March 3 in Hockey East: Final Night of the Regular Season, Standings, and Playoff Match-Ups

by Joshua Kummins

at Boston College 4, Vermont 0
Four different BC skaters registered a goal and junior Parker Milner stopped all 26 shots he faced as the Eagles captured their league-best 11th Hockey East regular season title at Kelley Rink. Freshman Destry Straight scored a goal and an assist in BC’s 11th victory in a row, dating back to a 7-4 loss at Maine on Jan. 21.

at UMass-Lowell 4, Providence 2
Sophomore Joseph Pendenza scored two goals and an assist as the River Hawks locked down second place for just the fourth time ever, defeating Providence at Tsongas Center. Ironically, these two teams will open the quarterfinals on Thursday night as the Friars were locked into the seventh seed with a loss and UMass’ loss to Merrimack.

at Maine 1, New Hampshire 0
With its second win of the season against the archrival Wildcats, Maine captured the fourth and final home-ice spot for next weekend’s quarterfinals with an afternoon shutout at Alfond Arena. Sophomore Dan Sullivan recorded his second shutout of the season, while Brice O’Connor scored his second goal of the season which turned out to be the game-winner. The win was the 20th of the season for the Black Bears, who also improved to 15-10-2 in conference play.

at Merrimack 5, Massachusetts 3
Four third-period goals proved to be the dagger as the Warriors rallied to split the weekend series with the Minutemen at Lawler Arena. Trailing 2-1 after two periods, Merrimack exploded for three unanswered goals in a 5:54 span, as led by senior Ryan Flanigan’s goal and an assist.

at Northeastern 5, Boston University 4 (OT)
BU transfer and now-Northeastern junior Vinny Saponari scored the overtime winner as the ninth-place Huskies played spoilers to the Terriers’ hopes of the regular season title at Matthews Arena. Read the full game report (complete with quotes and video) here.

STANDINGS

PLAYOFF MATCH-UPS
(8) Massachusetts at (1) Boston College — UMass won season series, 2-1-0.
(7) Providence at (2) UMass-Lowell — UML won season series, 2-1-0.
(6) New Hampshire at (3) Boston University — BU swept season series, 3-0-0.
(5) Merrimack at (4) Maine — Merrimack won season series, 2-0-1.

Stay tuned this week for Hockey East quarterfinal playoff series previews and more post-season coverage.

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VCU wreaks “HAVOC” on Northeastern to make it to CAA Tournament semifinals

17 points and five rebounds from Junior captain Joel Smith (above) wasn't enough for Northeastern against defending Final Four Team VCU in the CAA Tournament Quarterfinals.

by Joseph Kuykendall

Playing in front of 11, 200 fans where at least a solid 95% of the fans are rooting against you is no easy task for any team. The 6th or maybe even 7th man advantage helped Virginia Commonwealth (26-6) walk away with a 75-65 win against the Northeastern Huskies (14-17) despite playing with a “never give up” attitude down the stretch.

“I thought it was a good team win, our guys really turned it on their in the second half there,” said VCU head coach Shaka Smart postgame

As fans started piling into Richmond Coliseum to be the first ones to ever witness a sold-out CAA Tournament Quarterfinal, it was apparent that NU fans would be greatly outnumbered.

Early on both teams were having trouble scoring and the VCU defense was giving the Northeastern offense a fit-and-a-half. Despite effectiveness on the defensive end, the Rams couldn’t seem to find the bottom of the basket much either resulting in a low-scoring 4-0 lead for VCU at the first media timeout.

Northeastern finally made some shots but VCU started making them more consistently too. Thus, the Rams jumped out to a 14-5 lead just over seven minutes into the game. But it wouldn’t be college basketball without a comeback from Northeastern. And to close the first half…it was a college basketball game.

The tables seemed to turn a little later in the first half as Northeastern started to force VCU into bad shots and wouldn’t let them get close to the rim. “Northeastern, give them a lot of credit, they really, I think defensively, got us on our heels at the end of the first half,” said Smart of the NU defense that held VCU scoreless over the last 6:15 of the first half.

