Coming off of what can only be described as a disappointing weekend where they picked up just one point and conceded 9 goals to Boston University, the Northeastern Huskies will look to right the ship this weekend during homecoming as they take on the UConn Huskies on Friday before their second meeting of three this season with Lowell on Saturday.
Lowell was already mentioned in our preview of the first matchup two weeks back, so they’re not going to have a ton of new info. Since losing to the Huskies at home, the River Hawks have narrowly beaten Bentley and split a pair of one goal contests in Orono. Freshman Sam Knoblauch continues to lead the team in both goals and points and just won Hockey East Rookie of the Week, while Tyler Wall looks like his old self, although it’s worth noting that the streaky Cristoffer Hernberg did just shut out Maine in their last game. Lowell will host UNH on Friday before heading to Matthews to cap the weekend.
— UMass Lowell Hockey (@RiverHawkHockey) November 5, 2018
The Huskies of UConn, on the other hand, are quite a different squad than the one NU last saw in February. The Huskies sit at 4-3-1 with 5 Hockey East points already under their belt. Last weekend they nearly shut out Vermont for 120 minutes of hockey, but the Catamounts scored their first goal of the series with just 12 seconds left in regulation on Saturday Night and went on to win the game. Freshman Jachym Kondelik already has 10 points in his young UConn career (all assists) and upperclassmen Alexander Payusov and Karl El-Mir have already combined for 13 goals in 8 games. Evan Wisocky is their fourth leading scorer, heavily benefitting from skating alongside Payusov and heralded freshman Ruslan Iskhakov early, but has been bumped down the lines since.
At defense, the Huskies sport an almost entirely new look, with freshmen Ryan Wheeler and Roman Kinal taking top four spots on the left side and former UNH commit Corson Green penciling into the lineup too, bumping some more familiar names like Miles Gendron and Adam Karashik down into minor roles or out of the lineup altogether. Wyatt Newpower is the leader on defense, technically a sophomore, but having played just 15 games last season he’s nearly as new as the rest. Newpower has 4 points in 8 games this season.
Finally in goal, Adam Huska is back and better than ever, with a .924 save percentage on the season and a shutout in his last appearance. Not to be outdone, freshman Tomas Vomacka is saving .944 and nearly had a shutout of his own before the aforementioned disaster in Vermont in the waning seconds. He allowed just one goal on 24 shots in his other start this season.
— UConn Men's Hockey (@UConnMHOC) November 5, 2018
Needless to say, the Huskies are coming up against hot goaltenders this weekend no matter who Lowell or UConn decide to roll with, not exactly what the doctor ordered coming off a bad offensive game against BU last Saturday. The key will, as always, be the play of Cayden Primeau along with scoring up and down the lineup. But some other things to look out for are whether or not Liam Pecararo finally makes his awaited return to the lineup for a NU team that sorely needs him (stop me if you’ve heard that one before), whether Tyler Madden returns after the disappearing act he’s put on the last couple of weeks (streakiness being a hallmark of a first semester true freshman, of course), and the play of the top pairing of Jeremy Davies and Jordan Harris. Davies has been up and down all season after blowing the doors off the building every night as a sophomore, and is still perhaps fighting the puck or some lingering injury out there, while Harris had a great start to his NU career but looked fazed by the Terriers last weekend and made some freshman mistakes (overcommitting, bad pinches, etc.) that the step up in competition took advantage of.
Meanwhile, the NU power play will look to get going after an abysmal start to the year has it sitting at 6-for-39 (15%) with four shorthanded goals against and just a +1 showing (5 goals, 4 goals against) in 5 on 4 play. The man advantage has, truthfully, shown a unique ability to combine poor puck luck, struggles to enter the zone, a lack of movement, zero screening of the goaltender, and an incredible shooting-averseness to produce results quite unbecoming of a Jerry Keefe-led powerplay unit. It’s the same basic scheme as last year, and the season is still young as players continue to adjust to their new roles on the two powerplay units. Hopefully they found something in practice this week that will generate goals, because they sorely need it. They are going up against an above-average penalty kill from Connecticut (83% success rate, 20th in the nation) and a squarely average one from Lowell (81.25%, 30th in the nation), so it will not be an easy task for the powerplay units.
1a: Fallon (4 points)- Tie on Friday 2-2; NU wins Saturday 3-2
1b: Gordon (4 points)- NU wins Friday, 3-2; Lowell wins Saturday 3-2 (Trap game)
2a: Davis (3 points)- UConn wins Friday, 3-1, NU wins Saturday 3-0 (with an empty net goal)
2b: Downie (3 points)- NU sweeps 3-1, 3-1