NU Women’s Hockey Tops Preseason Poll, Men Finish Fifth

By Jack Sinclair and Christian Skroce

For the second year running, the Northeastern women’s hockey team was unanimously selected to win Hockey East in a poll of conference head coaches.

The Huskies ended last season on a resounding high note, smashing UConn in the Hockey East Championship after running away with the regular-season title. The Huskies apparently decided that wasn’t good enough and brought back everyone but three graduating seniors. With former Providence forward and all-conference second teamer Maureen Murphy hopping on, the poll result was a foregone conclusion.

The Huskies are serious title contenders and are poised to become a dynasty. The only first-place vote the Huskies didn’t get was their own, since the poll rules forced head coach Dave Flint to vote for another team.

He chose Boston University, which finished a distant second and is shaping up to be Northeastern’s likeliest challenger this season. The squads will face off on January 15 and 16.

Providence, the only Hockey East team that beat the Huskies last season, placed fifth in the poll, while Chestnut Hill rival Boston College joined NU and BU in the top three. Coming in a resounding last place was Holy Cross, which seems unlikely to improve much from last year’s dismal season.

The men’s preseason poll showed a more muddled conference. Northeastern nabbed the fifth spot, joining Boston College, UMass Amherst, Providence, and UMass Lowell in a clear top five.

BC grabbed eight of 11 first-place votes, unsurprising given that they rank second in the nation. UMass Amherst received two first-place votes and look to be BC’s primary competitor. The final first-place vote went to No. 11 UMass Lowell, which has gotten national attention heading into the season.

Northeastern placed fifth, not far behind Lowell. The Huskies enter the season with several key losses, including captain defensemen Ryan Shea and electric scorer Tyler Madden. However, Northeastern boasts a top five recruiting class (top 10 for the second straight year) that includes NHL second-round pick Sam Colangelo and other lauded recruits.

Read: Goal-angelo: The Story of Northeastern’s Newest NHL Draft Pick

While the talent is there on paper, Northeastern’s overall inexperience likely kept it from the poll’s top four. The group is primarily freshmen and sophomores who may have a difficult time adapting and developing during a strange season

Despite this inexperience, the group’s potential cannot be understated, which is likely what put Northeastern slightly above their cross-town rivals in the poll. The final weekend of the year against Boston University (March 5 and 6) could be Northeastern’s most important, as it will assuredly have a large impact on playoff seeding.

Most coaches perceive a clear bottom three, as there was a significant gap between eighth-place New Hampshire and ninth-place Maine. Merrimack and Vermont come in at the final two spots of the poll, with the Catamounts receiving every last-place vote.

Both the men’s and women’s teams begin their season on Friday, November 27. The men’s team will head to Lowell for the first of two against the Riverhawks, while the women’s team will host Providence.

Hockey East Announces 2020–21 Conference Schedule

By Jack Sinclair

After several tantalizing hints on their Twitter, the moment has finally arrived. The Hockey East Association revealed its schedule for the 2020–21 season.

Both the men’s and women’s leagues will begin on November 20, though the Northeastern women will begin November 27 and the men on November 28. The formatting of the league will be different from past years, with a double round robin format ensuring 20 conference games for the men and 18 for the women. The schedule is designed to accommodate home-and-home series, save for Vermont and Maine, who will play both games at the same venue.

As a contingency plan should any conference games be cancelled, each team is penciled in to play six “flex” games, which will not count toward their conference record unless a prior conference game is canceled. These games can be adjusted to maintain a competitively balanced schedule for each squad.

Unlike the basketball teams, the men’s and women’s hockey teams will not be playing the same opponent at the opposite venue. Hockey East says this was avoided to reduce “instances where multiple campus populations come into close contact,” over the course of each weekend. 

Because of the reduced season length, the Huskies’ series will take place over two days instead of the usual three. This will certainly change the way some players see ice time and how coaches choose their lineups. The reduced resting time between games is the same for all the teams, so no program is disadvantaged. The men’s team will play 13 home games and 13 away games, while the women will only play in Matthews Arena 11 times and on other rinks 13 times.