The 6th ranked defense in the CAA helped NU close the half on a 21-12 run after VCU’s early 14-5 lead. If you do the math, that means both teams were knotted at 26 at the break.

For NU, it seemed like a win at the half although they were just tied with twenty minutes still to play. Many expected them to get blown out of the waters, but to be tied with the Rams and have some momentum heading into the locker rooms was a plus for the Huskies.

And that was probably the last bright spot for NU the rest of the night. The way VCU opened up the second half, was almost as though Smart threw his team in a big bottle of champagne, shook it up, and then popped the cork right before his team started playing again.

The VCU press, also known as “HAVOC”, went completely bonkers and threw Northeastern off like no other. “HAVOC” was, without argument, the difference maker in the game. The Rams ability to cause turnover after turnover allowed the Rams to quickly jump back out to an eight point lead just three minutes into the half.

In the end, VCU caused 25 Northeastern turnovers, a season-high for the Huskies at the wrong time. Also, VCU who leads the nation with 10.6 steals per game picked the Huskies’ pockets 14 times Saturday night. NU Head Coach Bill Coen, rightfully so, was upset with how his team handled the press, “Traditionally we’ve had some pretty good success [against the VCU press]. I thought we were very casual a couple times when we could’ve pushed the ball up the floor and fronted the ball. We didn’t, we chose to dribble it…they are a great pursuit team.”

Eventually the Rams would build a lead as large as 21 points with 7:24 to play. The offensive spurt was also a product of the “HAVOC”, “In the second half, I give our guys credit. Our style of play really allowed us to get going and attack and get some open shots,” said Smart who will be coaching in his third CAA Tournament semifinal in as many seasons at the helm of the Rams.

Showing they weren’t quite ready to go home, the Huskies made a mild comeback that saw them get as close as eight points with just over a minute to play. The comeback was too little, too late but showed a lot of resiliency in the Huskies. Coen stated his pleasures with his team, “I was proud of our effort and our character today and I think that character’s going to serve us well in our preparation going forward.”

One reason NU was able to get back into the game late was VCU’s inability to knock down its free throws. They shot a dismal 45.2% from the line and Smart simply said, “We’ll be better with [free throws on Sunday].”

With the win, the Rams get to take on rival George Mason in the semifinals on Sunday who knocked off Georgia State in a thriller on Saturday night.

With the loss, NU’s season comes to a close with a lot to look forward to next season as they graduate just one senior and return all five starters. To close the book on NU’s season I’ll leave you with a great quote from Coen that sums up the game Saturday night, he couldn’t have put it any better, “I was proud of our effort [and] disappointed in the results.”

Kuykendall will be covering the entire CAA Tournament from Richmond, Virginia. He can be followed on Twitter @JoeKBSU18 for game updates and more. He can also be contacted @JoeKBSU18

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Northeastern 5, Boston University 4 (OT): Saponari Scores Bittersweet OT Goal; Huskies Down Archrivals

by Joshua Kummins

BOSTON –Following Friday’s 5-2 loss to No. 4 Boston University at Agganis Arena, Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said his team needed to play with “pride” in the series finale on Saturday night at Matthews Arena and is was clear that the troops surely listened to that comment.

Despite having its playoff hopes dashed with the loss, NU showed no quit as it posted a 5-4 victory for its second overtime victory of the season which salvaged the season series finale from the Terriers after two losses, including one at home in January.

Press Conferences: BU | Northeastern

“I was really pleased with how my guys battled and competed,” said Madigan. “It is a tough game to play, even though our season is over for a playoff spot…”

“The guys came in and battled because it meant something to them…The game was up-and-down. There were a lot of penalties, they came back and I just liked our resiliency and our determination.”

At 2:35 of the overtime, junior Justin Daniels fed Vinny Saponari with a drop pass to set him up for a backhand shot that clinched the season finale for the Huskies.

