Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Prepare for the Home-and-Home with Merrimack

Northeastern vs. Merrimack
Northeastern does battle in its final two-game series of the season against Merrimack in North Andover on Friday with the final duel of 2009 at Matthews Arena to follow on Saturday. Merrimack is the second to last Hockey East club the Huskies have not seen yet this season (Massachusetts) as both squads could benefit greatly from a sweep heading into the break. The Warriors own a better overall record than Northeastern at 6-6, but the Huskies sit in sole possession of seventh place while Merrimack is nestled in eighth in the Hockey East standings. With history on its side, Northeastern looks to continue its recent trend against its local foe as the Huskies have taken the last five decisions off of the Warriors. In the last 10 meetings, Northeastern has gone 8-1-1 against Merrimack. Over the course of those last five triumphs, Northeastern has outscored the Warriors, 15-7, as four of the five games came at Matthews Arena. A 4-2 loss on Jan. 11, 2008 interrupted what would have been nine-game winning streak dating back to Dec. 1, 2006. Friday’s game will be the 84th encounter between these two institutions, as Northeastern owns a 43-32-9 advantage over its opponent. Head coach Greg Cronin has had Merrimack’s number, accruing a 9-1-3 record against the Warriors while MC’s head coach, Mark Dennehy, has gone 1-8-3 since taking over at Merrimack prior to the 2005-06 season.

Warrior Watch
Merrimack, predicted to finish in last place in this year’s Hockey East preseason poll, has surprised many of the naysayers with a 6-6 overall record through its first 12 games. Three wins in seven league contests, though, have pushed the Warriors down to eighth place in the Hockey East standings. Merrimack started off its 2009-10 campaign with a pair at North Dakota. A 5-2 loss preceded a tough 3-2 setback against a Fighting Sioux team that is ranked third in the nation since Nov. 29. The Warriors gained some momentum after their trip to Grand Forks as Merrimack rattled off straight victories against Holy Cross, Army, Vermont and UConn, respectively. MC split with Boston College before thumping Boston University, 6-3. Since that emphatic win, the Warriors have fallen on hard times, losing three straight to BU, UMass Lowell and New Hampshire to set them back in eighth place. Merrimack settled into Lawler Arena nicely this year, accumulating a 6-0 record in North Andover before losing its first home game to New Hampshire on Nov. 28. Merrimack made headlines on Oct. 17 when freshman Stephane Da Costa potted five goals, including a natural hat trick, against Army in a 6-3 win. Da Costa became the first Hockey East player since Brian Gionta, (Boston College - 1/27/01 vs. Maine) to score 5 goals in a game. The Paris, France native leads all skaters with 16 points and eight goals. Junior Joe Cucci directs all Warriors with 10 assists while newcomer Kyle Bigos has seen the most time in the penalty box with 15 infractions for 30 minutes. Sophomore Joe Cannata has emerged as the mainstay in net for the Warriors, as the Wakefield, Mass. native has gone 3-5-0 with a 3.56 goals against average and .887 save rate. Veteran Andrew Braithwaite has gone 3-1-0 in his four starts and has surrendered 3.25 goals per game with a save clip of .895.

Last Time out against Merrimack

Joe Vitale scored the game-winning goal with under three minutes to go to lift Northeastern to a 4-3 victory over Merrimack on Friday night at Matthews Arena. After Merrimack’s Chris Barton scored to give the Warriors a 3-2 lead, freshman J.P. Maley scored his first career goal to tie it up. Wade MacLeod had a goal and two assists and goaltender Brad Thiessen made 22 saves for the win. Northeastern scored the first goal of the game in the ninth minute. Steve Quailer got the puck off a turnover along the right boards, faked a shot and passed it to MacLeod on the left side of the crease. Merrimack goalie Joe Cannata was at the top of the crease and MacLeod put it behind him from the left to make it 1-0 at 8:26 in the first period. Merrimack tied it on a power play goal at 18:52 in the first. Defenseman Pat Bowen stopped a clear attempt and passed the puck to Fraser Allan in the high slot. Allan shot it through traffic to get the Warriors on the board. Chris Donovan scored his second short-handed goal of the season early in the second period. Cannata went behind the net to play the puck and Donovan went in to cause a turnover. He came around the front, faked a shot and got the puck past Cannata to make it 2-1 at 1:59. The Warriors wouldn’t go away, however, and tied it up later in the second. John Jamieson took the puck into the zone, dropped it to J.C. Robitaille, and Robitaille fed Pat Kimball. Kimball shot the puck in as the three rushed the right side of the net to make it 2-2 at 14:50 in the second period. Northeastern had some chances early in the third, but the Warriors collected the next goal at 9:52 on a power play to take the lead. Frasier Allen and Pat Bowen passed the puck between the points before Bowen shot it on net. Barton tipped it enough so Thiessen couldn’t control the save, and Barton put in the rebound to make it 3-2 Warriors. Maley put in the equalizer at 11:14 in the third. MacLeod passed it across the middle to Quailer on the left side and Quailer put a shot on net. Maley rushed the net and hit a bouncing shot up and over Cannata for the goal. Vitale put in the game-winner on a rush late in the third. He got the puck out of a pile near the Northeastern blueline and passed it to MacLeod, who took it up the left side. Vitale streaked up the right, beat a Merrimack defender and MacLeod threaded a pass to him. Vitale put it in down low to make it a 4-3 final at 17:16.

