Two teams that started the season well off the pace of their preseason expectations who are now suddenly resurgent are set to clash this weekend. Boston College Hockey will take on Northeastern in a home-and-home series, the first Hockey East matchup for BC since the series with UNH back in the first week of December, and the Eagles are in need of points. BC is 6th in the standings, sitting on 9 points; Northeastern is not far behind them with 7 points in 9th place.
If Boston College's start was disappointing, Northeastern's was catastrophic. Pegged to be a top-4 team in Hockey East and a sleeper contender to win trophies this season, the Huskies opened the season as an exaggerated version of the team that stumbled down the stretch last year, combining a punchless offense with ineffective goaltending and an inability to finish off games. NU started the season 0-8-1, almost certainly dooming any hopes they had of making the NCAA Tournament without winning Hockey East.
But as they often seem to do in the months leading up to (but not including) the Beanpot, the Huskies are surging. Since their awful start, NU is 7-2-1—and against a pretty solid schedule, too. Northeastern has knocked off Minnesota, Providence, Merrimack and Yale, all ranked teams, as part of their successful stretch.
It's no coincidence that this resurgence has timed well with Clay Witt's return to health. Witt was the #1 reason that Northeastern remained a tournament contender well into last season and after early season struggles with healthiness he has started to find his form. Between Witt and backup Derick Roy, the Huskies have combined for a .949 even strength save percentage in their last 8 games. Those are the kinds of silly numbers that allowed NU to get heavily outshot and still win a lot of games last season.
Last night was a game right out of last year's early-season Northeastern playbook as the Huskies topped Yale 3-2. Yale controlled the game for most of it, and held a seemingly-comfortable 2-0 lead late in the 2nd period. But NU's quick strike ability showed itself, with Torin Snyderman and Kevin Roy scoring two goals in 1:50 to tie the game. Yale dominated the early part of the third period, but a late power play opportunity led to a Mike McMurtry goal with just over 3 minutes to play, and NU held on for the win.
On paper, Northeastern has a dynamic set of high-end forwards that may well be the envy of every other team in the league. And yet on the ice, the results have once again been disappointing. NU is averaging just 2.42 goals per game—11th in the league, ahead of only UConn (#icebus). But in the last four games, NU has scored 8, 3, 4, and 3 goals (with a big giant caveat that the 8-spot came against UMass, against whom Alex Carpenter would probably score an Ovechtrick).
This will be, like all other games for the rest of the season, an important weekend for BC. Matthews Arena has traditionally been a tough place to play for the Eagles. BC has had more success against the Huskies at home, not losing to them in Chestnut HIll since 2007. A 3 (or even 4!) point weekend would continue BC's climb up the Pairwise rankings; perched at #19 right now, there's a tightly packed glut of teams right in front of them just waiting to be overtaken.
We'll be here to cover it all week long—it should be an interesting weekend for two teams on the rise.