Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Business as usual

This photo of Wade MacLeod brought to you by the always-attentive Melissa Wade.

Before we discuss last night's Beanpot final, let's take a look at some history:

The Eberly Award is given to the tournament's best goalie by save percentage. Of those goalies, the worst are Northeastern goalies in Demetroukalas and Burchill, both of whom have GAA's of 4.50. Thiessen has a 4.06, and the next closest is another pair of NU goalies, Robitallie and Arrington with a 3.51 and 3.50. In other words, the statistically worst goalies to win the "best goalie" award are from Northeastern.

In 1961, the Huskies gave up 7 goals in a period and lost 15-1 to BC.

Every penalty shot taken in the Beanpot has happened during the second period, and all have been goals, except the lone Northeastern attempt by Wayne Turner.

In 1973, Northeastern managed to lose 8-9 in OT.

Of the 17 shutouts in history, 10 have been against the Huskies.

57 Beanpots. Northeastern has finished last 30 times. That's a "winning" percentage of .526, good enough to win the NL West last season.

So in this historical context, last night's 5-2 loss to BU seems like a major step in the right direction.

NU dominated the first ten minutes of the game, buzzing around the BU net but failing to put more than a couple shots on goal. Naturally, the Terriers scored on a top-shelf rocket during a power play, just their fourth shot. The Huskies evened it up 1-1 on a nice goal from freshman Mike McLaughlin, Mike cleaning up a rebound courtesy of a nice Joe Vitale shot.

The second period was BU's period, and Northeastern spent too much time trying to clear the puck out of its own zone. Too many defensive zone turnovers will make a game impossible to win. The Huskies have been pretty good about avoiding shorthanded rallies by the opposing team, but this game was a notable exception. NU started the second period on the power play but gave up a SHG just seconds in. Mike Hewkin broke a stick, and while he was skating back to the bench, somebody shota puck into a BU defender who promptly took the puck up ice. The initial shot was high and wide, but neither the NU defender nor Thiessen saw the puck hit the ice off the glass and the follow-up shot caromed off the crossbar and into the net. 2-1, Terriers.

The Huskies did manage to even it up again. A long point shot hit BU netminder Kieran Millan's pad and stuck in the crease. Tyler McNeely banged it home. Any momentum from that goal was erased, though, when BU ran the same back door play that always works against the Husky defense. From here on out, it got ugly.

The third period was marred by incredibly bad penalties. One ref also got nailed in the eye by a puck following a sequence where Northeastern, trying to clear the puck, got interfered with by a linesman. In the ensuing battle behind the net, another clearance attempt got the ref in the left eye. Moral of the story: refs are terrible at being in the right place. Move.

At one point, Thiessen got run over, but the Huskies inexplicably got called for a game misconduct penalty. Jack Parker must do some truly disgusting things to get the calls he gets.

The Huskies would get one last chance with a 5 on 3 penalty, but were unable to convert, and then subsequently allowed two (!) shorthanded goals during the same power play to end the game. Whoops.

Probably the most frustrating thing last night was the number of "almosts." Wade MacLeod had three or four beautiful moves around the BU net that missed turning into goals by millimeters. Ryan Ginand just missed a Vitale cross through the crease to finish a back door goal. A McCauley slapshot deflected just wide with Millan already beaten. The first BU goal was never reviewed on the video board, but it looked bad to me. Cross bar to ice...if it hit the net I'd be shocked. The second BU goal was a quarter inch away from deflecting out or being blocked. Things like that. A game of millimeters.

Lost in the general hysteria around the Beanpot are a couple, rather important, factors. First, the Beanpot is not important. Of the Beanpot coaches, Greg Cronin is likely the first to recognize that and relay it to his players. Sure, it sucks that Vitale, Ginand, and McCauley will end their NU careers without a 'Pot, but then again, so did Fahey, Ryan, and Guerrerio.

Second, this season thus far has to be seen as a success. The Huskies are well over .500, in first place in an extremely strong Hockey East, and bear a #2/3 national ranking that is probably realistic. They finally won the opening game of the Beanpot against a team other than Harvard, skated with (by far) the best team in the country for two periods, and have set themselves up nicely for home-ice in the playoffs. Every team in Hockey East, which includes 3-year member Vermont and perennial doormat Merrimack, has had home-ice and made it to the Garden for the second round at least once. Except Northeastern. At this point, it will take a borderline catastrophic collapse to push the Huskies out of the top 4. Which isn't to say it isn't possible. But I feel as though this team isn't as susceptible to this type of failure as previous years'.

UMass is the home and home this weekend. 3 points would look awfully nice.

1 comment:

Kira said...

you should make a t-shirt with all those stats.