Aside from the flex games — which are technically non-conference —neither Northeastern team has scheduled out-of-conference games. There has been no official word on the Beanpot, though the difficulty of getting Harvard  The Beanpot is still being planned out and is listed as TBD.

Northeastern women’s hockey head coach Dave Flint said he and his players and staff are excited to have a schedule, though he acknowledged the season would be irregular. His squad is looking forward to their first game of the season, a November 27 tilt against a Providence team that beat them last year. The Friars were one of the few squads that did.

Though NU’s games — and presumably most in the conference — will be played without fans in attendance for a while, it still feels great to have hockey back.

Northeastern Men’s Basketball Places Seventh in Preseason Poll

By Milton Posner

Almost eight months to the day after Northeastern and Hofstra battled it out in the CAA Championship game, the conference released the results of its preseason poll.

For the second straight year, the Pride took the top spot. The Huskies, who underperformed their third-place projection last year before hitting their stride in the conference tournament, placed seventh. The point totals are shown below, with first-place votes in parentheses.

Hofstra will look to defend its regular season and CAA Tournament crowns in a league where several perennial contenders have lost multiple all-conference caliber players. The Pride lost First Teamer Desure Buie and Second Teamer Eli Pemberton to graduation, and will rely on seniors Isaac Kante, Jalen Ray, and Tareq Coburn to key their run.

Northeastern finished sixth last year, due largely to a stretch of one- and two-point losses in January. The Huskies are looking to Tyson Walker and Shaquille Walters to overcome the graduation of CAA leading scorer Jordan Roland and versatile glue guy Bolden Brace.

James Madison senior guard Matt Lewis was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Northeastern’s Tyson Walker joined defending Rookie of the Year Hunter McIntosh as sophomore Second Team selections.

A few other observations:

  • Four teams — Hofstra, Delaware, Drexel, and Towson — got at least four first-place votes. Even in a league noted for parity, this is striking.
  • Two transfers made preseason teams: Payton Willis (comes to Charleston from Minnesota) and Zane Martin, who returns to Towson after transferring from there two years ago.
  • Of the 16 players who earned preseason honors, 13 are pure guards. The CAA’s elite is usually guard-heavy, but the loss of elite big men Nathan Knight and Andy Van Vliet exacerbates that imbalance even more.
  • After a seventh-place finish in last year’s poll, William & Mary rode Knight and Van Vliet to a second-place finish. With those two gone, the Tribe dropped to last place in this year’s poll, and it wasn’t particularly close. Head Coach Dane Fischer has some questions to answer.
  • By far the largest point gap in the poll is that between seventh-place Northeastern and eighth-place UNCW, indicating a sentiment that there is a clear bottom tier. The teams in that tier — UNCW, James Madison, and William & Mary — have been ravaged by graduations, transfers, or both. James Madison and UNCW both have freshman coaches, while W&M Dane Fischer is entering his second season after winning Coach of the Year last year.

And finally . . .

Northeastern will kick off its season at the Paradise Jam Tournament in Washington, DC, on Thursday, November 26 at 2 PM Eastern. Milton Posner and Jack Sinclair will have the call for WRBB, with coverage beginning at 15 minutes before tip-off.

Northeastern Basketball Schedules Announced

By Milton Posner

The Colonial Athletic Association announced its 2020–21 schedules for men’s and women’s basketball on Wednesday morning.

Teams will play 18 conference games across January and February, same as usual. But to limit travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, teams will play back-to-back games on Saturdays and Sundays against the same opponent in the same venue. If Northeastern’s men’s team faces a school at home on a given weekend, the women face that same school on the road.

Credit: Northeastern Athletics

The only exceptions are games against a school’s travel partner (closest neighbor), which will take place as a traditional home-and-home on Thursdays and Saturdays. This ensures that teams will play the same number of road games as home games. Northeastern’s travel partner is Hofstra.

The schedule innovations mean that roughly half of games will be played on the second night of a back-to-back, something CAA schools usually do only for tournaments.

