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UConn Men’s Hockey Preview: No. 11 Northeastern

UConn is going for the season sweep against one of the best teams in the country.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey was won five straight games and its swoon to start the second half of the season seems to be a thing of the past. The Huskies are succeeding by scoring in all three phases of the game with strong goaltending from Tanner Creel while Adam Huska is out with a sprained wrist. They are currently sitting seventh in Hockey East, which would be good enough to host the first round series of the Hockey East Tournament.

Hockey East Standings

Team Games Played Record Points Points per game
Team Games Played Record Points Points per game
Boston College 19 13-6-0 26 1.37
Northeastern 19 11-5-3 25 1.32
Providence 20 10-6-4 24 1.20
Boston University 19 10-7-2 22 1.16
Maine 19 9-7-3 21 1.11
UMass Lowell 18 10-8-0 20 1.11
UConn 21 9-11-1 19 0.90
New Hampshire 18 5-9-4 14 0.78
Vermont 18 5-9-4 14 0.78
UMass 19 6-12-1 13 0.68
Merrimack 20 5-13-2 12 0.60

Last weekend, it’s possible that they caught No. 16 Boston College looking forward to the opening night of the Beanpot tournament and took a 5-3 win over the Eagles before they beat Brown in a wild affair in Providence.

Spencer Naas (8-8—16) has scored a point in five straight games and has anchored UConn’s best line alongside Benjamin Freeman and Alexander Payusov. Naas looks to continue that success when UConn heads up to Boston to play No. 11 Northeastern at Matthews Arena.

Northeastern is currently second in Hockey East and is coming into this weekend having won two of its last six games (2-3-1). The other Huskies dominated No. 18 Boston College on Monday in the Beanpot semifinals and before that stretch they were undefeated over nine games (7-0-2).

UConn and Northeastern will be completing their series that they began on Nov. 28 at the XL Center, when UConn took a 4-1 win as part of their 5-1-0 run to end the fall semster.

Northeastern and No. 9 Providence are the only Hockey East teams that would make the NCAA Tournament if the bracket were to be selected today. NU still has last year’s impressive offense, but improved goaltending has made them one of the best teams in the country.

Freshman Cayden Primeau has emerged as a difference-maker in net, allowing the sixth-fewest goals per game at 2.18. Primeau has the country’s sixth-best goals against average (1.92) and has a .925 save percentage, which is good for eighth in the nation.

Sophomore forward Adam Gaudette (20-22—42) leads the country in points and his linemate Dylan Sikura (14-24—38) is not far behind at fourth, and also fifth nationally in assists. Gaudette is one off the national pace in goals and his other linemate Nolan Stevens (18-11—29) is tied for sixth nationally, forming the only trio in the NCAA over 100 points.

Overall, Northeastern’s scoring offense (3.39 goals per game) is seventh and they have a 25.8 percent rate on the power play (sixth). UConn allows 2.77 goals per game (25th) and kills off 82.8 percent of its penalties (18th). NU’s 80 percent rate on the penalty kill is ranked 36th. UConn scores 2.71 goals per game (39th) and scores on 19.6 percent of power plays (28th).

In the series opener, Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan tried to get away with playing backup goaltender Ryan Ruck and he allowed three goals in the first period. Ruck, who has a 3.03 goals against average and .895 save percentage, has not played since.

UConn and Northeastern will drop the puck on Friday at 7 p.m. at Matthews Arena in Boston. The game will be carried on WTIC 1080 AM and NESN.