At the turn of the new year, the Huskies went down to Connecticut and put up a show against their fellow Huskies in Hartford, dominating UConn to put themselves back on top of Hockey East.
Everything since? Well, that hasn’t been smooth sailing.
Aided by a, frankly, horrendous schedule that continues to see Northeastern go from November 22-23 all the way until February 14-15 without playing a full Hockey East weekend series, the Huskies have played just two games total in the near-month since the opening weekend of 2020, losing both games in overtime to foes that most would have considered overmatched, UNH and UConn. The Wildcats have since played themselves squarely onto the NCAA tournament bubble while the UConn loss will undoubtedly be an anchor the rest of the way. The once-top ranked NU penalty kill has faltered over that stretch, giving up power play goals in both contests plus THREE 6 on 5 delayed penalty goals to boot, and while the hot streak the PK was on was bound to end at some point, seeing their regression leading directly to two conference losses is pretty unfortunate timing and, as far as the standings go, did a lot to undo the good work they did in the first semester.
The Huskies have been streaky this year, perhaps to be expected of a young team, going undefeated in their first five games including a signature win over UMass, winning just one of the next six (against Merrimack, in a series they failed to sweep), then winning eight of nine before this current stretch. Again, there are a number of factors you can blame, the schedule, the youth, the rust of nearly never playing competitive games, or more likely a combination of it all. I do think it’s safe to say that two losses in a row, coming in games as close as they were, would feel bad no matter what, but a two game losing streak extending for three weeks instead of two nights definitely makes it feel a lot worse than it normally would. It’s also safe to say that seeing the corresponding fall in the standings hasn’t helped either, as NU was battling at the top for most of the last couple of months and now finds themselves just one point clear of missing the conference tournament entirely, which they would have had far more chances to resolve in a normal slate of games. I don’t think they’ll possibly miss, they’re certainly too good for that, but they’re in that position now and the schedule continues to do them no favors the rest of the way, with games left against Providence, in Orono, and home and homes against Lowell, BC, and BU, only broken up by a weekend trip to Burlington. So, it’s certainly possible.
Regardless, you can only play the schedule in front of you, and Northeastern comes off their bye with an important home game this weekend to both decide the season series against PC and get themselves back into the hunt in Hockey East before they turn to the Beanpot.
We’ve already previewed the Friars once this year, but they’ll roll grad transfer Michael Lackey in net this weekend, a player had been more or less matched stride for stride by Craig Pantano after entering the season as seemingly the clear top grad transfer goalie in the conference, but has recently broken out to a decent save percentage lead, .926 to .915. Jack Dugan and Tyce Thompson are Hobey candidates, with a conference-and-nation leading 42 and 37 points so far and 17 goals for Thompson as well. Greg Printz has 14 goals, whole freshmen Parker Ford and Pateick Moynihan will both be looking to score their tenth of their season and career this weekend. Unsurprisingly, the Friars are one of the best offensive and defensive teams in the country, and battling for the top of Hockey East, so this will be a tough matchup. The good news is that NU did a pretty good job of shutting down their big guns in the November home and home series, so if that trend continues this time combined with another home game they may be able to take it. Providence is also coming off a bye last week, but they have just one loss in their last 9 games, and only two since the game NU won in November. The Huskies needs to pick up points against top competition to fight back to the top of Hockey East, or even to make the tournament at this point, and that fight starts this weekend. No matter how rusty they may be, it’s time to go.