Games of the Week: Northeastern vs. Boston College (Home-and-Home)
The Eagles, currently ranked 11th in the PairWise, have yet to snap out of their midseason slide. They have lost five out of their last six games, including their last one against New Hampshire. Northeastern, meanwhile, is coming off a successful weekend abroad against Clarkson. After tying the first game 3-3 behind an incredible comeback at the end of the second period, the Huskies skated to a 3-1 win to finish out the series in Belfast. That pits a Boston College squad desperate for wins against a Northeastern team that has solidified itself as a national contender.
Special teams have really hurt BC this season, particularly over this last stretch. Right now, the Eagles’ penalty kill ranks 32nd out of 40 teams (which includes the NEWHA schools) with an 81.9% success rate. Northeastern’s ranks sixth at a 90.1% clip. Boston College actually matched up well against the Huskies’ special teams in their first game of the season, a 5-4 overtime thriller that ended in Northeastern’s favor. The Eagles went 2-for-3 on the power play and killed off four of five NU power plays. This would obviously be a great weekend to revert to those kinds of numbers.
Boston College also needs to generate higher quality chances and, quite simply, pot some more goals. BC’s overall possession has been good this season—the team’s 37.43 shots on goal per game mark ranks third, behind only Wisconsin and Minnesota—and their shots on goal differential per game is basically double Northeastern’s average (+15.38 compared to +7.21). But that hasn’t translated directly to their offensive totals, as they average 2.95 goals per game.
Besides an astounding upset to Holy Cross on Nov. 30, Northeastern is unbeaten since a 3-2 loss to Colgate on Oct. 12. The Huskies aren’t displaying sheer dominance but they’ve been efficient in putting together wins. Before the season, it was reasonable to expect regression from Northeastern after losing their top producers, McKenna Brand and Denisa Křížová. But Alina Müller has apparently decided to forego her rookie season, already playing at a level that few really can. Classmate Chloé Aurard has been quite the find as well, and forwards Kasidy Anderson and Veronika Pettey and defenders Brooke Hobson and Skylar Fontaine have all progressed very nicely this season. The Huskies are getting quality contributions from throughout the line-up as well as excellent goaltending from Aerin Frankel in her starts. Frankel started both games against Clarkson, as well as the first game against BC, so I wonder if we’ll see her get the nod in both games again this weekend.
Boston College senior Makenna Newkirk made an impact in that first game against Northeastern with two goals, but she’s gone without a point in her last three games. She is far from the only Eagle whose production has slowed, but as a strong two-way player there’s a good chance she steps up and makes an impact again in this series. BC also needs to see some improvements in goal. Freshman Maddy McArthur has not posted a save percentage above .900 in her last five games, which dates back to the start of the Eagles’ current skid.
Series to Watch
Princeton at Cornell/Colgate: The Tigers vs. the Big Red could’ve easily been Game of the Week (and in fact it is over at The Ice Garden), if Boston College wasn’t in such an intriguing position heading into a key pair of games. Princeton, despite leading the ECAC, is not in a very comfortable spot in the PairWise, so getting two wins this weekend is huge for the Tigers. They come into the weekend on a 16-game unbeaten streak, with rookie Sarah Fillier really heating up in the last few weeks and helping shift momentum when Princeton needs it. Cornell only has one loss this year, though, and Colgate is in the midst of a decent run dating back to wins over Clarkson and St. Lawrence on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. I’d expect Princeton’s power play to have a say in how these games go, but if Cornell or Colgate can slow them down in that aspect, or truly dominate at even strength, it’ll make the weekend much tougher for the Tigers.
In these three games, we’ll see several good two-way blue-liners at work. Micah Zandee-Hart and Jaime Bourbonnais are chipping in plenty for Cornell in terms of offense while logging big minutes, and Olivia Zafuto is an established presence on the ice for Colgate. Claire Thompson is quietly having an excellent junior year for Princeton; her 16 points are tied for fifth among defenders nationwide, which already matches her total from last year.
Wisconsin at Ohio State: The Badgers have a big stretch coming up, starting with this weekend’s series against Ohio State. This is the first meeting of the year between the two teams, and I expect a couple of up-tempo games. The Badgers are scoring more than four goals per game this season, but their offense will be tested by the Buckeyes’ Andrea Brändli, who’s having an outstanding rookie campaign in goal. She holds the eighth-best save percentage in the country with a .939.