“It’s certainly going to be a challenge to play two games in 48 hours with travel and everything else,” Northeastern men’s basketball head coach Bill Coen observed. “It’s going to be new for everybody. So it’s not going to be an advantage for one team or another. But we’ll have to be mindful and thoughtful about how we construct our practices and at least once a week have two really intense practices back-to-back to build up some capacity and some understanding of what that’s going to feel like. I think that that’s going to be the single biggest adjustment for us in the preseason.”

Coen’s team has not commenced live practices yet, and has tried to adhere to pandemic protocols for the ones that happen. Coaches and players wear masks and distance from one another, plus there is a limit on the number of people allowed in the gym.

“As we . . . get into some live play, we want to [gradually accelerate] our activity,” Coen explained. “We don’t want to jump all into it because you got guys who didn’t go through our normal summer strength and conditioning program. Some guys had access to gyms, other guys were pretty limited on what they could do . . . We don’t want to go too quickly before we’re ready physically to compete and bang bodies.”

Game times, broadcast schedules, and tie-breaking formats have yet to be announced, and games can be made up if the pandemic forces delays.

According to the NCAA, schools can begin play as early as November 25. Northeastern has not finalized its non-conference slate, although it has  committed to a tournament in Washington, D.C., with George Mason, Howard, and UMBC.

Said Coen of the non-conference slate: “We have a very young team, and we’re searching for some games where we can have some learning opportunities and play differing styles and get some preparation against the press, get some preparation against a zone team, play different levels and different types of coaching styles. I think those are really great teachers, and give us the experience and tape that we need to move forward before we get into CAA play.” He added that where the Huskies play will depend on the rate of new COVID-19 cases in opponents’ states.

Goal-angelo: The Story of Northeastern’s Newest NHL Draft Pick

By Milton Posner and Christian Skroce

On Wednesday afternoon, the Anaheim Ducks nabbed Sam Colangelo with the 36th pick in the NHL Entry Draft, making him the highest Northeastern selection since Jamie Oleksiak in 2011. He was also the first Hockey East player selected this year and the first college player off the board in the second round.

It was, he says, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. But Anaheim can wait for now. Colangelo, who grew up about 25 minutes from Matthews Arena, has some local hockey left to play first. 

***

Sam Colangelo’s ties to Northeastern don’t end with his nearby upbringing in Stoneham, MA. They don’t end with his reunion with high school teammate Neil Shea, or with high school and USHL teammate Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, or with summer skating partner Aidan McDonough. The roots run even deeper; he’s skated with Jayden Struble, Jordan Harris, and Riley Hughes since they were all five or six years old.

He had an actual relationship with Northeastern early on, too. It was the first college he visited, back at the age of 14.

“I was still in middle school and I didn’t even know where I was going to high school yet, so it was pretty crazy,” Colangelo told WRBB. “I love being in a city. Obviously Northeastern is a great school as well. So it was kind of a no-brainer for me. I kind of fell in love with the school right away.”

Northeastern Associate Head Coach Jerry Keefe, who spearheads the team’s recruiting, told us the feeling was mutual.

“I’ve known Sam since he was about 11 years old . . . and he was just a little guy back then,” Keefe recalls. “When he was a 14, 15-year-old he started to pop hard. He was always a good skater, but then all of a sudden, the pop in his legs came. He started to become a more powerful skater. He was always really smart, and then he started to play the game faster.”

“Coach Keefe was straightforward with me on what I needed to work on,” Colangelo remembers. “He believed in me from the start and I always trusted him from the start. He’s a great guy and a great offensive style coach, and that’s my game . . . I just thought [the coaches] knew my game better than anyone else.”

Colangelo was also attracted by the experiences of former Huskies — including Adam Gaudette and Dylan Sikura — who the Huskies developed into NHL-quality talents. But there was yet another draw for the local kid: a little hockey tournament in early February, one he attended every year growing up.