Huskies’ Leaders against Merrimack

As is the common trend with most other teams faced this year, Wade MacLeod leads all Huskies in career points against Merrimack. MacLeod has scored seven points (2-5-7) in six games against he Warriors while Tyler McNeely has gone for five points (2-3-5) in as many games. Steve Silva (0-3-3) and Steve Qualier (1-2-3) has each accounted for three points while Chris Donovan (2-0-2), Randy Guzior (1-1-2), David Strathman (1-1-2) and Greg Costa (1-1-2) have all scored a pair. Mike Hewkin has one assist to his name in six games against Merrimack while JP Maley scored his first-career goal against the Warriors in the last contest.

November Recap
Northeastern went through a rollercoaster of emotion in the month of November, but the whole ride evened out with a 3-3-1 record (.500). November started off with a mountain of thrills against its arch-rival, Boston University. In front of a flawless performance by rookie goaltender Chris Rawlings, NU claimed its first Hockey East victory of the season against the seventh-ranked Terriers, 1-0, in front of a sellout crowd of 4,666. Rawlings becomes the Huskies’ second-ever netminder to shut out Boston University and the Huskies can stake their claim to ending BU’s five-year run of not being shutout on the road. Friday night’s triumph marks NU’s first win over its Commonwealth Ave. foe since Feb. 28, 2007. The rollercoaster came to a screeching halt due to a 5-1 loss at Boston College the following night. Kyle Kraemer scored his first goal of the season in Chestnut Hill, igniting a current six-game pointstreak, but NU’s six-game powerplay scorintg streak was snapped in the setback. A two-game home series against Maine started off with a 6-2 loss on Nov.13, but freshman Drew Ellement and senior Dylan Wiwchar earned their first and second-career points, respectively, on Justin Daniels’ second-career tally. The Huskies were cited for 38 penalty minutes in the stumble. Northeastern responded with a 5-2 triumph against the Black Bears as the powerplay unit erupted for three goals on eight chances. A season-best 10 different Huskies notched a point in the 5-2 throttling, including sophomore Matt Lipinski’s first-career goal in powerplay fashion to cap NU’s scoring. Senior David Strathman pounced on the penalty kill, scoring Northeastern’s only shorthanded goal of the season to this point. NU climbed back to .500 with a 4-1 win over Providence at Matthews Arena on Nov. 20. In the rematch at Providence, Northeastern squandered a 3-2 lead to the Friars and earned its first draw of the year, 3-3, on Nov. 21. Senior Greg Costa scored his first goal of the season, 15th of his career, with help from freshmen brothers Drew and Justin Daniels. It was Drew Daniels’ first-career point and marks the first time this season the sibling connection recorded a point on the same play. In the final game of November, the Huskies endured a tough 3-2 loss on Nov. 27 to Vermont at home, 3-2. Despite the loss, Kraemer extending his goal-scoring streak to four games and overall pointstreak to six. Sophomore blueliner Drew Muench turned in his first-career two-assist game. The last time Muench secured a pair of points was a two-goal effort against Vermont on Jan. 19, 2008. The Catamounts jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the initial period. The Huskies answered twice to cut it to one on two occasions, but David Pacan’s lamplighter at 10:10 of the second proved to be the game winner.

Kraemer Can’t Be Stopped

Senior forward Kyle Kraemer has turned in an exceptional scoring sheet for the month of November. Excluding the Boston University game, the St. Louis native has notched at least one point in November for a total of five goals and two assists. Kraemer is also riding a four-game goal-scoring streak dating back to the 5-2 win against Maine on Nov. 14. The fourth-year forward’s six-game pointstreak ties Alex Tuckerman’s six-game spell for the longest-career streak on NU’s current roster. Tuckerman accomplished the feat last season, scoring points in six-consecutive games dating from Oct. 24 to Nov. 14, 2008. Kraemer’s consecutive four-goal run is the longest-career scoring stretch of any Huskies skater on the current roster. Kraemer has tallied eight points through 12 games, including five goals and three helpers. Two of Kraemer’s markers have come via the powerplay. Kraemer is currently tied for 93rd in the country with 0.42 goals per game and tied for 13th in Hockey East. Kraemer’s 0.67 points per game is tied for 44th in the conference.

