Regular season hockey is back at Matthews Arena, and the Huskies will kick off their 2017-18 season with two games against Sacred Heart University, out of the Atlantic Hockey Association. Tickets to both games are available HERE, and we advise any former DogHouse attendee to RSVP to attend for the Saturday pregame tailgate HERE. Free food, drinks, and memorabilia for the 20th season of the DogHouse will be available at the tailgate.
SHU is coached by 1989 Northeastern alumnus C.J. Marottolo, who played JV hockey in his time at Northeastern. SHU was picked to finish 10th (out of 12) in their league’s preseason polls, and Joe Meloni of College Hockey News has said the team “has potential to be the worst team in college hockey” this season. Just judging from those two inputs, this is a weekend that Northeastern should win handily, with very little challenge posed by the Pioneers.
Last season, Sacred Heart scored only 88 goals all year (15th-lowest; 2.38 goals per game), while allowing 116 (17th-worst, 3.13 goals per game). To their credit, those numbers are better than what Massachusetts put up last season, but the other statistics for the Pioneers are similar- they had the 11th-worst powerplay last season (14.3%), but it was contrasted by a surprisingly stout penalty kill at 85.6%, tied with Providence for the 10th-best last season. Their Corsi percentages all hover around 48%, indicating that they were a below-average possession team last season.
All of these numbers will change drastically this season, however, because Sacred Heart was hit hard by graduation in terms of returning scoring. From last year’s team, they lose four of their top five scorers, three of whom were forwards. Defenseman Liam Clare is their top returning scorer, having compiled 1 goal and 21 assists last season. Their top forwards are sophomore Zach Tsekos (4 goals, 12 assists last year) and junior Stephen Hladin (9 goals, 6 assists). Sacred Heart also lost three regulars from their defensive corps, meaning they will be ripe with inexperience in their first games of the season.
In goal, both netminders return, and we would expect junior Brett Magnus to get the start Friday night. Magnus played 27 games last season, piling up a record of 10-13-4, with a .901 save percentage and 2.99 goals-against-average. He was spelled at times by sophomore Nathan Perry, who may also see action this weekend. Perry last season went 3-6-1 in ten games, with a .911 save percentage and 2.60 goals-against-average.
There really is not much more to say about Sacred Heart or any threat posed to Northeastern. If Northeastern does not sweep this weekend, it will be an utterly disappointing start to the season. We will be watching to see what line combinations Jim Madigan rolls out this weekend, and we expect (and hope) that both Ryan Ruck and Cayden Primeau will get some time to play. The expected scenario is that Ruck will start game one while Primeau takes the second game this weekend- we expect Madigan to give the season opener to the incumbent as he has the previous three seasons when there was a “goalie controversy.”
Predictions (2 points for correct outcome, -1 for incorrect, 1 extra for correct score)
Davis: Northeastern sweeps, 6-2, 5-1
Downie: Northeastern sweeps, 7-3, 3-1
Fallon: Northeastern sweeps, 5-2, 4-2.