In the most important weekend of the season to date, the Huskies welcome Providence to Matthews on Friday for the front end of a home-and-home series that has significant implications for the Hockey East standings and the PairWise rankings. The Huskies will travel down to Schneider Arena on Saturday.
Providence currently sits in a tie for third in Hockey East, with 20 points in 16 games. The Huskies are currently second with 23 points. However, Providence is the higher-ranked team in the ever-important PairWise rankings- the Friars are tied for ninth with Minnesota, while the Huskies are hanging onto their bubble spot at 13th.
Providence Team Performance: Overall, Providence is one of the better performing teams in the NCAA. They dominate possession, outshooting their opponents by a +159 margin for shots on goal, and +308 shot attempts overall. By comparison, Northeastern is +135 in shots on goal and only +162 differential at overall. Providence’s Corsi percentage overall is 55.6, but their even-strength Corsi is 56.2%, the 4th best figure in the nation. Northeastern’s is 52.4%, so this should be an evenly matched game in terms of time of possession, with shots leaning in favor of the Friars. Lastly, with the score close (tied or within 1 goal), Providence’s Corsi is 54.8%, with a +113 shot advantage, while NU’s is only 50.8% witha +18 shot advantage. While the score is close, the ice should tilt for PC.
Providence has the 38th-best powerplay in the nation at 17.4%, but the 6th best penalty kill, succeeding at 87.3%. That could pose to be the kryptonite for Northeastern’s potent powerplay. On faceoffs, the teams are fairly even, with PC holding a 51% success rate and Northeastern holding a 50.7% success rate.
Top Players: Providence is led by one of the top players in Hockey East, Winnipeg draft selection Erik Foley, who has 29 points (13 goals) in 24 games this year. They have three other players with 10 or more goals- captain Brian Pinho, who is known more as a playmaker rather than a scorer, Josh Wilkins (11 goals, same as Pinho), and Penguins second rounder Kasper Bjorkqvist. Add in Scott Conway and Brandon Duhaime, and Providence has arguably the best, deepest corps of forwards in Hockey East. Unlike Northeastern, they do not rely on a super line for most of their production, so it will be critical that Coach Madigan plays the right matchups with his defensive players.
The Providence defense, no longer led by Jake Walman or Anthony Florentino, is led by sophomore Jacob Bryson (1 goal, 18 assists) and freshman Ben Mirageas (7 goals, 8 assists). Both players have a big presence on the powerplay, meaning Northeastern needs to worry about all five Friars on the ice at all times.
In goal, Montreal draft pick Hayden Hawkey has had an up-and-down season, but currently sits with a 2.17 goals-against-average and a 91.5 save percentage overall. Hawkey’s consistency may not manifest every game, but his numbers are fairly consistent across the board- he has a 91.4 SV% at even strength, and 90.8% when shorthanded. When the score is close, it jumps to 92.3%. Hawkey very well can steal a weekend with his talent.
Final Thoughts: The importance of this weekend cannot be understated. A split would likely leave Northeastern in the 12-15 range in the PairWise again, treading cautiously on the bubble. A victorious sweep, and the Huskies can vault into the top 10 and into a more secure position. Getting swept would likely knock the Huskies either down to 15-16 or out of the NCAA tournament picture all together.
In addition, the Huskies, Boston College, and Providence all have the same amount of games left in the season. The Eagles have a one point lead over the Huskies for first place, and a four point lead over Providence.
Davis: Huskies win Friday 4-3, Friars win Saturday 3-2.
Downie: Huskies sweep, 4-2, 4-2.
Fallon: Huskies win 3-2 (OT), Friars win 3-1.