Previewing a wild weekend in Northeastern sports


File photo by Riley Robinson

The DogHouse cheers on the men’s hockey team at TD Garden Feb. 11 in the final of the Beanpot.

Charlie Wolfson, editor-in-chief

Northeastern may have never had a weekend quite like this upcoming one — at least not in recent memory. Women’s hockey will host an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in its history, men’s hockey will host a Hockey East playoff series with a chance to cement an NCAA bid and men’s basketball will gear up for the NCAA Tournament and learn their first opponent Sunday afternoon.

Has there ever been this much simultaneous success, and national contention, in the history of this university? In the 1980s, men’s basketball made the NCAAs six times, going as far as the second round twice. At the same time, men’s hockey made the NCAAs twice in 1982 and 1988, losing in the semi-final to the eventual champion North Dakota in ’82. But women’s hockey didn’t have the same type of success in the ’80s.

Two Northeastern teams winning conference championships — which is the case this year, with men’s hoops winning the CAA and women’s hockey winning Hockey East — is not unprecedented. In 1982 and ’88, men’s hockey and men’s basketball won the ECAC tournament and America East tournament, respectively.

In 2019, Northeastern could see its first triple crown. Men’s hoops and women’s hockey already have conference trophies locked up. Men’s hockey hosts a 15-15-4 Maine squad this weekend for a best-of-three series, the winner of which goes to the Hockey East semi-final. And not to be forgotten, women’s basketball is in the midst of one of its best seasons ever. The team, led by all-time 3-point record holder Jess Genco, didn’t get the regular season trophy they were hoping for, but they open as the sixth seed in the CAA tournament on Thursday, and anything can happen with three tournament games in three days.

Whether March 2019 goes down as the most glorious period ever in Northeastern sports or a big disappointment, a lot will be decided this weekend. Here’s what you need to know to keep track of it all:

Thursday: Women’s basketball in the CAA tournament against UNCW, 7:30 p.m.

The sixth-seeded Huskies take on three-seed UNC Wilmington in the conference quarter-final. They haven’t won a conference title since 1999, and they’ve never won the CAA. But this is their best season since 1999, and senior guard Jess Genco might have a few more big time shots in store before it’s all said and done. The tournament is in Newark, Delaware, and if NU finds its way past UNCW, they could face Drexel, William & Mary or Charleston in the semi-final. It’s worth noting that the last time NU and UNCW faced off (Mar. 1), the Huskies battered the Seahawks, winning by 29. The semi-final will be played Friday, and the championship Saturday.

Friday: Men’s hockey hosts Maine in the Hockey East playoffs, 7 p.m.

NU enters the conference tournament in need of a couple wins to cement its status as an NCAA Tournament team. They’re the No. 3 seed in Hockey East behind UMass and Providence, and drew a first-round best-of-three series at Matthews Arena with a mediocre 15-15-4 Maine team. A series loss would put NU firmly on the bubble of the NCAA field. The Huskies have won seven of eight since a disappointing overtime loss at Connecticut during Beanpot week. They won their two games against Maine this season, both in Orono, by a combined score of 7-2.

Saturday: Women’s hockey hosts Cornell in the NCAA Tournament, 1 p.m.

The team made the tournament in 2016 and 2018, but this is the program’s first time ever hosting an NCAA tournament game at Matthews Arena. They’ve been ranked No. 3 in the country for much of the season and finished 27-5-5 as they won the Hockey East championship for the second year in a row. They own wins over top-10 ranked teams Colgate, Maine, Boston College, Clarkson and Boston University. Cornell comes in Saturday as the No. 6 team in the country, but these Huskies are battle-tested. If the Huskies prevail on Saturday, they’d face the winner of Minnesota-Princeton. On the other side of the bracket are two teams NU has already beaten this year (Clarkson and Boston College), as well as top-seeded Wisconsin, which NU beat in an upset last season.

Men’s hockey hosts Maine in the Hockey East playoffs, 7 p.m.

NU will want to keep this series from going to three games, so expect a high pace of play and some desperation to put Maine out of its misery Friday and Saturday. This team has conference championship aspirations, so it would be dispiriting to let Maine come into Matthews and draw the series out.

Sunday: Men’s hockey hosts Maine in the Hockey East playoffs if necessary, 7 p.m.

Needless to say, if the series gets this far, this is an enormous game for the Huskies. A series loss would severely damage the team’s NCAA chances. This would also be the first time Cayden Primeau had to start three games in three days, assuming coach Jim Madigan goes that route. That would be an added strain on the young goaltender, who is one of NU’s key strengths.

Men’s basketball NCAA Tournament selection show, 6 p.m. on CBS

Tune into CBS to see the 68-team bracket unveiled, which will include Northeastern for the first time since 2015 when they narrowly lost to Notre Dame in the first round. NU’s opening game could be one of the “first-four” play-in games on Tuesday or Wednesday, but will more likely be in the first round on Thursday or Friday.