The Takeaway: Northeastern tops Mass.-Lowell in the battle of Hockey East’s hottest

Posted by: Jill Saftel

Boston – The Northeastern Huskies picked up their sixth straight win Saturday night, ending the hot streak of Mass. –Lowell, a team that was on a five game winning streak of their own. The 3-2 loss for the River Hawks brought them to 7-4-0 in Hockey East, 10-5-0 overall, where the Huskies have just hit .500 for the first time this season with a 7-7-2 overall record and 4-7-3 in the conference.

What I saw

Mass. –Lowell is every bit the team their standings and buzz suggest they are. Their forwards are quick to the puck and aggressive, and the talent is clearly there. The number of shots this team takes is outstanding, and it’s certainly one of the reasons they’re the nation’s tenth best offensive power right now. The River Hawks are a young team right now, but early success only means good things for them moving forward as tonight’s goals came from freshman Scott Wilson and sophomore Derek Arnold.

The goaltending in this matchup, on both sides of the ice, was fantastic. Northeastern’s Chris Rawlings is finally proving himself to be a consistent, confident force on this team. He made 38 saves tonight and his stats during the Husky six game win streak are 1.28 GAA and a .951 save percentage. The River Hawks’ Doug Carr showed why he’s the sixth best goaltender in the country, even with this loss. His GAA on the season is 1.82 with a .934 save percentage. Both Carr and Rawlings were impressive tonight when it came to knowing when to hang back and when to come out of the crease.

Northeastern still isn’t taking enough chances and shots. While they are on a hot streak, they still have work to do. The Huskies are still being outshot by their opponents and shots tonight were 40-32 in favor of the River Hawks. Some nights, like tonight, they can get away with it, but if they’re looking for long-term success capitalizing on opportunities is something the team needs to improve upon as a whole.

What I thought

Northeastern does not look like the same team I saw play against Vermont in their last matchup at Matthews Arena. The “compete level” and “intelligent play” their head coach Jim Madigan constantly references have finally found a balance. The first line of Steve Quailer, Braden Pimm and Cody Ferriero is now leading the Huskies offensively with a confidence this team just didn’t have before their big three wins on the road against Michigan and Notre Dame.

It is incredibly likely that Mass. –Lowell was fatigued. Playing back-to-back games is just a reality of competing in this league, but it’s worth noting that the River Hawks were coming off a 3-2 win against first place Boston College, no easy feat, even for a team with a five game winning streak. This loss doesn’t discredit their talent in the least, they’ll bounce back after the break and continue to compete with the likes of Hockey East’s highest ranked.

That being said, it was an incredibly foolish move on the part of Mass. –Lowell’s head coach Norm Bazin to pull Carr with four minutes still to play in the third period. It was a terribly odd coaching move and only dug his team a deeper hole when Northeastern capitalized on the empty net.

What they said

“I thought it was a hard fought game. We gave what we had left but it certainly wasn’t enough tonight.

I don’t regret that. We failed to execute on what we had drawn up and I probably had the wrong combination on the ice, but that happens. I don’t regret that decision one bit and I would take that same opportunity again if it presented itself.”

— Norm Bazin on his team’s loss and his decision to pull Carr with just under four minutes to play, which resulted in a Husky goal

“Well that’s a very good hockey club we just played. They’re well coached, they play fast, they think fast…I didn’t think we had our legs early in the game, but credit to them because they come at you. It’s not a surprise that they’re where they are in the league and overall because they’re a good hockey club.

I thought we were inconsistent a little bit throughout the course of the game and I thought our legs looked a little heavy at times. We probably could have got some more pucks to the net and I thought we gave up some shots and some quality opportunities, maybe a little too fancy here or there.”

— Jim Madigan on Mass. –Lowell and his team’s play

What they didn’t say

Madigan wasn’t quick to compliment his own team’s accomplishment. The first words he spoke in reference to Northeastern’s play were “I didn’t think we had our legs early in the game”. He didn’t bring up the six game win streak. For a team that had some early disciplinary issues, the best thing Madigan can do is keep his players grounded and grinding out each game in the second half of the season with the confidence of a team on a six game win streak but with the intensity of a team that still very much so has something to prove.

What else you should know

After tonight in Hockey East, none of the conference’s ten teams are tied in points, fifteen points separate first place BC from last place Vermont, with Mass.-Lowell coming in at fourth with 14 points and Northeastern rising to seventh with 10 points. Hockey East is the only conference without a single tie in points among its teams.

With six wins in a row, Northeastern has moved to No. 18 in the PairWise rankings, and have hit .500 overall. Mass. –Lowell  sits at tenth after their own six game win streak that ended with tonight’s loss.

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