“When you’re a young kid and you commit to a Beanpot school, everyone talks about ‘Oh, you’re gonna play in the Beanpot!’” Colangelo says with a grin. “That was when I was 15; I’m almost 19 now, and realizing I’m going to be playing in TD Garden hopefully pretty soon is a cool thing to think about. Going to it every year growing up, I was always dreaming about playing in it.”

After sharing a line with Neil Shea at Lawrence Academy, Colangelo and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine hopped to the Chicago Steel of the USHL. Colangelo tied for third in the league in points and goals, and the team was on pace to break numerous league records en route to a championship. But COVID-19 didn’t care, and the season shut down in mid-March, leaving Colangelo to shift his focus to the NHL draft earlier than he’d anticipated.

“I was able to meet with some teams in person, but I was supposed to go to the NHL combine when you do all the interviews with the GMs and stuff like that, which would have been a cool experience,” he tells us. “I ended up having to do it basically the same way I’m doing this right now: sitting in front of my computer.”

But even if Zoom calls dulled the pre-draft experience, it couldn’t dull the emotion when the moment finally came.

“I’m an only child,” he says. “And [my parents] invested so much in me and I’m excited to see how happy they are. I definitely wouldn’t be here without them.”

***

Sam Colangelo is one of the most promising players Northeastern has seen in years. Though he’ll likely still be 18 years old when the season kicks off, the 6’2”, 208-pound forward will be one of the strongest players in Hockey East.

“He’s a big, powerful guy with skill,” Keefe observes. “So he’ll end up being a power forward with a great stick that has great vision.” Keefe also noted his goal scoring and all-around offensive game, saying “we’re expecting big things from him right away.”

Colangelo cited his hockey IQ and shot as strengths, and mentioned that he’s worked hard to boost his speed over the last few years. But his biggest strength might be his elite vision and playmaking; he excels at being in the right place at the right time, and consistently creates offensive opportunities for teammates. But he acknowledged that he’d like to improve his first three steps and, though he’s a stronger defender now, he wants to be the sort of player his coaches can trust in all three zones.

“I’m definitely a hockey junkie,” he says. “I love the game and I’ll do whatever it takes to get to the next level.”

Keefe cited Colangelo’s down-low game as a key area to improve, noting its importance for NHL-caliber forwards. But he’s already psyched about the offensive possibilities Colangelo can help the Huskies unlock.

“We want to work hard to get the puck back, but when we do get it back, we want to go to work offensively,” he explains. “Any time we can get someone with really good hockey sense and hockey IQ offensively, it really does fit into the style we want to play. And he skates really well for a big guy. We want to play fast in transition and he fits that mold.”

When asked about his favorite current NHL player comparisons, Colangelo mentioned several offensive power forwards, including Charlie Coyle, Kasperi Kapanen, and Mark Scheifele, but noted that the list doesn’t stop there: “I could probably sit here and name 10 to 15 guys that I’ve watched all their shifts from the season. In Chicago, we’ve watched film every single day. And there are a lot of guys I like to just take bits and pieces from their games and keep that in mind.” 

Colangelo sees himself as a true all-around player, which has often been echoed in profiles from NHL experts and draft analysts. One cited Colangelo’s “bulldozing strength and near pathological need to shoot the puck” with accurate, powerful snapshots and wristers. Another lauded his strength, which gives him not only scoring range and accuracy, but makes him powerful enough to hold off defenders, throw checks, snag loose pucks, and muscle into corners, the slot, and the crease. They acknowledged, as does he, that his speed and acceleration are improving but remain a work in progress, especially given his professional potential. He also excels at clogging passing lanes, creating zone exits, stifling opponents on the penalty kill, distributing to teammates, picking corners from distance and bad angles, and securing the puck while handling.

For a Huskies team that lost leading scorer Tyler Madden to the pros this offseason — plus two of their top point men to graduation — the offensive boost is a must-have.

***

For the next few days, Colangelo and teammate Jayden Struble will be in Michigan for the US National Junior Team Evaluation Camp, which is used to gauge players for next year’s National Junior Team. If Colangelo can make it, he’ll follow in the footsteps of his friend Jordan Harris, as well as former Huskies Tyler Madden and Cayden Primeau.

