Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Northeastern to Reveal All-Decade Team against First-Place New Hampshire


Northeastern vs. New Hampshire
It’s down to crunch time in the Hockey East playoffs race. Northeastern welcomes #11/10 New Hampshire on Friday night; the last conference foe to take in the sights of newly-renovated Matthews Arena. The Wildcats march into Boston with a two-point lead over Boston College for top-billing in Hockey East. The Huskies split with Boston College last week, with each club claiming victory on home ice. Speaking of home ice, Northeastern is in the hunt to host a quarterfinal round for the second-straight season as the Huskies currently rank in fifth place. NU is one point behind rival, Boston University, for the last spot to home ice rights. In the last meeting between the Huskies and Wildcats, UNH topped Northeastern, 4-2, on NESN. The game marked Northeastern’s first road contest in league play. Since Nov. 3, 2007, Northeastern has enjoyed success against New Hampshire, amassing a 3-2-1 record against its northern foe. The Huskies’ victory on Nov. 3, 2007 at the Whittemore Center snapped a 20-game winless against UNH, starting on Feb. 16, 2002. Northeastern has actually won more games than New Hampshire this season, but UNH’s record in Hockey East action is second to none thus far. The Wildcats hold an 86-57-10 (59.5 %) advantage in the overall series while UNH skipper Dick Umile has racked up a 40-12-9 mark when facing NU. Greg Cronin has posted a 6-11-2 record in 19 outings against UNH.

Wildcat Watch
New Hampshire has responded well to its 2-6-2 start of the season. The Wildcats were not able to manage a victory against RPI and Miami (Ohio) in their first three non-conference games, but started off the Hockey East ledger with two victories. Following the pair of wins, UNH went into a tailspin, going 0-4-1 against the likes of Wisconsin, Boston College, UMass Lowell and Massachusetts. Since then, the Wildcats have composed a sterling 13-4-3 mark, including an eight-game unbeaten streak from Nov. 14 – Dec. 11. New Hampshire is 15-10-5, overall, and ninth in the Pairwise Rankings. UNH has been fueled by Bobby Butler, who has the Hobey Baker scope on him with his 44 points (24-20-44). Butler is fourth in the country and second in Hockey East with 1.47 points per game. He’s also second in the NCAA with 0.80 goals per game. The Wildcats are scoring at a clip of 3.47 goals per outing, third best in the league and 10th, overall. Blake Kessel has made his presence felt from the blue line, scoring the second most points (1.07) of any defenseman in the country. UNH has demonstrated discipline in its play this year as the Wildcats are listed as the second-least penalized team in the country (10.1 PIM/g). Brian Foster is the Wildcats’ go-to netminder, constructing a 14-10-5 mark along the way. Foster owns a goals against average of 3.11 and stopped 851-of-941 attempts (.904) in 29 starts.

Last Time out against New Hampshire
Northeastern moved the puck well in the early parts of the first period, but the Wildcats applied heavy pressure throughout the duration and outshot the Huskies, 34-16. Rookie goaltender Chris Rawlings made 30 saves on the night. New Hampshire broke into the scoring column at 14:41 of the first. Blake Kessel put the initial shot on net from the left point and Rawlings was not able to fully corrall the puck. Bobby Butler’s second attempt in the charge was blocked, but Dalton Speelman cleaned up the carom on the near right post for the early 1-0 edge. The Wildcats doubled up quickly in the second period 24 seconds in. UNH scored in a similar fashion as their first tally, attacking Rawlings in close. Butler made the initial shot, followed by a pipe ringer from Peter LeBlanc. The puck lurched back to Speelman who finished off the job for his second tally of the night to extend the lead, 2-0. In the same stanza, a hooking penalty form sophomore Alex Tuckerman at 4:02 gave way to a 3-0 advantage. Butler unleashed a dart parallel with the near post that snuck behind Rawlings at 5:55. Northeastern cut the lead to 3-1 at 4:43 in the third on a crisp one-time pass from Vrolyk to MacLeod. New Hampshire added to its buffer at 11:43 in a 4-on-3 situation. Mike Sislo fired a quick slapshot touched back to him by Kessel on the faceoff to stay ahead, 4-1. MacLeod logged his second tally on a turnover in New Hampshire’s zone. Driscoll forced UNH’s defense to cough up the puck in front of the cage. MacLeod zeroed in on the loose puck and jetted down the left side through the seam and lifted it over Brian Foster’s glove at 14:20. MacLeod’s efforts were not enough as the final remained at 4-2.

