Photo via AIC.edu
The #8 Northeastern University Huskies will host the American International College Yellow Jackets this coming Saturday night at Matthews Arena, kicking off a highly anticipated second half for NU. The Huskies are 22-2-1 all-time against AIC, but have not played the Yellow Jackets since they visited Matthews in February of 1973.
AIC arrives in Boston in the midst of another dismal season. Since joining Atlantic Hockey in 2003, the Yellow Jackets are 104-346-56, with just two seasons with a winning percentage above .300. At 6-11-2 thus far this season, the Yellow Jackets currently sit at #52 in the Division I Pairwise.
The good news for AIC is that there is an upward trend. Last season was its first under new head coach Eric Lang, who replaced Gary Wright after 32 years on the job. The Yellow Jackets 8-20-8 record was their second-best since joining Atlantic Hockey, and the program is already closing in on last year’s win total. Incremental improvement? Sure, but improvement nonetheless.
The on-ice numbers are interesting – AIC is mediocre on both offense (2.58 goals per game, 45th nationally) and defense (3.26 goals per game, 46th). The Yellow Jackets aren’t great on the power play (15.28%, 43rd) and atrocious on the penalty kill (77%, 52nd). They are, however, surprisingly good when looking shot metrics. AIC has an even strength Corsi For of 53%, good for 13th nationally, and outshoots its opponents by nearly 2 shots a game on average (29.4 to 27.6). A good chunk of this can be attributed to their weak schedule thus far (just four games outside of Atlantic Hockey), but this is not a team to take lightly.
AIC’s top 5 scorers all have at least 10 points and are all underclassmen. They’re led by freshman defenseman Brennan Kapcheck (4-11-15). Goaltending has been suspect though; freshman Stefano Durante appears to have emerged as the best of a 3-man crew by posting a .904 save percentage in 553 minutes of ice time.
While AIC is not the doormat it has been traditionally (the Yellow Jackets, in fact, beat #11 Penn State in overtime in State College this fall), the Huskies far outmatch the Atlantic Hockey program. There are a couple of things, though, that should make the Husky faithful wary. AIC’s Pairwise ranking makes this a sneaky big game. With Hockey East struggling out-of-conference, every win is huge for NU’s at-large chances. A loss this weekend could be catastrophic. What’s more, is that NU will have to grab a win without Dylan Sikura and Jeremy Davies, who are both playing in the Spengler Cup for Team Canada this week. There is also the chance that with Davies out and Garret Cockerill leaving the program, newly enrolled Collin Murphy may make his collegiate debut. If he doesn’t expect freshman Ryan Solomon to make his debut as the Huskies’ sixth defenseman.
Odds are the Huskies will take care of business, but this is not a matchup NU can afford to take lightly.
Predictions: (2 points for correct result, +1 for correct score, -1 for incorrect result)
Downie (8 points)- NU wins, 5-1
Fallon (5 points): NU wins, 4-1
Davis (4 points): NU wins, 4-1