“My birthday is December 26, and that’s when the World Juniors start every year,” he says. “Since I was a little kid, I’d always wake up the day after Christmas, it would be my birthday, and I got to watch World Juniors. That was my favorite tournament to watch growing up.

“If I have a chance to make that team, I’m gonna go there and work my hardest and hopefully have a chance. To go with Jayden is awesome as well. I know we both worked hard for this. And we’re both super excited to get there.”

But for now, Colangelo is, in many respects, just like any other Northeastern freshman, taking classes online and limiting in-person socializing due to COVID-19 safety protocols. Though his first puck drop at Matthews Arena likely won’t arrive until late November, his eyes are trained on the prizes already.

“We have the same three goals every year,” he states bluntly. “Beanpot, Hockey East, national championship. If you don’t win all three of those there’s definitely some stuff left on the table.”

And as for moving from the USHL to Hockey East, where he’ll face players up to six years older than him?

“I’m a pretty confident kid and I think my game will adjust well,” he offers. “I’m not really the type of kid who gets nervous. I get excited and let the adrenaline take over.”

NCAA D1 Council Approves Nov. 25 Start Date for Basketball

By Milton Posner

The NCAA’s Division I Council voted Wednesday to kick off the men’s and women’s college basketball seasons the day before Thanksgiving.

According to Associate Athletic Director Scott MacDonald, Northeastern will finalize its schedules after the NCAA Board of Directors approves the council’s proposal on September 22. The Colonial Athletic Association, which houses both Northeastern basketball squads, is continuing to evaluate what its season will look like.

The council seems to be counting on the timing of the start to help ensure safety. By November 25, roughly three-quarters of Division I schools will have either concluded their fall terms or will have moved instruction online. Northeastern concludes fall classes on December 2 and finals week on December 11.

However, if cases spike between now and November, the start date could be pushed back. The council did not offer regulations on COVID-related game-day protocols or testing, although Matt Norlander of CBS cited “speculation from stakeholders” that Division I sports will have access to more affordable testing by the time the season begins. Northeastern, which already has a large testing operation and a low positive test rate in a low-risk state, has a decent shot at remaining healthy.

Because the season is starting 15 days later than originally planned, the NCAA reduced the maximum number of games teams can schedule. Men’s basketball teams can play 24 regular season games and one multi-team event of up to three games, or 25 regular season games and a multi-team even of two games. Women’s basketball teams can play 23 regular-season games and a four-game event, or 25 regular season games and no event. To meet sponsorship requirements and be considered for NCAA championship selection, teams must play 13 games against Division I opponents and should play at least four non-conference games.

There will be a transition period from September 21 to October 13, in which teams can schedule up to 12 combined hours a week of strength and conditioning, sport-related meetings, and skill instruction, though skill instruction cannot take up more than eight of the 12 hours. Players must also have two days off per week.

Teams can begin full practices on October 14, six weeks before the season commences. They can conduct a maximum of 30 practices. Players can work out for up to 20 hours per week, though they cannot work out for more than four hours per day and must have one off day per week. Teams cannot play exhibitions or closed scrimmages before November 25, and though they can request to play games before then, the NCAA oversight committees have indicated they are unlikely to grant waivers.

Although the council did not make a long-term decision on recruiting, the dead period — during which coaches cannot visit recruits in person — has been extended to January 1.

Northeastern’s women’s basketball team went 13–16 (9–9 CAA) last year and secured the fifth seed in the CAA Tournament, which was canceled due to the pandemic. The men’s team went 17–16 (9–9 CAA), secured the sixth seed in the conference tournament, and defeated No. 3 Towson and No. 7 Elon before falling to No. 1 Hofstra in the final.

Hockey East Announces Intention to Play 2020–21 Season

By Milton Posner

Hockey East announced Wednesday that it intends to play a league season with all member schools participating, though it acknowledged the need for real-time scheduling changes in light of pandemic developments. The news was first reported by Jimmy Connelly.