Leaders against the Wildcats
Wade MacLeod asserted his claim to points leader against UNH with his two goals on Oct. 23 at the Whittemore Center. MacLeod has registered a team-best seven points (5-2-7) while Greg Costa (2-2-4), Chris Donovan (0-4-4) and David Strathman (0-4-4) have all logged four points. Randy Guzior (1-2-3) and Alex Tuckerman (2-1-3) have secured three points while Kyle Kraemer (1-1-2), Tyler McNeely (2-0-2) and Steve Quailer (0-2-2) have all notched two against UNH. Steve Silva, Mike Hewkin, Jim Driscoll and Robbie Vrolyk have all posted one assist in the New Hampshire series.

Bad Beats Lead to Lofty Feats

Even though the Huskies endured a tough 7-1 loss at Conte Forum on Sunday afternoon against Boston College, Northeastern should look to the past following their worst loss of the season. On Jan. 16, Northeastern swallowed a 9-2 loss at Vermont, but bounced back with resiliency. Northeastern went 7-2 following the seven-goal setback, thrusting its way back up the Hockey East standings. The Huskies strung together a season-best five straight wins and six-consecutive Hockey East victories. The league-winning streak marked the first time under Greg Cronin’s tenure that NU won six-straight conference games. Amidst NU’s 7-2 mark, the Huskies outscored their opponents, 27-17, giving up one goal or less on five occasions. Northeastern’s powerplay became resurgent over that span, scoring a special teams’ marker in eight of nine outings, potting 12 extra-man markers. The Huskies look to use their six-goal defeat as a springboard for the last four league contests of the season.

Cronin Keeps Climbing the Mountain
Head coach Greg Cronin has procured at least 16 wins in his last three seasons. A win on Friday against New Hampshire would also guarantee the Huskies their second-consecutive regular season over .500. It would be the first time Northeastern has strung together back-to-back winning seasons since the 1993-94 (19-13-7) and 1994-95 (16-14-5) seasons. The ’94 squad went to the NCAA Tournament, bowing out to Lake Superior State on March 26 in overtime, 6-5.

Consecutive Powerplay Goals
Kyle Kraemer tallied his fifth and sixth powerplay goals of the season, respectively, in both games of the Boston College series. Kraemer’s consecutive special teams’ goals marks the fifth time this season a Husky has posted back-to-back powerplay goals. Garrett Vermeersch turned the trick in the first two games at Colorado College while Tyler McNeely potted a pair against Maine (Dec. 12) and Dartmouth (Jan. 2). Alex Tuckerman lit the lamp with the extra skater in both Ledyard National Bank Classic games while McNeely accomplished the feat against Merrimack (Feb. 5) and Harvard (Feb. 8).

Olympic Effect?
Northeastern’s three British Columbia natives in Chris Rawlings, Tyler McNeely and Wade MacLeod appear to be inspired by the world’s attention on their Canadian province for the 2010 Olympics. MacLeod potted the game winner along with an assist against Boston College on Friday while McNeely tallied the first goal of the contest. Rawlings won his fifth-straight start against BC and pitched his third shutout of the season at UMass.

Cronin Hits a New Hockey East High
The Feb. 19 win against BC marks the first time under Greg Cronin’s tenure that NU has won six-consecutive Hockey East contests. The last time Northeastern won five-straight games was near the start of the 2008-09 season. After a tie against Alaska-Fairbanks, NU rattled off five straight from Oct. 11 to Oct. 25, 2008.

