The Huskies look to enter the win column for the first time in the 2016-17 season against the team that spawned a thousand nightmares last year: the Bentley Falcons. Friday 10/14 will be played at the JAR in Watertown, and Saturday 10/15 at Matthews Arena where the 2016 Hockey East Championship banner will be unveiled. Last season during the home and home series, Bentley swept Northeastern in what could be called the low point of the season. Northeastern dominated play at Matthews Arena before falling 3-2, and then lost 4-1 in a massively disappointing performance at Bentley the following night. Revenge clearly will be on the mind for Jim Madigan’s squad this weekend.
Bentley is coming off an impressive dismantling of UNH in Durham this past weekend, in the team’s only game so far. In a 5-1 victory, goaltender Jayson Argue made 32 saves on 33 shots, captain Max French had three assists, and five different Falcons scored goals, including three freshmen. Watching the highlights from UNH, 2 of the goals appeared to be extremely soft. One was a defensive breakdown with 4 UNH players below the dots, and one was a laser snipe off the faceoff. The last score was an empty netter. All in all, Bentley had 5 goals on 21 SOG, a high shooting percentage that certainly is not sustainable. Considering Northeastern’s ability since last season to suppress shots against, I anticipate Bentley to once again be held to low shot totals in both games.
Bentley returns two 40 point scorers in French and Kyle Schmidt, both of whom are the only returning double-digit goal scorers on the team. After them, the returning top point-getters notched 18, 14, and 11 points, with the 18 coming from a defenseman. I know nothing about their freshman class, but based on their performance against UNH, I expect them to be on the ice quite a bit. Their offense clearly will be driven by Schmidt and French, who look to be on the same line – they started the game together against UNH. It will be important for the Huskies to key in on them to stymie the Bentley offense.
This weekend is the embodiment of a trap game for the Huskies. Northeastern is, without question, a much more talented team than Bentley. Northeastern has 8 NHL draft picks on the roster; Bentley has zero. Northeastern won Hockey East last year and made the NCAA Tournament. Bentley lost in the first round of the Atlantic Hockey Tournament. Last season, Northeastern’s offense was tied for 11th in the nation in goals per game. Bentley was 32nd. However, as we saw last year, talent does not always come out on top like it is expected to. This weekend the Huskies will need to play crisper than they did against Quinnipiac in order to secure victory. It will be critical to convert on the powerplay; the Huskies were merely 2 for 13 against QU last weekend. Conversely, the Huskies will need to continue to be strong on the penalty kill, after going 10/12 against QU. Bentley was 0 for 3 on the powerplay versus UNH, and 6 for 6 on the PK. Considering the crackdown officials across the country have instilled on penalties, expect special teams to get plenty of run this weekend, and very well may decide who wins and who loses.
For an “X Factor” this weekend, I pick goaltender Ryan Ruck. Ruck will need to match the level that Argue seems to be capable of, as they very well may go save for save in this series. Ruck’s rebound control also needs to be better – I imagine Bentley will be crashing the net hard to scoop up rebounds against the more talented Huskies.
Davis: Northeastern sweeps. 3-2 at Bentley, , 4-1 at home.
Downie: Northeastern sweeps. 5-2 at Bentley, 4-2 at home.
Fallon: Northeastern sweeps. 4-2 at Bentley, 5-3 at home.