Ahead of this weekend’s doubleheader between BU and Northern Michigan, I did some digging to find recent video of the visitors. After all, it’s been a long time since the Terriers and Wildcats faced off – some dedicated fans may remember the 1991 Frozen Four finals when Northern Michigan took home their first D1 title in program history with an 8-7 victory over BU in triple overtime. To give you some perspective, I would not be born for another nine years after that game. Yikes.
Let’s get back to this season, shall we? After a 4-3 win against the USA U-18s, Northern Michigan opened competitive play by hosting Michigan State in a two-game set last weekend. The Spartans took game one 5-3, but the Wildcats earned a series split with a 2-0 win the next night. They will come to Boston unranked, but did garner 12 votes in the USCHO poll last week.
Based on the footage I could find from the two games online, here is my scouting report for the Wildcats. Of course, all opinions are my own.
Aggressive on Both Ends
Maybe I’m a sucker for the video highlights, but man, can these Northern Michigan guys hit. Watching just one game’s set of clips felt like I was watching a team’s “best hits” compilation from an entire season. When they’re not lighting guys up in the neutral zone or along the boards, the Wildcats are knocking bodies around in the dirty areas of the ice, flying into the corners for loose pucks and crashing the net for rebounds. They also attack in groups, often forechecking in bunches and smothering opponents with the number of oncoming skaters alone. While overcoming this aggressive tactic will be a challenge, if BU can break through that first wave of forecheckers, the Wildcats could be left undermanned in the defensive zone. Their defense likes to get in on the action as well, so swift, effective passing and skating on breakouts could set BU free when the Wildcat defensemen jump up.
By the looks of it, these Wildcats will shoot from anywhere, and the defensemen in particular are just as aggressive with their shooting as they are with their checking. Firing off slapshots from distance and putting bodies in front of the net has already proven to be a dangerous combination for Northern Michigan, who found success against Michigan State by employing this strategy. BU’s big bodies on defense will be tested by the Wildcats’ relentless net-front presence, and they will have to work hard to keep the goalmouth clean and allow clear sightlines for their goalie against those efforts from long range. At the same time, BU’s forwards will have to be quick to close down defensemen entering the attacking zone. Positioning themselves in shooting lanes will be crucial for the Terriers towards preventing Wildcat blueliners from launching 60-foot rockets until they find pay dirt.
Northern Michigan appears to have a major question mark between the pipes in the form of two underclassmen comprising their goaltending ranks for 2019-20. Sophomore Nolan Kent had a home opener to forget, allowing four goals on 20 shots – and not the prettiest shots at that. Kent didn’t look particularly strong with his post-to-post moves, and looked even less convincing when leaving his crease – on one occasion, a poor control behind the net allowed a Michigan State forechecker to steal the puck effortlessly and stuff it into the gaping net. A freshman keeper, John Hawthorne, kept a shut-out for Northern Michigan in game two, but was only tested with 15 shots. I expect we’ll see each netminder once over the two games this weekend, and if the early-season struggles continue, BU should look to exploit this point of weakness by peppering shots on goal and forcing the keeper to leave his crease often.
Those are my thoughts regarding the opponent this weekend – what are yours? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.