“It’s always fun playing BU, especially for me,” Saponari, a BU junior transfer student. “A lot of good friends out there. [BU senior goaltender] Grant Rollheiser was one of my roommates, so it was pretty fun to score a goal against him…It feels good because we wanted to go out with a win.”

The Huskies jumped on top at the 6:15 mark of the first period as sophomore Braden Pimm re-directed classmate Anthony Bitetto’s shot low past Rollheiser.

At the 18:39 mark of the stanza, the Terriers tied the score when junior Sean Escobedo fired a high wrist shot over the left shoulder of NU sophomore Clay Witt. The New York native took a pass from captain Chris Connolly and slipped the puck into the back of the net as Witt hugged against the left post to no avail.

The Terriers out-shot the Huskies by a 14-10 margin in the opening stanza and it seemed as if the teams saved all the offense for the second period, which saw four goals combined for the teams.

BU took a 2-1 lead just 25 seconds into the middle stanza as Connolly re-directed a point shot from sophomore Adam Clendening. Northeastern responded right back at 2:16 as junior Alex Tuckerman picked the puck off the draw and beat Rollheiser high glove-side to make it a 2-2 tie game.

At 3:43, junior Drew Ellement trickled a low shot through traffic and past Rollheiser as he took advantage of junior Steve Quailer’s forced turnover on the left wing boards.

The Terriers tied the score with a power-play goal at the 6:02 mark as sophomore Garrett Noonan slid the puck past a trailing Witt to conclude a great puck-moving sequence that started at the points before sliding down low.

Northeastern took the lead back with a power-play goal at 18:06 as junior Drew Daniels slid the puck to classmate Garrett Vermeersch for a high wrister from between the circles.

The only goal of the third period came at 3:14 as Noonan spun off a defenseman and beat Witt on a low shot through traffic to tie the score at 4-4.

The Huskies rallied around the solid performance of Witt, who made 36 saves to earn his only win of the season in the end. The Brandon, Fla. native made 13 stops each in the first two periods. Rollheiser finished the contest with 33 saves, including 14 in the second period.

Overall, the Terriers handily out-chanced Northeastern, 78-57 in the contest, which included a 40-38 shots on goal advantage.

“I thought we had some chances to win the game,” said BU head coach Jack Parker said. “We had more than enough chances to control the course of this game and we let them back in it too many times. I don’t think we were as thorough as we needed to be for the second night in a row.”

“I give Northeastern an awful lot of credit…They are out of the playoffs, their season is over and they just kept battling right to the end.”

BU will return to the ice next Friday night at Agganis Arena as it takes on sixth-seeded New Hampshire in the opening game of the Hockey East quarterfinals. The Terriers swept the Wildcats 3-0 in the regular-season series.

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Northeastern vs. Va. Commonwealth Preview (CAA Tournament Quarterfinals)

 

 

 

 

 

NORTHEASTERN:   Game Notes |   Radio |   Twitter

VA COMMON:            Game Notes |   Radio |   Twitter

TV:   ESPN3

by Joseph Kuykendall

RICHMOND, Virginia — With Friday night’s win over William & Mary, the Northeastern Huskies (14-16, 9-9) are in familiar territory. Since joining the CAA seven years ago, NU has made the Quarterfinals of the CAA Tournament six times, twice via byes, and four times via first round wins. The only time they were not in the quarterfinals was last season when they lost their first round game against Delaware 60-58.

The Huskies will be the underdog not just in terms of the seeding (NU-7, VCU-2) but also in terms on fan support for their saturday night date with Virginia Commonwealth (25-6, 15-3). VCU’s campus and home basketball court is just right down the street from the Richmond Coliseum. Because of this and VCU’s Final Four excitement last season, the session in which NU and VCU are playing in was sold out on Friday Night. It marks the first time in CAA Tournament history that one of the quarterfinal sessions was sold out. Northeastern and VCU have never met in the CAA Tournament.

Northeastern had beaten VCU at least once for three straight seasons dating to last season but lost in their only matchup this year. Therefore over the past four seasons, NU is 4-2 against the Rams. All-time, VCU holds the slim edge in the matchup with a 7-6 record.