No Stage Fright at Matthews Arena
Northeastern is 3-0 when Matthews Arena is sold out. The Huskies beat Bentley, 3-2, in the home opener on Oct. 16 and Boston University, 1-0, on Nov. 6. All three wins have come by one goal in front of the capacity crowd of 4,666. Northeastern has not lost at Matthews Arena since Jan. 10 against Massachusetts (4-1).

To Be the Best, You’ve Gotta Beat the Best
Northeastern knocked off its third-straight opponent ranked in the national polls with the Feb. 19 victory over BC. The Huskies have risen to the occasion against nationally-ranked foes, amassing a 7-6-0 record in 13 outings against teams in the polls.

Top Line Talent
Since Northeastern’s first line of Kyle Kraemer – Justin Daniels – Tyler McNeely has been formed, the trio has tallied 25 points (12-12-24) over the course of their last 11 games as the Huskies’ top line. Player breakdown --> (Kraemer 5-4-9 | J. Daniels 3-1-4 | McNeely 5-7-12).

Penalty Killing Unit Back on Track
The Huskies had their four-game streak of keeping opponents off the board on the powerplay broken on Sunday at Boston College. Yet, Northeastern’s penalty killing unit has allowed only one goal in its last 22 occasionsand four out of its last 40 kills dating back to the Providence game on Jan. 19. The Huskies penalty killing unit has staved off 108-of-138 (.783) chances through 30 contests.

Early Spring Cleaning
The sweep of #18 Massachusetts marked Northeastern’s first consecutive victories over the same Hockey East opponent this year. Northeastern won the Providence series with two wins and a tie, but NU never beat the Friars in consecutive outings this season. The Huskies also won the Merrimack series with a split the first weekend and a 5-1 Huskies’ victory in between Beanpot games. Maine, Vermont, UMass Lowell and Boston College all took two games off Northeastern in league play. The Huskies have yet to wrap up series against UNH and Boston University.

MacLeod and McNeely: Men on a Mission
Wade MacLeod has notched a multi-point game in four of his last six outings, including 11 points (5-6-11) in all. MacLeod needs only 10 points to become Northeastern’s first 100-point scorer since (38-52-90) since Mike Morris (2002-07). McNeely has scored nine points in his last seven games, including three multi-point performances. The Burnaby, B.C. native has posted four goals and five helpers during the run.

Multi-Point Perpetrators
In the 6-3 victory against Massachusetts, the Huskies boasted seven skaters with two or more points. It was the first time this season NU had seven skaters with multi-point performances. Wade MacLeod led the charge with two goals and an assist while Robbie Vrolyk lit the lamp twice. Kyle Kraemer and Jake Newton each accounted for a goal and an assist while Garrett Vermeersch, Tyler McNeely and Drew Daniels all contributed two assists. Previously, the old mark stood at five skaters with two points or more against Dartmouth on Jan. 2 and UMass Lowell on Jan. 9.

Rock the Vote

The Huskies received votes in the Feb. 22nd / CBS College Sports poll for the second straight week. Northeastern picked up 19 votes on in the 18th poll of the year. Seven-of-10 Hockey East clubs are either ranked or receiving votes in this week’s USCHO poll.

Help Me Help You
The Feb. 13 win against the Minutemen was the first time three Huskies posted two assists in a game this year. Vermeersch registered his third two-assist outing of the season while Drew Daniels recorded his first multi-point outing of the year. McNeely posted three helpers against UMass Lowell on Jan. 9.

Pair of Powerplay Markers
Wade MacLeod’s pair of extra-man goals against UMass marks the first time an NU skater has turned the trick this year. The only other skaters to notch two goals in one game this year were MacLeod (UNH - Oct. 23), Kyle Kraemer (UMass Lowell - Jan. 9), Tyler McNeely (Harvard - Feb. 8) and Robbie Vrolyk (UMass - Feb. 13).

