Preview: Huskies at New Hampshire
The Huskies return to action against a New Hampshire team that enters the weekend undefeated. The Wildcats followed up an opening weekend sweep of St. Cloud State with a 4-1 win over BU in their only action of last week. The 12th ranked Wildcats have done it on both ends of the ice, scoring over 4 goal a game, but giving up just a little over 2. UNH may not have the top end talent that Northeastern has at forward, but make no mistake, this team has 3 lines that can and will score on any given night. This will be a very tough matchup for the Huskies in a building they have historically struggled in.
How to Watch: WBIN, Fox Sports Atlantic
How to Listen: WRBB
Veteran Move: Put the game on the TV. Mute it and listen to the WRBB guys.
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Five Things to Watch
1. Lake Whitt
The olympic-sized ice surface has been a problem in the past for the Huskies. Since getting back to back wins there in 2007, the Huskies have gone 0-5-1 at the Whittemore Center. The Huskies, as a team, have looked faster this year than they have in years past. Guys like Kevin Roy and Robbie Vrolyk (who scored there last season) will be able to use the open space to their advantage. Unfortunately, UNH is a pretty fast team too. Its going to be a tough night for the Northeastern defense. The important thing for them is being disciplined positionally and not chasing the puck too far wide. That has burned the Huskies too much in the past. Hopefully they have learned their lesson.
2. Rolling Deep
This is a battle of two teams that have a very deep group of forwards. Coach Madigan has talked a lot about this and often refers to the talent in his Top 9 or Top 12. UNH is very similiar. Guys like Dalton Speelman and Connor Hardowa have led the way so far, but they have really been getting scoring from 3 or 4 different lines every night. They lack a truly elite forward, but that may make it even more difficult for NU defensively. Guys like Josh Manson and Drew Ellement have seen a TON of ice time early on. The coaching staff trusts them and uses these guys against an opponent’s top lines as much as they possibly can. UNH doesn’t have that line, but really any of their lines can beat you. Giving Josh Manson 45:00 of ice time is probably off the table (but I wouldn’t rule it out entirely), so its going to fall on some other guys (Dustin Darou, Colton Saucerman) to step up and shut down a dangerous group of forwards.
3. Major Shakeup?
3 games is a small sample size. But if you think back to last year, the Huskies have struggled to score goals despite having a lot of offensive talent. Madigan may be looking to shake things up. Big time. The first line has struggled this year and the second line hasn’t been much better outside the Kevin Roy show. The best part about having depth of front is the ability to tinker. The Huskies have more than 6 guys who you could justify as Top 6 forwards. We might see at least 1 new guy getting his shot this weekend. There will be a shakeup at the bottom too. With Steve Morra injured, the 12th forward spot is up for grabs. Freshman Michael McMurtry and junior Zak Stone are the two candidates. Stone saw a lot of action last year on the 4th line, but with Morra beating him out this year, its unclear where he falls in the pecking order
4. Elite Goaltenders?
Both Chris Rawlings and Casey DeSmith have the potential to finish the year as some of the best goalies in Hockey East. But they both have to answer questions that surrounded them in the preseason in order to do so. For Rawlings, it’s all about consistency. He has done well so far this year. He has been far from perfect, but he came up big in the win over BC and didn’t let a soft goal against Merrimack stop him from finishing strong. He hasn’t played at an elite level yet this year, but he is doing enough to win games if the offense shows up. For DeSmith, the questions centered around his ability to be a #1 goalie. 3 games wont silence the doubters, but he has been up to the task so far. I’ve been very impressed the few times I’ve seen him in person and there is no question in my mind is a #1. Both of these guys will get plenty of chances to prove themselves tonight with the multitude of scorers on both benches.
5. Going for it
In Northeastern’s two wins, they played aggressively and jumped out to quick leads that were able to build on by keeping the pressure up. In their one loss, they were tentative, cautious, and so worried about making a mistake, which led to an abundance of mistakes. When you play not to loss, you almost always fail. Being on the road presents certain challenges, and going balls to the wall with reckless abandon isn’t a winning strategy either. But I think its very important that the Huskies get back to playing aggressive tonight. Getting the first goal on the road is big, especially in a building where you have struggled. Hopefully Madigan has been stressing the importance of taking smart risks and keeping the intensity up. If the Huskies can play with the same confidence and poise that they brought in their two home games, they will be fine tonight.