Photo via Jim Pierce, NU Athletics, via HuntNews
The #9 Northeastern Huskies close out their non-conference, non-Beanpot schedule this weekend with a home-and-home set against the Bentley University Falcons. NU is 4-4-1 all-time against the Falcons. Bentley has been a challenging foe for the Huskies in recent years. Until last season when the Huskies grabbed a win and a tie against Bentley, Jim Madigan teams had been 0-3 against the Falcons. That record includes a brutal early season sweep in 2015-16 that threatened to keep NU out of the national tournament – at least until their miracle conference championship run. While the Huskies have a stronger club this year than in seasons past, Bentley still should not be taken lightly.
The Falcons, led by head coach Ryan Soderquist (now in his 16th season), have had a strange year, reminiscent of recent Northeastern campaigns. Bentley started off the year just 1-7-3, the lone win a 4-3 victory over Mercyhurst. They’ve roared back to 7-7-3 with 6 straight wins, though, including an overtime victory against Norm Bazin’s UMass Lowell River Hawks. They’ve outscored their opponents 26-10 over that span and a couple of key team strengths have emerged: the power play and goaltending.
The power play has been dominant. The Falcons rank 8th in NCAA Division I, scoring on 25% of their power play opportunities. Senior forward Kyle Schmidt has played an important role in that success, scoring 5 of the team’s 20 power play goals. On the other end of the ice, senior netminder Jayson Argue has posted a .917 save percentage in his 7 games of action, but it’s Aidan Pelino that has driven the recent run of success. The sophomore has started 7 of the Falcons last 8 contest, including each game of the current 6-game winning streak that has Bentley flying high. He has a .906 save percentage in 10 games played this year.
Beyond that though… the Huskies clearly outmatch the Falcons. Northeastern will take the ice tonight with the 9th-ranked offense and 7th-ranked defense in Division I play (3.44 and 2.28 goals per game respectively). Bentley, meanwhile, will matchup with the 30th-ranked offense (2.88 goals per game) and 32nd ranked defense (3 goals allowed per game). Their penalty kill is atrocious (49th nationally, 78.05%) and the underlying possession metrics look even worse (45.1% even strength Corsi For, 53rd nationally).
Regardless, this is college hockey. Crazy things happen. The stats may largely favor the Huskies, but one of the best power plays in the nation will challenge this Northeastern penalty kill (42nd nationally, 79.31%). Additionally, NU will have to be on its toes all night as the Falcons have done a decent job of spreading their point production around; 7 players have posted 10 or more points thus far, led by Schmidt, freshman forward Luke Santerno, and sophomore forward Matt Riggleman with 14 points. A couple lapses and a strong goaltending performance would be enough, which Bentley has proven it’s capable of in recent weeks.
Northeastern has to start scoring again 5-on-5, instead of relying on the power play like they have in recent weeks. They need to step up on the penalty kill. They need to take care of business, before jumping in to the conference home stretch.
Fallon: 2-2, NU 4-2
Davis: Bentley 3-1, NU 3-0
Downie: NU 3-0, NU 5-1