Kraemer Tapped as Student-Athlete of the Week
On Nov. 24, Kraemer was selected as Northeastern’s Student-Athlete of the Week after registering three points, including one powerplay goal, in a weekend series against Providence. Kraemer was the first delegate of the men’s hockey team to surface as the Northeastern Student-Athlete of the Week.

Success against Remaining Opponents
Not only does Merrimack and Massachusetts share the bond as the remaining two Hockey East teams left on NU’s ledger, but they are also the two teams in the conference in which the Huskies own a winning record against. Northeastern holds a 56.6 winning percentage (43-32-9) over this weekend’s opponent and a 60.6 winning percentage (36-22-8) against the Minutemen. Also, Northeastern’s five-game winning streak against Merrimack is the longest stretch of victories over any other opponent on the docket this year. The Huskies currently have four-game winning spells over Dartmouth and Holy Cross and a five-game unbeaten stretch against Providence (4-0-1).

Restrained Huskies

Ever since Northeastern’s 38 penalty minute-outburst against Maine on Nov. 13, the Huskies have not accrued more penalties than their opponent yet; particularly in its last game against Vermont.  Freshman Drew Ellement’s hooking call at 8:19 of the first period was the only violation Northeastern was cited for. Friday night’s rare occurrence was the first time Northeastern was whistled for only one penalty since Jonathan Koop was called for obstruction interference at 16:36 of the first period in a 2-1 loss at UMass Lowell on Jan. 8, 2005. In its first game of the year, Northeastern gave Colorado College only two powerplay chances on Oct. 9. In the last four seasons, NU has been called for two penalties on only four occasions: UMass (2/15/08), Merrimack (1/11/08), Colgate (12/29/07) and Providence (9/14/06).

Speaking of Powerplays...

Despite coming away empty-handed against Vermont on Nov. 27 (0-4), Northeastern has scored an extra-man marker in 10 of its first 12 games (BC, Nov. 7). The Huskies are seventh in Hockey East with an 18.8 percent conversion rate (15/80) and 27th in the NCAA. Northeastern looks to make it 11-for-13 as the Warriors are the most penalized team in Hockey East, amassing 16.4 penalty minutes per game.

Defensively Minded
Although the Huskies have endured some pitfalls offensively this year, it’s Northeastern’s defense that has kept NU right around the .500 mark. Northeastern is fourth in scoring defense, surrendering only 3.00 goals per fame. That mark is also tied for 29th in the country. Only UMass Lowell (2.46), Providence (2.54) and Massachusetts (2.67) have given up less goals through the first third of the season.

Maley Makes His Way Back

Sophomore J.P. Maley saw the ice for the first time against Vermont this season since registering an assist on Louis Liotti’s goal in the NCAA quarterfinal matchup against Cornell on March 28, 2009. Maley did not record a point, but blocked a team-best three shots against the Catamounts. Maley’s first-career goal came in the last game against Merrimack on Feb. 6, 2009.

Muench Dishes It Out
Sophomore Drew Muench turned in his first-career two-assist game against Vermont last Friday. The only other multi-point game Muench registered was a pair of goals the last time NU faced the Catamounts on Jan. 19, 2008. The Martensville, Saskatchewan native is tied for 26th with 0.67 points per game amongst all HEA defensemen.

MacLeod Makes His Way to 100
Junior Wade MacLeod leads all Huskies in current career points as the Coquitlam, B.C. just hit the 70-point plateau with his 41st assist against Vermont. Only six others in Hockey East have the inside track to MacLeod in the race to 100 points, including James Marcou (UMass 95 pts.), Ben Smith (BC 94 pts.), Bobby Butler (UNH 82 pts.), Kory Falite (UML 82 pts.), Nick Bonino (BU 81 pts.) and Joe Whitney (BC 72 pts.).

Newton Nets Third Straight Game with a Helper

Freshman defensman Jake Newton has logged an assist in his last three games and is currently tied for 18th in Hockey East with 0.50 points per game amongst defenseman.

Greenhorn Governing the Way
Freshman Garrett Vermeersch has risen to the top of Northeastern’s scoring list with nine points (3-6-9), thanks to a recent four-game scoring streak. Two of his three tallies and five of his six assists have come on the powerplay, denoting that 77.8 percent of his output is generated with the extra skater. The Macomb, Mich. native is tied for 38th in all of Hockey East and third amongst freshmen with 0.82 ppg. Vermeersch is one of two incoming skaters in the conference to lead his club in scoring. Merrimack’s Stephane Da Costa has assembled a scoring line of 8-8-16 and is fourth in the country, overall, in scoring with 1.60 ppg.

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