After vanquishing a talented, upstart UMass team in consecutive games, the Northeastern Huskies return to TD Garden for the second time this year for the Hockey East Semifinals. This is the second time in three years that Northeastern has made it to the semifinals, the last time being in the midst of the magical run to the Hockey East Championship in 2016. This year, Northeastern is joined in the semifinals by Boston College, Boston University, and their opponents, Providence College.
Providence arrived at this stage of the tournament by defeating Maine in consecutive games last weekend at Schneider Arena. Both games were one-goal victories, the first a 4-3 win after falling behind 2-0 to start the game. Providence’s only lead of the game came with the game-winning goal by Josh Wilkins with just over three minutes to go in regulation. In game two, Providence blitzed out to a 3-0 by the end of the first period, but held off the Maine counterattack by limiting them to two goals in the second period and zero goals in the third.
Over the weekend, goaltender Hayden Hawkey saved 35 of the 40 shots he faced (87.5%). As a team, Providence put up an impressive 82 shots in two games, evenly split with 41 shots each game; in total, the Friars had a +42 shot differential on the weekend, something Northeastern is going to have to quell in this game if they want any chance of winning. A performance like that shapes up to be a rough night at the office for Cayden Primeau. In terms of scoring, the Friars’ seven goals were scored by seven different players, highlighting a diverse, balanced scoring attack that is led by Erik Foley (16-19-35, Hockey East First Team All-Star), Brian Pinho (12-19-31, Hockey East Third Team All-Star), Josh Wilkins (15-15-30), and defenseman Jacob Bryson (4-21-25, Hockey East First Team All-Star). The Friars’powerplay went 3-for-8 last weekend against Maine’s terrible penalty kill, while their own penalty kill struggled, killing off only one of four Maine powerplays. This was abnormal, as their PK is one of the best nationally, succeeding at an 84.9% clip, so if the Huskies can crack through that defensive unit, that would be a major factor in favor of the Hounds.
Final Thoughts: This game is without a doubt the marquee matchup of the weekend, pitting the two best teams in Hockey East, as well as the only two Hockey East teams with a guaranteed berth in the NCAA Tournament, against each other. Ideally we would have liked to see this matchup for the conference title, but the seeding did not permit that to happen. I expect this to be one of the best hockey games of either teams’ season, and might be the best game of the conference season as well. Whoever wins will be the favorite in the championship game on Saturday, and will likely wrap up a coveted 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The loser of the game will likely fall to a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, however external results may still change that. If the Huskies win, we will attempt to have a quick recap and Finals preview come through Saturday morning/afternoon.
Davis- PC wins 3-2
Downie- NU wins 4-1
Fallon- NU wins 3-2; NU gets 2 powerplay goals to be the difference