The Northeastern Huskies are back at Matthews Arena for the Hockey East Quarterfinals, their fifth straight year hosting home playoff action, and they take on the the #6 seed in the conference, the Maine Black Bears. The winner of the best-of-three series will play in the semifinals at TD Garden next weekend. Tickets for the weekend can be bought HERE.
Maine Lately– Since the Huskies swept Maine up in Orono in January, the Black Bears finished their season on an 8-4-2 stretch, including winning their final home game of the season in a 6-0 romping over Boston University with backup goaltender Rob McGovern in net. During that stretch, Maine scored 44 goals (3.14/game) and only gave up 34 (2.42/game), and featured strongly with wins over Providene (3-1), Boston College (7-2, 2-1, 2-1), UMass (4-3), and UNH (5-3). Only thrice did they allow more than three goals, and while the overall stats show that they are playing hot, they also had some duds of games including a 6-0 loss to UMass and a 1-0 loss to Providence.
Notably, only three of those eight wins came away from Alfond Arena, where Maine has historically dominated their competition. With this weekend being played at Matthews Arena, the home ice advantage should slant in solid favor of the Huskies despite the caravan of Maine fans that always travels well to opposing arenas.
- Mitch Fossier: 8-28-36. 27 points in 24 conference games.
- Chase Pearson: 16-13-29. The team’s top goal scorer, both at even strength and on the powerplay. Also leads the team on shots on goal (just under 3 per game).
- Brady Keeper: 6-15-21. The top defenseman on the team, also the top shot generator (just under 6 attempts per game).
- Tim Doherty: 9-8-17
- Eduards Tralmaks: 8-9-17
- Rob Michel: 3-6-9. The senior captain is a former 19 point scorer from the blue line, and is the second-best shot generator on the team. He also is one of the more physical players on the team and will not hesitate to get in the faces of Huskies that he feels slights himself or his teammates. Expect Lerario and other Huskies to become close friends with Michel.
- Jeremy Swayman: .919 save percentage, 2.82 goals-against-average in 33 games. .930 and 2.57 in 23 conference games. A Bruins draft pick who has the skills to steal games, Northeastern will need to use the same formula they used against Joe Woll and Jake Oettinger to beat Swayman- traffic in front and chaos around the net. The odds that he gets beat on straight, clean shots is very minimal, so look for a couple goals within 5-8 feet of the crease to be the game plan.
Series Thoughts– Going into the final weekend of the regular season, this was the matchup the three of us all agreed was most favorable to the Huskies. During the regular season, the Huskies out-classed Maine on their own home ice, and skated away from Orono with two wins, four points, and seven goals scored with only two given up. The Huskies also outshot Maine that weekend 70-54. In fact, Northeastern hasn’t lost a game against Maine since February 2017.
Maine plays a physical style of hockey that actually matches up well for the Huskies; they are a team that has some skill players like Pearson, Fossier, and Keeper, but the talent at forward, defense, and in goal all favors the Huskies. Maine is also a below-average possession team, with a 48.6% Corsi-For percentage overall, and that actually gets worse somehow when they are on their powerplay (15% successful, 50th in the country). To their credit, Maine does have an above average penalty kill (84.5%, T-16th nationally). And they need that penalty kill often, as their physical, in-your-face style, often coupled with some post-whistle scuffles, has made them the 14th-most penalized team in the nation. In a year where Northeastern’s powerplay is squarely average (18.3% successful, 30th in the nation), an extra time or two on the advantage could prove decisive.
This is a series that Northeastern should win, and should win handily. They are the more skilled team, without much question. However Maine still has some talent to contend with, and with revenge for January on their minds, they will be a dangerous foe for the Huskies. Do not be surprised if this goes three games. Even if it does, though, I expect Northeastern to make their second straight trip to TD Garden for the semifinals next weekend.
Fallon: NU 4-2; Maine 2-1; NU 3-1
Davis: NU sweeps, 4-2, 3-0
Downie: NU 3-1, NU 7-2
Gordon: NU 5-1, NU 3-2