The priority will be completing the league season, although teams can play other games if they can schedule them. The conference also intends to hold its annual tournament as usual, with eight teams playing across two weekends. Per Connelly, play is likely to begin in mid-to-late November or later, and will include as many as 30 league games.

For Northeastern, the biggest non-conference question is whether the 69th Annual Beanpot Tournament — typically the highlight of the season and by far the biggest draw among the student body — will be played in February, as it has been every year since 1955. If the Hockey East season is in full swing by then, the tournament stands an excellent chance of being played. But apart from shifts in the state of the pandemic, the wild card could be Harvard, which — unlike Northeastern, Boston University, and Boston College — does not play in Hockey East and has already suspended all sports until January 1.

On July 17, Northeastern announced the suspension of fall sports, encompassing soccer volleyball, field hockey, and cross country, with the hope that those sports could commence in the spring. Teams can practice in the meantime in accordance with Northeastern, NCAA, and public guidelines.

The conference said that schedule details, including competition specifics and a start date, will be released later. It acknowledged the need to develop multiple balanced schedule models for both men and women to accommodate interruptions. Exactly whether or when those interruptions might occur is anyone’s guess, though it’s worth noting that Massachusetts, where seven of the 11 Hockey East schools are located, has seen the rate of new cases rise and fall in recent weeks, though it has generally trended lower.

The league cited its geography as an asset in creating flexible competition schedules while mitigating non-essential travel. Per Connelly, this entails limiting travel to day trips to prevent overnight hotel stays. Only teams travelling to Orono, Maine and Burlington, Vermont — as well as the Maine and Vermont teams anytime they travel — will stay overnight.

The conference did not specify whether fans will be permitted to attend games, though the experiences of professional sports league around the globe indicate that the games will likely to closed to spectators. Hockey East’s professed commitment to athlete safety — whether through workout and resocialization protocols or an NCAA-guideline-compliant return to play — also makes fan presence unlikely.

Northeastern’s men’s and women’s hockey squads both have success to build on from last season. The men went 18–13–3 (11–12–1 HEA), and though they faltered somewhat down the stretch, they provided the year’s most electric moment when Jordan Harris sniped home a double-overtime goal to seal the Huskies’ third-straight Beanpot championship.

The women (32–4–2, 24–3–0 HEAW) also won a Beanpot title on a double-overtime goal, but it ultimately amounted to just one special moment in a campaign chock full of outright dominance. Behind the offensive powerhouse of Alina Mueller and Chloe Aurard — plus the scintillating goalkeeping of Aerin Frankel — the Huskies seldom stumbled, frequently handing out lopsided clobberings and going more than a month between losses. They will return all but three players from a team that breezed to its third-straight Hockey East Championship, spent much of the season ranked third in the nation and, poised for a serious run at a national championship before the season shut down.

Northeastern Suspends Varsity Fall Sports

By Milton Posner

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages nationwide, Northeastern University announced on Friday afternoon that it is suspending fall sports.

The decision includes soccer, volleyball, field hockey, and cross country, with an emphasis on trying to play those sports in the spring. A decision on basketball, ice hockey, swimming, and track and field — which are considered winter sports — will be made later. Spring sports (baseball and rowing), which usually play out-of-season games in the fall, will not do so this year.

The school cited the need to ensure the health and safety of athletes and the campus community at large. Northeastern is holding in-person classes this fall and has announced evolving procedures — including housing and class changes to encourage distancing — aimed at preventing the virus from spreading on campus.

Northeastern’s statement acknowledged similar decisions by fellow Colonial Athletic Association schools and by other conferences. The CAA, which comprises ten schools spanning eight states from Massachusetts to South Carolina, suspended its football season, but left decisions on other sports up to its member institutions, acknowledging the schools’ need to rely on different local and state guidance.

Six CAA schools — Northeastern, Hofstra, Delaware, William & Mary, Towson, and Drexel — suspended fall sports. UNCW and Charleston will compete, while Elon and James Madison are monitoring conditions and have yet to make final decisions.

