January 17, 2014

After down year, Pimm back on point for Huskies

By Andrew Merritt

Braden Pimm, seen here during Beanpot action at TD Garden, is third among Northeastern skaters in scoring this season. (Photo by Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)

Braden Pimm knew last year wasn’t good enough.

After finishing 2011-12 as one of three players to lead Northeastern with 10 goals in his sophomore season, Pimm scored just six the following year, for a 2012-13 Husky team that finished eighth in Hockey East in offense.

It took Pimm 31 games to reach his 6-11–17 totals last season. After just 22 games this year, he’s scored 14 goals and 24 points.

What a difference a year can make.

“He’s such a good player, and we use him in so many areas,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan (Milton, Mass.) said. “His sophomore year, he had a good year, and there was still more there, and I think he knew that. He came back his junior year, knowing the expectations were higher, and maybe not getting himself [prepared] – not physically prepared, necessarily, but not mentally prepared. He didn’t have that ultimate focus and seriousness to his game.”

After the disappointing junior season, Madigan had a challenge for Pimm, and he only had to point to a familiar face to send the message. Pimm played for two years with the Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia Hockey League before coming to Northeastern. While he was there, one of his teammates was Boston native Mike Collins, now a senior at Merrimack.

While the teammates became opponents when they entered college, Pimm and Collins are linked by their ages, their junior teams, and their offensive abilities. So Madigan sat Pimm down after last year and had him look at his former teammate’s statistics.

After three years at Merrimack, Collins had amassed 41 goals and 52 assists, averaging nearly a point per game. Over that same period, Pimm had totaled 22 goals and 26 assists, roughly half as prolific as Collins.

“When I showed Braden Collins’ numbers at three years, and where his numbers were, I think he kind of realized, ‘hey, I can give more. I can be more productive in this league,’” Madigan said “He just dedicated himself right from the end of the season with our strength and conditioning and said, ‘hey, I’m going to take this more seriously.’ It’s been his focus and his seriousness that’s allowed him to get to this point.”

The rededication has certainly paid off for Pimm, who started the season with a seven-game point streak. He hit a four-game drought after that, but since going without a point on Nov. 16 against UNH, he has only been held off the scoresheet twice.

Pimm enters this weekend’s pair of home games against Vermont on a five-game point streak, during which he’s collected six goals and three assists, including the game-winning goal in the Huskies’ signature victory of the season so far, a 2-1 win in overtime over Providence. In fact, Pimm was responsible for both goals in that game, tying it with 34 seconds to go in the third period before clinching the victory 12 seconds into overtime.

“He just works hard every day, day in and day out, does the right thing on the ice, off the ice,” said sophomore Kevin Roy, who’s tied with Pimm for the team’s goal-scoring lead. “He’s really professional in what he does. On the ice he gets pucks to the net, and it’s been great playing with him.”

Pimm and Roy have played on a line together for all but two of Northeastern’s games this year, and they’ve proven to be a lethal combination with freshman John Stevens at center. That – plus some stellar goaltending from Clay Witt and another high-octane scoring line in Zack Aston-Reese, Mike Szmatula and Torin Snydeman – has the Huskies sitting four points out of first place heading into this weekend’s games, and in the No. 11 spot in the national rankings.

After an underwhelming junior year, and some inspiration from his coach and an old teammate, Braden Pimm is finishing his college career in style, and his team is reaping the benefits.

Player of the Week

Braden Pimm, sr., Northeastern

Could it be anyone else? Pimm had the two big goals against Providence last Friday, and followed it up with another two goals against UMass-Lowell in the Huskies’ 4-1 win over defending league champion UMass-Lowell at Fenway Park on Saturday.

Games of the Week

Maine at UMass-Lowell, Friday, Jan. 17

Just three points separate the Black Bears and River Hawks, but with Maine in fourth and Lowell in a tie for sixth, they’re an awfully big three points. Maine took the first meeting of the year, so this one could also have tiebreaking implications.

Hockey East power rankings

  1. Boston College (14-4-3, 8-1-1 HEA) – Friday’s 5-2 win over Providence sent a lot of messages about the state of things in Hockey East, but first and foremost is that the road to the title runs through Chestnut Hill.

  2. UMass-Lowell (14-6-1, 4-3-0 HEA) – The River Hawks looked a little sleepy at Fenway Park, and let up three goals to Northeastern before waking up. By that time, it was too late, and Lowell fell 4-1.

  3. Northeastern (13-6-3, 6-4-1 HEA) – The red-hot Huskies have beaten their last three opponents by a combined 10-5 score, including Saturday’s win over UMass-Lowell at Fenway Park, which gave them more league wins than they had in all of 2012-13.

  4. Providence (13-5-4, 6-4-1 HEA) – With Friday’s loss to Boston College, the Friars are now winless in their last four (0-3-1), including two Hockey East losses.

  5. New Hampshire (13-10-1, 5-5-0 HEA) – Since losing to Cornell in the first game of the Florida College Classic, the Wildcats are 4-0-0, outscoring their last four opponents 18-9.

  6. Vermont (11-7-3, 4-5-0 HEA)Mario Puskarich’s eight goals and 18 points are better than any UVM freshman had last year, and are second only to Northeastern’s Mike Szmatula (9-16–25) among Hockey East rookies this season.

  7. Maine (11-7-2, 5-2-1 HEA) – Not only was the 7-3 win the Black Bears posted against Boston University on Saturday at Fenway Park their third game scoring seven or more goals, but it’s the second time Maine has hung seven on the Terriers this year, after a 7-0 pummeling on Nov. 15.

  8. Notre Dame (12-8-1, 3-5-1 HEA) – The Irish picked up back-to-back wins for the first time since early November with a sweep of Alabama-Huntsville.

  9. UMass (6-15-3, 2-7-2 HEA) – The Minutemen suffered possibly their ugliest loss of the season on Tuesday, falling to an American International team that isn’t even treading water in Atlantic Hockey.

  10. Boston University (7-11-2, 2-5-1 HEA) – Saturday’s loss to Maine at Fenway was the fourth straight for BU, which is 0-5-1 over its last six, and hasn’t won a game since November.

  11. Merrimack (5-10-3, 1-5-2 HEA)Rasmus Tirronen provided a dose of optimism in the Warriors’ win over Clarkson on Saturday, bouncing back from a 16-save loss the night before to make 34 saves in a 4-0 shutout of the Golden Knights.

Twitter: @A_Merritt
Email: amerritt@hockeyjournal.com