Preview: New Hampshire Wildcats

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Photo via College Hockey Inc.

The Northeastern Huskies host the University of New Hampshire Wildcats tonight at Matthews Arena in what is a crucial game for NU. The Huskies enter play tonight sitting at #14 in the Pairwise. With 8 games left in the season, there is little to no room for error. Every game is important, whether it’s a Beanpot game or not.

This game in particular, to be blunt, is one Northeastern cannot drop. The track record for UNH of late is not good. The Dick Umile retirement tour bus arrives on Huntington Avenue without any wheels. A roaring 6-1-1 start saw the Wildcats getting national attention for the first time in a several years, something that was once commonplace in Durham. That all came to a crashing halt. Since that hot start, the Wildcats are 3-12-3, including 0-8-3 in their last 11 games. They’re just 4-9-3 in league play, with their only wins coming with a sweep against UMass Lowell to start the season, and then a win each against UMass and Providence back in the fall semester.

The stats are better than you’d expect, but they aren’t stellar. UNH is 6th in Hockey East in scoring (2.81 goals per game), 6th in Hockey East in defense (2.77 goals per game) and 46th in the nation in even strength Corsi For (46.6%). They’re an abysmal 17.3% (18/104) on the power play, good for just 10th in Hockey East.

In net, Daniel Tirone has a .913 save percentage on the season, despite surrendering at least 3 goals in 9 of his last 10 starts. This is tied back to UNH’s poor possession performance; they surrender, on average, 31.6 shots per game. Although Tirone has had some success, keep an eye on freshman Mike Robinson, a San Jose Sharks draft pick. He made his first career start last weekend against UConn, where he stopped 33 of 36 shots. Given where UNH sits at this point of the year, there’s a chance he gets another start this weekend.

Out in front of net, UNH has done an excellent job of spreading the offensive production around. 11 players have at least 4 goals and 10 points; 8 players have at least 5 goals. Leading the way is senior forward Michael McNicholas (5-17-22). Upperclassmen forwards Ara Nazarian and Jason Salvaggio are tied for the team lead with 7 goals, but also in that mix is freshman defenseman Max Gildon. A Florida Panthers pick, Gildon is second on the team with 19 points (7-12-19) and is in the midst of a stellar rookie campaign. Northeastern will need a consistent defensive effort, and a strong bounce back from Cayden Primeau after a rocky Providence weekend.

The one matchup truly not in Northeastern’s favor is the Wildcat penalty kill. UNH sports the best PK in the conference at 87.6%. Given NU’s issues with secondary scoring and reliance on the power play this season, this will be a key piece of the game to watch for.

The Huskies have two points sitting there for the taking, if they can produce a strong effort. Hopefully they haven’t been caught up in #BEANPOTHYPEWEEK.

Fallon: NU 4-2

Davis: NU 4-1

Downie: DNP