The decisions come a day after the NCAA asserted that pandemic conditions must improve before fall sports happen. The NCAA also released guidelines, including testing strategies, daily self-health checks, the use of face coverings, and physical distancing during and outside of athletics. Decisions on competition vary by conference, though two nearby conferences, the Atlantic 10 and Patriot League, have suspended fall sports.

Northeastern will honor all athletic scholarships for the 2020–21 academic year, and teams will work out during the fall in accordance with Northeastern, NCAA, and public health guidelines.

Thank You

By Milton Posner

Today was supposed to be Commencement Day. Northeastern’s graduating class would have filed into their seats on the floor of TD Garden, then strolled onto the stage, shaken hands with the school’s infinitely memeable president, and received their diplomas as their families celebrated their years of hard work.

But with an ongoing pandemic it is foolish to gather in groups of 20, let alone 20,000. In light of the graduation cancellation and the station’s inability to say a proper goodbye, I want to acknowledge two WRBB Sports graduating seniors for what they’ve contributed to Northeastern and what they’ve meant to me.

Michael Petillo (right) was our sports director this year, the culmination of a four-year journey. At my first WRBB show, I was struck by his analysis. He weighed in on every topic so clearly and cleanly you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d written and revised his takes beforehand.

The year after, we did our first game together after a schedule juggle left us both in South Carolina for the Charleston Classic. I was just beginning to broadcast Northeastern basketball regularly, and I looked to Mike for an example of how to call the action and pace the broadcast. Again, he seldom stumbled.

But it was this past season I’ll remember most, the season when Mike took over the sports director job that had, the previous year, provided ample responsibility for two people. Leadership of our station relies not just on sports knowledge and broadcasting skill, but on the personality and positive attitude to attract new broadcasters and make them feel valued. Mike made it look easy.

If Mike was the tip of the spear, Matt Neiser was the Swiss army knife.

Neez (right) did everything for this station — hockey and basketball, broadcasting and writing, even photography when the mood struck him. He was a constant resource for new broadcasters, the first to inform us of breaking Northeastern sports news, and somehow found time to direct our finances this year.

My first real broadcasting experience with Neez was the Wilmington–Charleston trip last year. When a piece of faulty equipment left us without our usual setup in a deafening arena, we took turns shouting our play calls into our earbuds, then made frantic rounds the next day to electronics stores in both Carolinas desperately seeking a replacement. Thank god we found one.

Of the games I called with Neez, my favorite was the men’s basketball game against Holy Cross in November. The Crusaders weren’t a great squad and the Huskies had lost two in a row, so we weren’t expecting much.

But the Huskies decided they just weren’t in the mood to miss shots that night. Their 101–44 win, the largest in program history, was sealed well before halftime. Neez and I couldn’t stop yelling, laughing, celebrating the sheer ridiculousness of what we were seeing. On the commuter rail back to Boston, he helped me write a game story that still brings me fond memories of the evening when the Huskies demolished a decades-old record.

Anyone who heard Neez call a game would never think to question his passion. For anyone who hasn’t heard him, his goodbye thread is ample proof (click here for the whole thing).

The most obvious Husky sports casualty of the pandemic cancellations was the women’s hockey team. Fresh off a commanding win in the Hockey East Championship and with just one loss in the previous two months, they were poised for a serious run at a national championship. They deserved that chance. Same goes for Neez, who deserved his chance to don his headphones one more time and call his first NCAA Tournament game.

Boys, you deserve to be on that graduation stage at TD Garden, the home of your beloved Celtics. You deserve as many high-leverage tournament games as a coronavirus-free world would have thrown at you. And you deserve an in-person sendoff from your broadcast partners, the ones you supported and elevated and welcomed into the fold. But this will have to do for now. When the pandemic passes and the sports resume on Huntington Avenue, the rest of us will do our best to follow your example and do a job you’d be proud of.

We are better broadcasters for having worked with you. We are better friends for having known you. And we are grateful for the years you gave us.

Boursiquot, Murphy, Franklin to Leave Northeastern

By Milton Posner

Not one week after a surprising, inspiring, rejuvenating run to the CAA Championship game, Northeastern men’s basketball found itself in trouble.