In the only matchup of the two teams this season, the Rams narrowly beat the Huskies 59-56 just a short walk down the street at the Siegel Center.

In that game, despite trailing at the half 31-25, the Huskies scored ten points over the game’s final minute and ten seconds. This comeback still wasn’t enough as the Rams dropped the Huskies to 11-12 overall and 7-6 in the league at that point on February 4th. In that game, Demetrius Pollard of NU set career-highs in minutes (14), points (six), and rebounds (three). Although they lost, NU had three players in double-figures in that game compared to VCU having only two. Captain Jonathan Lee led all scorers with 16 points.

The winner of this quarterfinal matchup will take on the George Mason/Georgia State winner who play after the Huskies and Rams on Saturday Night.

Kuykendall will be covering the whole CAA Basketball Tournament in Richmond, Virginia. For game updates and more, he can be followed on Twitter @JoeKBSU18 and can also be contacted at [email protected]

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March 2 in Hockey East: UMass, UML Clinch Crucial Spots; BC Secures Share of Regular Season Crown

UMass skated past Merrimack at home on Friday and clinched the final playoff spot for next week's quarterfinals (Photo/Walter Rossini).

by Joshua Kummins

AMHERST, Mass. — With Northeastern’s loss to Boston University at Agganis Arena, it was up to the UMass Minutemen to control their way to the final playoff spot in Hockey East on Friday night. Goals from seniors Danny Hobbs and T.J. Syner helped propel the Minutemen to a 5-1 victory over Merrimack at the Mullins Center, locking down the eighth and final seed.

Syner scored his 12th of the season and added an assist for his eighth multi-point game of the year, while Hobbs’ goal extended a point streak to four straight games. Senior classmate Kevin Moore appeared in his second-career game, playing the final 1:35 in net.

Merrimack finally broke through at 1:23 of the third as sophomore Shawn Bates scored his first goal in 17 games. Freshman Kevin Boyle made 25 saves in his eighth win of the season for UMass, while senior Joe Cannata stopped 19 for the Warriors.

With UMass-Lowell winning Friday, Merrimack and Maine will play in the Hockey East quarterfinals for a second-straight year. Despite a 2-5-2 mark since Feb. 3, the Warriors can still clinch home ice in the playoffs with a win and a Maine tie or loss against New Hampshire today at 4 p.m.

Merrimack and UMass will close the regular season on Saturday night, facing off at Lawler Arena. The Mass Attack will look to avenge a pair of road losses at Merrimack last year, including an 11-2 defeat from Feb. 5, 2011.

at Boston College 5, Vermont 1
Senior Barry Almeida scored two goals, including one of the highlight reel variety (see 2:26), and junior Parker Milner made 29 saves as the Eagles clinched a share of the Hockey East regular season crown with their tenth straight victory in the series opener with Vermont at Kelley Rink. Sophomore H.T. Lenz’s goal at 17:31 of the first snapped Milner’s shutout streak at 157:49, dating back to Feb. 18 in a win at Merrimack. Senior Rob Madore stopped 22 shots in the losing effort for UVM, which will look to salvage the series finale Saturday night.

UMass-Lowell 5, at Providence 1
Junior Riley Wetmore scored twice, four other players contributed multiple points, and sophomore Doug Carr stopped 23 shots as the River Hawks clinched home-ice advantage in the quarterfinals for the first time in ten seasons with Friday’s win at Schneider Arena. UML, which hosts Providence on Saturday, has not hosted a first-round playoff series since defeating Northeastern as the fourth seed in 2002. Senior Alex Beaudry made 12 saves in the first stanza and classmate Justin Gates finished the game with 20 saves, while freshman Ross Mauermann scored PC’s lone goal at 8:10 of the second.

at Boston University 5, Northeastern 2
Four goals in the second period proved to be the difference as the host Terriers ousted rival Northeastern from playoff contention with a Senior Night win at Agganis Arena. See the full game report (complete with quotes and audio) below.

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