tipped it by Carr.  It was a truly amazing play by Bitetto, who has shown exactly why he is an NHL draft pick in his 1.5 years here.
  • With 4 minutes left, Lowell was on a PP.  Down by 1, they decided to pull their goalie coming out of a timeout.  The faceoff was in the Northeastern zone, but after a scramble, Steve Quailer got possession and threw it all the way down the ice.   A Lowell defenseman got a piece of it, which caused it to go straight into the net.  Lowell’s gamble had failed miserable.
  • Lowell would add a PP goal with 1:30 left to make things interesting and make that decision look even worse, but NU held on for the win.
Lines:
Karlsson-Vermeersch-Saponari
Ferriero-Pimm-Quailer
Tuckerman-Daniels-Manno
Reid-Stone-Vrolyk
D:
Bitetto-Cornell
Eibler-Manson
Ellement-Daniels
Thoughts
Another win and it feels even better because it was at home and in the conference.  It certainly wasn’t NU’s best game of the year, but they played well enough to win.  Lowell was definitely a bit tired after playing BC last night and Northeastern was able to use this to their advantage in winning most of the 1 on 1 battles.  Lowell has some very talented forwards, but the defense really stepped up and did not allow them to come down the middle.  Lowell got a ton of shots, but they weren’t from the positions they wanted.  And Chris Rawlings was up to the task as usual.
People always criticize the fact the NU gets outshot so much (us included), but I am starting to think it might not be that bad.  With Rawlings’ size (and now talent) in net, shots from the outside are never going to be an issue.  So on nights like tonight, yes NU got outshot, but how many of Lowell’s shots had a good chance of going in?  Not many.  I think the team has figured this out and they are willing to allow shots as long as they can clog the middle and keep the Grade A chances down, which they have done a great job of doing during the win streak.  Rawlings’ numbers and play have been fantastic during this stretch, but the defense deserve a ton of credit too.
Offensively, things didn’t look as crisp tonight. It was also going to be tough to score with Doug Carr in net for Lowell.   He is the real deal.  Probably the second best goalie in the league behind Joe Cannata from Merrimack.  But I thought the best line for much of the game was the 4th line.  They got the first goal (through a bit of luck) and they were working very hard all night.  Zak Stone didn’t see much time last year, but he has really impressed me so far this year.  I think Madigan will have to find a way to keep him in the lineup when Mike McLaughlin comes back.
Northeastern didn’t play bad, but Lowell is really good and they didn’t allow easy opportunities.  These two teams meet again for a home and home in about a month.  That should be a very exciting weekend.
The Huskies are off for a couple weeks before heading to Minnesota for the Mariucci Classic.

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Final: Huskies 5, PC 2

November 19, 2011

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The Huskies finally got back in the win column last night with a 5-2 victory in Providence.

Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

 

The Basics

  • Steve Quailer, Ludwig Karlsson, Zak Stone, Cody Ferriero, and Drew Ellement had goals for Northeastern.
  • The goal was the first of Ellement’s career
  • Josh Manson, Luke Eibler, Ellement, Quailer, Joseph Manno, and Dan Cornell all chipped in with an assist.
  • Chris Rawlings had just 19 saves, but he made a save on Tim Schaller’s penalty shot.
  • The Huskies finally outshot their opponents. The Huskies had 26 shots, to PC’s 21
  • NU was 0-2 on the PP.  PC was 1-2.
What You Need to Know
  • It feels good to win
  • Captain Mike McLaughlin was hurt in the middle of the game with a jaw injury and did not return.
  • The Huskies dominated this game.  They scored 2 goals in the first seven minutes and chased PC goalie Alex Beaudry out of the game.
  • Quailer’s goal wasn’t the best shot, but he made a great defensive play to earn himself the breakaway.
  • Stone and Karlsson’s goals were just well placed shots.
  • Ferriero’s was nice tip off Ellement’s blast from the point.
  • Then Ellement sealed it with an empty netter from his own blueline.
  • The lines were shaken up to be a little more balanced and it worked.   Every line was effective and they were able to control play and create chances.
  • The defense had maybe their best game yet.   Clearing the zone wasn’t an issue like it has been and as a result they kept shots down.    Dan Cornell continues to impress.  He broke up a 3-1 with the Huskies up 2-1 and looking back it was a big moment.
  • Discipline was really good.   Just two penalties on the night.
  • There was a players only meeting according to Steve Quailer.
Lines:
Vermeersch-McLaughlin-Saponari
Ferriero-Pimm-Quailer
Karlsson-Daniels-Manno
Reid-Stone-Tuckerman
D:
Bitetto-Cornell
Eibler-Manson
Ellement-Daniels
Thoughts
This was a big win for NU.   They finally played the game they have been capable of the whole time.   They were good in every zone and it showed. They let up a bit early in the third and PC looked like they were gaining confidence., but NU was able to recover and hold on for the win, which they haven’t been able to do much.
I think its a feeling of relief more than anything.   When Karlsson scored the 4th goal to make it 4-1, there were a ton of smiles and it seemed like the weight was off their shoulders.  After the game, you could tell it meant a lot.  Coming off the ice it was just huge smile after huge smile.
But like Steve Quailer said after the game, this win means nothing if they dont build on it.   So now that is their task: keeping up the good work and really kicking off the turnaround.
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