This weekend the Huskies welcome the Maine Black Bears to Matthews Arena for a two game slate. This will be the first time Maine has come to Matthews since Northeastern won four games in a row against them to close out their 2015-16 regular season and start their run towards the Hockey East Championship. Maine comes into this series 11-7-2, which is far better than anyone in the preseason expected of them. They sit tied for 6th in Hockey East with a 5-4-1, and have been unbeaten in their last nine games (7-0-2), which includes a sweep at Quinnipiac and a win at Boston University.
In terms of scoring, Maine’s attack is very balanced. They feature no player who is averaging a point-per-game, and are led by sophomore Mitch Fossier and freshman Eduards Tralmarks, each with 7 goals and 10 assists on the season. Tim Doherty is their third-leading scorer, with 16 points, but will miss this weekend with a shoulder injury. Maine also has gotten goals from Nolan Vesey (8) and Brendan Robbins (7), while Chase Pearson has chipped in 13 assists. On the back end, Patrick Holway leads the defensive corps in scoring (5-10-15), however junior Rob Michel has the longest track record of success. Michel may also miss this weekend with injury issues.
Maine’s resurgence this season comes largely thanks to the success of Jeremy Swayman, their freshman goaltender from Alaska. A Boston Bruins 4th round draft pick, Swayman took over from incumbent Rob McGovern early in the season and has put up incredible numbers, including an overall save percentage of .932 (.953 at even strength), and a goals-against average of 2.37. His conference-only numbers are similarly impressive- .940 save percentage and 2.00 goals-against. He will be Maine’s key to the weekend, and any hopes of them walking away with Hockey East points rests on his shoulders.
Looking at the possession numbers, Maine is inferior to Northeastern in every category. Their powerplay is clicking at 20.3 percent, an above-average performance. Their penalty kill, on the other hand, succeeds only 73.6 percent of the time, second-worst in the nation. If Northeastern can get a couple of powerplays, which should happen against the team with the sixth-most penalty minutes in the nation, the Huskies should find success against the Black Bears.
Similarly, Maine’s Corsi percentage sits at a mere 47.3 percent overall, solidly below-average in the nation and the worst in Hockey East. It elevates mildly to 48 percent when at even strength, and when the score is close (tied or within 1 goal), they sit at 47.4%. Each one of those values is below Northeastern’s meaning that the Huskies should be able to dictate the pace of play, and that possession should favor the Huskies this weekend.
As we have seen this year, however, the Huskies have had some struggles with consistency. This is a series that the Huskies have the skill to sweep, but Maine is not playing like the doormat we expected them to be in September. The Huskies will need to play sharp hockey to get pucks past Swayman, and will have to play well in front of Cayden Primeau to ward off this balanced Black Bear attack.
Davis: NU 2-1, Maine 3-1
Downie: NU sweeps, 3-1, 3-1
Fallon: NU 3-2, Maine 3-2