Huskies Umile-ate UNH; A Look Ahead at Hockey East First Round Scenarios

Photo via @GoNUmHockey

We all knew UNH wasn’t very good in Dick Umile’s final year. While they tied Northeastern 1-1 in early February, the Huskies dominated the Wildcats and only Danny Tirone standing on his head kept the game close.  But I don’t think anybody expected what happened last weekend.

UNH got completely destroyed.

On Friday, Senior Night for the Huskies, NU went up 2-0 in the first and 4-0 in the second on the road to an 8-0 victory. Dylan Sikura and Patrick Schule each scored two goals, while Brandon Schultz, Biagio Lerario, Adam Gaudette, and Lincoln Griffin also found the back of the net. Austin Goldstein, Brandon Hawkins, Zach Solow, Nolan Stevens, Gaudette, Lerario, Sikura and Schule all posted multi-point games in a team victory for the Huskies from the top of the lineup to the bottom. All three UNH goaltenders got into the action, as Danny Tirone allowed 3 goals in 31 minutes, Mike Robinson allowed 5 more in just 20 minutes of action, and Joe Lazzaro played the last 8 minutes of the third. For Northeastern, Cayden Primeau made all 29 saves on the night, but did not record a shutout as Senior Jake Theut played the final eight minutes in relief on Senior Night.


Saturday started much the same, as Stevens and Jeremy Davies posted the Huskies to a 2-0 lead in the first and Gaudette added a goal 46 seconds into the second, sending Tirone to the bench yet again. The Huskies lost focus a bit after that, posting just 10 shots for the remainder of the night before Hawkins hit the empty net in the waning moments for a 4-0 win and a 12-0 weekend sweep. Some fans threw jerseys and Dick Umile shirts onto the ice as time expired on the UNH head coach’s final game at the Whittemore Center. Primeau was the MVP of this game, making 34 saves for the shutout win and posting a perfect 63 of 63 saves on the weekend. He gets overshadowed by the high-scoring Husky first line, but Primeau is on pace to set the school records in save percentage and GAA and led Hockey East in both of those categories as NU posted the #1 scoring defense in the conference. He came in with big expectations and has somehow been miles and miles better than anyone expected, getting better on a weekly basis.

With UNH in the rear view mirror, for the first time in four years, the Northeastern Huskies have a bye in the first round of the Hockey East tournament. For the first time in nine, they’ll be hosting a Hockey East quarterfinal series as the number 2 seed in the tournament. Northeastern currently sits at 11th in the Pairwise (first in the conference) and look to be in the NCAA tournament so long as they don’t get swept at home in the quarters. It’s been a good year.

In the first round this weekend, #11 UNH will travel to #6 Maine, #10 Merrimack visits #7 Lowell, and #9 Vermont visits #8 UMass in a trio of matchups that are surprisingly regional and frankly, as good as Hockey East could have possibly asked for. Only UNH and Maine are a true rivalry, but those matchups are much better than, say, having UNH face UConn, which was one goal away from happening on Saturday. We also know that #5 UConn will visit #4 BU in the second round.

Warning: I’m going to be doing some math now.

The better seeds are all fairly significant favorites in those first round matchups, with roughly a 60% chance of winning each game as measured by KRACH (thanks to CHN’s Mike McMahon for that). We’re going to round all of the odds to exactly 60% for the sake of simplicity. A 60% chance of winning each game gives the higher seeds about a 65% chance of winning the series overall. (The higher seed has a 60% chance of winning each game and has to win twice in three games, which resolves to 3*(0.6^3), or a 64.8% chance the higher seed wins the series.) The chances that all three higher seeds win is therefore .648^3 or 27%. So basically, there’s a 73% chance somebody will get upset. That’s why they play the games, folks.

From an NU perspective, the results of the first round games could mean a few things for the second round.

If both Maine and Lowell win, NU will face Lowell.

If both Maine and Lowell lose, NU will face Merrimack.

If one of Maine or Lowell loses, NU will face the UMass/Vermont winner.

We can calculate the odds of these things!

(Note: the opposite of the 64.8% chance of the higher seed winning is the 35.2% chance of the lower seed winning, which is where .352 comes from.)

NU has a .648^2 = 42% chance of facing Lowell.

NU has a .352^2 = 12.4% chance of facing Merrimack.

NU has a .648*.352*2 = 45.6% chance of facing Vermont/UMass.

Splitting the last odds based on UMass having a 60% chance of winning, we have

NU has a .456*.6 = 27.4% chance of playing UMass.

NU has a .456*.4 = 18.2% chance of playing Vermont.


So now that I’m done confusing you, what does this mean?

The #2 seed NU has the best chance of playing #7 seed Lowell, which should be a surprise to nobody, since 2 vs. 7 would be the natural matchup in an 8-team tournament. That happens about 42% of the time.

The UMass/Vermont matchup is probably the matchup to watch if you have nothing else to do this weekend, because although there’s a lower chance of facing either team individually, there’s a 45.6% chance that NU will face whoever wins that series, better than their chances of facing Lowell. And let’s be honest, it’ll probably be better hockey than paying to see Lowell run Merrimack over. (Yes, I’m aware that if we’re being technical, there’s a 54% chance NU faces the Lowell/Merrimack winner, just go with it.)

The UNH/Maine matchup is probably the most intriguing one because of the rivalry, and while it will affect who NU plays, NU cannot play either team next round. So watch it if you want to see a Dick Umile team lose in the postseason one final, sad time.

So that’s it. Have fun with your bye week, and for the love of god, please don’t buy the overpriced Hockey East streaming package no matter how much you want hockey. They don’t deserve your money for their terrible and overpriced postseason production.