As much as No. 11 Northeastern is looking forward to squaring off against No. 2 Boston College in the 62d Beanpot Tournament championship game at TD Garden Monday night, there is work to be done before the team can focus on that.
The Huskies host UMass-Amherst Friday night at Matthews Arena in a Hockey East game and with only 20 league contests this season, NU can’t afford to look past the Minutemen, who have the top power play among Hockey East teams at 21.4 percent.
“You can look back in the last two or three years and they’ve always had a high percentage on the power play,’’ said NU coach Jim Madigan. “They’ve got some skilled guys — [Michael] Pereira [team-high seven power-play goals], Branden Gracel [who has six] and Steve Iacobellis [with five]. They really feed off each other. They have a lot of movement on their power play and they have skill and intelligence.’’
Among Hockey East teams, NU is the most penalized with 15.7 PIMs per game. The Huskies are ninth in penalty killing with an 82.5 percent success rate.
Madigan said for the most part, he is pleased with his team’s PK.
“Our habits can still get better,’’ said Madigan, whose squad held Harvard scoreless in seven attempts last Monday in the Beanpot semifinals. “You’re happy with that but I still think our habits can be better. We’re getting consistent habits, which allows you to be more effective on the PK.’’
The Minutemen have one win in the last four games (1-2-1) but Madigan’s team is not looking past them and ahead to Monday’s Beanpot title game against BC. NU last won the Beanpot in 1988.
“It hasn’t been a distraction,’’ said Madigan. “We celebrated it Monday and took Tuesday off to rest up a little bit. We were back at it yesterday. We’re chasing two rabbits. We’re chasing a Hockey East rabbit and then we’re going to chase the Beanpot final rabbit.
“We see how tight it is. Our kids know how important this game is. It’s a home game, we want to try to create some home-ice dominance. To where we want to get to, this is the most important game and our kids realize that.’’
NU (16-8-3, 8-5-1) is 6-2-1 in the last nine outings heading into Friday. Junior goaltender Clay Witt leads the nation in save percentage at .945. His 1.94 goals-against average is seventh nationally and he is tied for second with four shutouts.
Merrimack (7-15-3, 2-9-2) will have its work cut out when the Warriors travel to Conte Forum to take on BC (20-4-3, 12-1-1) Friday. Merrimack has not won at BC since Oct. 31, 1997. In the 27 games since, the Eagles are 24-0-3. The Warriors have won just once on the road this year (1-10-2) . . . BC has a terrific record in games in between Beanpot Mondays. The last time BC lost such a game was Feb. 9, 2001, 5-3 to Providence . . . The Eagles are unbeaten in their last 13 (12-0-1), which coincides with coach Jerry York putting together the line of left wing Johnny Gaudreau, center Bill Arnold, and right wing Kevin Hayes. The trio has combined for 73 points, 29 of them goals, and a plus-62 rating. Gaudreau enters Friday’s game against Merrimack on a 23-game point streak with 45 points and 21 goals in that span. He is 28th all time at BC with 148 points, 66 goals . . . Gaudreau and BC freshman goaltender Thatcher Demko were named the Hockey Commissioners’ Association National Division 1 Player of the Month and National Rookie of the Month, respectively. Gaudreau had 18 points in eight games in January with BC running up a 7-0-1 mark during the month. Demko was 4-0-1 with a .944 save percentage and 1.57 goals-against average . . . Maine travels to Notre Dame for a pair of games this weekend at Compton Family Ice Arena. Black Bears goaltender Martin Ouellette is the only netminder in Hockey East to have played at least 90 percent of his team’s minutes this season. He has played 1,355:07 out of a possible 1,458:27, which is 92.9 percent . . . No. 7 UMass-Lowell heads to the Mullins Center for a game against the Minutemen Saturday night. UMass goaltender Steve Mastalerz has started 15 straight games . . . Vermont will travel to New Hampshire for a pair of games at the Whittemore Center. Vermont defenseman Michael Paliotta has found his offensive groove. After scoring 15 assists in 65 career outings, Paliotta has 16 assists in 25 games this season.