Triple Play
Northeastern’s registered a trio of powerplay goals against Massachusetts for the fourth time this season. The Huskies lit the lamp with an extra skater three times against Bentley (Oct. 16), Maine (Nov. 14) and Merrimack (Feb. 5).

Rawlings Reaps Another Award
Chris Rawlings’ combined effort of 65-saves to buoy Northeastern’s defense led to the rookie’s third Hockey East award of the season. Rawlings was named the Pure Hockey Co-Defensive Player of the Week with UML’s Carter Hutton. The North Delta, British Columbia native picked up his first defensive honor of the year as his other two laurels were in the form of Rookie of Week awards.  Rawlings earned his third shutout of the season with a 2-0 win at the Mullins Center against UMass. Rawlings has spread around his goose eggs with each one coming at home (BU, Nov. 6), away (UMass, Feb. 12) and a neutral site (Dartmouth, Jan. 2). Rawlings and Hutton are the only two netminders in Hockey East to secure three shutouts. Rawlings has stopped 288-of-305 shots (.944) in his last nine games and only surrendered 17 goals amidst that stretch. Rawlings has also had his say in the scoring sheet. In two games this season, Rawlings has earned credit with an assist. Stacking up against the rest of the country, Rawlings’ .917 save percentage is 17th best in the country while his 2.70 GAA is 31st. In comparison to the rest of Hockey East, Rawlings’ save percentage, goals against average and winning percentage all rank third.

Vrolyk Ignites against UMass
Freshman Robbie Vrolyk found the back of the net twice against UMass on Feb. 13, marking his first-career two-point game. His second goal counted towards his first-career game-winning goal, as well. The Boylston, Mass. native also put a cap on Friday’s win at the Mullins Center with a beautiful wrister to start off his three-goal weekend. For his efforts, Vrolyk was named Northeastern’s Student-Athlete of the Week on Feb. 16. Vrolyk is the hockey team’s second delegate to receive Student-Athlete of the Week honors. Senior Kyle Kraemer received the award back on Nov. 24.

Score First…Win Later
Of the 15 games in which Northeastern has scored first, the Huskies have come away with 13 victories. The Boston College (5-1, L) and Providence (3-3, T) games were the only two outings Northeastern did not win when drawing first blood. Northeastern’s victories in which it attacked the scoreboard first came against Colorado College (4-3, Oct. 10), Boston University (1-0, Nov. 6), Providence (4-1, Nov. 20), Merrimack (2-1, Dec. 5), Dartmouth (7-0, Jan. 2) and UMass-Lowell (2-1, Jan. 3), Providence (3-1, Jan. 19), UMass Lowell (2-1, Jan. 29), Merrimack (5-1, Feb. 5), Harvard (4-1, Feb. 8), Massachusetts (Feb. 12 & 13) and Boston College (3-2, Feb. 19). Interestingly enough, Northeastern’s win against UMass on Saturday marked only the second win in 10 occasions when the Huskies were tied after the first period.

Popping Up in the Pairwise Rankings
Northeastern is currently 22nd in the latest Pairwise rankings. The Huskies control their own destiny in their remaining four conference games as New Hampshire (9th) and Boston University (19th) are  both ahead of Northeastern in the Pairwise poll. The Huskies made their first appearance after beating UMass Lowell (Jan. 29) at 24th. The PairWise Ranking is a system which attempts to mimic the method used by the NCAA Selection Committee to determine participants for the NCAA Division I men’s hockey tournament. The PWR compares the top 25 teams in the RPI Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), judging them by four criteria: record against common opponents, head-to-head competition, record against other top 25 teams if the team has faced at least 10 top 25 opponents, and the RPI. For each comparison won, a team receives one point. The final PWR ranking is based on the number of points (comparisons) won against top 25 teams.

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