Northeastern Huskies 10-13-5 (4-8-4) Hockey East T-6th
Massachusetts Minutemen 8-17-4 (2-12-4) Hockey East 12th
Unfortunately the schedule gods did not see fit to let UMass face Northeastern in late November when they were just 1-11-2. No, the Minutemen will have to face the Huskies for a home and home weekend series while they’re on a streak where they’re 8-1-2 in their last 11 games with their only loss coming against Boston University in the first round of the Beanpot. Most recently the Huskies are coming off an impressive 5-1 win over #9 Harvard in the Beanpot consolation game.
Northeastern’s season really couldn’t have started any worse. Though they won their very first game of the season they would not pick up their second until after Thanksgiving when they defeated Colgate in the first round of the Friendship Four tournament. Though they would cough up a chance to win the championship over in Belfast, that trip to Ireland seemed to be a turning point for the Huskies. In the weeks following they would pick up impressive ties over Boston College and Quinnipiac before beginning the 8-1-2 streak mentioned earlier.
Since 12/19 when that streak started Northeastern has the second best winning percentage in the country next to only Michigan. They’re in the top ten during that time in both goals for and goals against. Their defense has been slightly better with their 1.73 goals against the 4th fewest in the country. Freshman Ryan Ruck has gotten all of the starts in net during that time period and while he has an impressive .910 save percentage on the season as a whole, his save percentage in the last 11 games is .935. His goals against average is 1.62 during those recent games, 6th best.
The Huskies have scored the 9th most goals going back to 12/19 with 3.55 goals per game. The Huskies are are shooting at a very high rate, scoring on 12.1% of their shots in the last 11 games. Their power play is top 10 in that time too, converting 25% of their chances, 7th best. On the season sophomore Nolan Stevens has been the Huskies’ best scorer with 10 goals in total. But on this recent streak it’s been sophomore Dylan Sikura who has had the hot hand with seven goals in his last 9 games.
UMass has improved their offensive play recently, scoring 3.4 goals per game in the last 5 games after struggling to score more than two a game for long stretches in November through the beginning of January. They’ll need to continue that offensive success against a team that has done very well at keeping the puck out of the net in the 2016 calendar year. UMass’ defensive struggles have continued pretty much since the beginning of the season all the way up to giving up 3 goals and 33 shots to AIC this past Tuesday. They’ve played better against decent teams in recent weeks than before winter break, but for the entirety of the season they’ve yet to prove that they can beat a really good team in college hockey. They’ll try to change that this weekend against Northeastern.
UMass’ recent league play has resulted in a significant hole to climb out of when it comes to the standings. For a legitimate chance not to finish in last place UMass will need to win two of their last four Hockey East games at minimum. This weekend’s series against Northeastern presents the best opportunity to pick up those conference points with the Minutemen having to close out the season against defending national champion Providence. UMass broke out of the 9 game losing streak on Tuesday with a win over AIC. Now they’ll look to pick up their first conference win since a sweep of UConn in early November. It won’t be easy though as they’ll need to beat one of the hottest teams in all of college hockey to do so.
Weekend preview from UMass Athletics. (reminder, Friday’s game is an 8:30 start due to TV)
The Collegian has this article on the team’s reaction to playing in Ireland next season.
Dennis Kravchenko is 4th among sophomores for total career points per this feature by College Hockey Inc.