Compounding the losses of CAA leading scorer Jordan Roland and versatile four-year starter Bolden Brace to graduation, three players — Max Boursiquot, Tomas Murphy, and Myles Franklin — announced their intent to transfer from the program.

Franklin logged decent minutes in non-conference play this year, but saw his workload wither as the season progressed. Though he showed flashes of a stabilizing, disciplined presence at the point, many of his better offensive performances came in games where the outcome was no longer in doubt. After sitting on the bench for two years behind All-CAA First Teamer Vasa Pusica, then watching freshman Tyson Walker start over him all season, Franklin probably figured his playing team wouldn’t increase next year. As a grad transfer, he’ll be eligible to play this fall.

Murphy was supposed to see a larger role this season, as the graduation of bruising big man Anthony Green left shoes to fill in the paint. But after playing just four games, Murphy injured his ankle in a mid-November practice. Though the team was initially hopeful he’d return before too long, he’d played his last game in a Husky uniform.

The four-star recruit averaged seven points and three rebounds per game across two full seasons, with excellent shooting efficiency and a burgeoning perimeter shot to boot. Husky fans will never get to see what higher usage would have done to his offensive footprint.

Murphy will head north to the University of Vermont. Because he played only four games this season, it will count as an redshirt year, meaning he has two years of eligibility remaining and can suit up this fall.

But by far the biggest loss of the three was Boursiquot.

As Murphy’s absence stretched from mid-November into conference play, Boursiquot took center stage. His offensive contributions — nine points and five rebounds per game — were solid, and his versatility on that end helped to keep the offense moving.

But his defense was otherworldly. Though he stood just 6’5” and weighed 211 pounds, he started most games at center, routinely frustrating taller, bigger players. He was as strong, pound-for-pound, as any player in the conference, and he used his low center of gravity to dislodge the conference’s skyscrapers and force them into areas where they were less comfortable.

The Husky defense allowed the fewest points of any CAA team, and Boursiquot was the versatile engine. His speed, quickness, and agility allowed him to bottle up guards on the perimeter, then battle big men in the post without missing a beat. In two matchups with eventual CAA Player of the Year and likely NBA draft pick Nathan Knight, Boursiquot held his own for long stretches and earned high praise from Knight. His active hands were a constant presence in passing lanes, forcing live-ball turnovers the Huskies converted into transition buckets.

He was arguably the most valuable defensive player in the conference. That Knight won CAA Defensive Player of the Year is unsurprising; award voters are more likely to evaluate defense through basic stats like rebounds, blocks, and steals, and Boursiquot was somewhat underwhelming on paper. But his effort, strength, intensity, spatial awareness, and basketball intelligence made him a sight to behold, and his exclusion from the All-Defensive Team was a horrific snub.

His finest hour came in the CAA Tournament earlier this month. With Roland struggling to find his shooting touch, Boursiquot picked up the offensive load, averaging 13 points on 58 percent shooting to go along with seven rebounds. This in addition to guarding Towson’s formidable frontcourt, red-hot forward Federico Poser of Elon, and human-tank hybrid Isaac Kante of Hofstra.

Because he redshirted last year after a hip injury, Boursiquot will be a grad transfer, eligible to play this fall wherever he goes.

Though the loss of Franklin will likely prove negligible for head coach Bill Coen’s rotation, Boursiquot and Murphy were the two best returning forwards. Notre Dame midseason transfer Chris Doherty will likely provide a boost when he becomes eligible to play, but it will be up to 6’9” junior Greg Eboigbodin to anchor the defense until then.

The versatility of Shaquille Walters, who assumed some point guard duties in the last few weeks of the season, is suddenly paramount. So is the scoring punch of Tyson Walker, whose nine shot attempts per game this season pale in comparison to what he’ll likely post next year.

But the solution can’t be as simple as those two turning into stars. Besides Walker and Walters, no returning Husky averaged more than four points per game. For Northeastern to fill the shoes of their two graduates and three transfers, everyone will need to step up.