Hockey East Preview- Northeastern University Huskies

BY: JOSH BROWN

Head Coach – Jim Madigan (4th Season)

Last Season – 19-14-4 (HE: 10-8-2) Lost in Hockey East Quarterfinals

Losses: F Braden Pimm, F Zak Stone, F Ryan Belonger, F Cody Ferriero, F Nathan Ferriero, D Josh Manson, G Bryan Mountain

Newcomers: F Dylan Sikura, F Nolan Stevens, F Ryan Rosenthal, F Brendan Collier  D Trevor Owens, D Garret Cockerill, G Jake Theut

Despite winning an impressive, 10 more games last year, as opposed to their forgettable 2012-2013 campaign, it was another trophyless season on Huntington Avenue for the Huskies. Despite the lack of hardware, the Huskies received out-of-this-world play from now senior goaltender Clay Witt, and had a freshman class that proved to be one of, if not the best in the country.

The Huskies had one of their most offensively potent seasons in recent memory throughout the 2013-2014 run.  Northeastern finished second in Hockey East with 3.16 goals per game (2.60 goals/game in conference games only) behind breakout seasons from senior Braden Pimm (20 goals), freshman Mike Szmatula (15 goals) along with another impressive season by sophomore Hobey Baker candidate Kevin Roy (19 goals). Szmatula’s freshman classmates Dalen Hedges, John Stevens and Zach Aston-Reese were also solid contributors lighting the lamp 8, 7 and 8 times respectively in their first seasons as Huskies. Coach Madigan will be looking for these guys, along with freshman Dylan Sikura and sophomore tranfers Brendan Collier and Ryan Rosenthal to carry the load this upcoming season.

Returning in net this season will be none other than Clay Witt. Witt, who was a four time Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week winner, a Hockey East Second Team All-Star and a Hobey Baker Award Candidate finished his first full season with a 17-12-3 record, a 2.37 goals against average and a .932 save percentage, which was good for third in the nation.  The Huskies left Witt out to dry quite frequently last season, forcing him to make upwards of double the saves Northeastern was putting on the opposing goalie if they wanted a chance to stay in games. That is going to have to change this season, as the Huskies need to try and rely on consistent offensive and defensive play instead of relying just on their goalie to keep them in games.

Last year the Huskies Achilles heel was untimely penalties. Northeastern ranked first in the conference, taking just under 14 penalty minutes a game, a stat that cost them many games down the stretch run. If the Huskies can straighten their discipline out this season, Northeastern will figure to be a team who can win, or at least compete, for a trophy or two at the Garden this season.

Bottom line: Northeastern should be expected to be a top five team again this season. Although one can not expect Witt to put up the same numbers he did last season, another solid season between the pipes should be coming from the senior. Goal scoring should not be an issue for the Huskies this season. Except for the loss of Pimm (by no means a small loss), Northeastern returns the core of their offense with a year of experience under their belt. The loss of Josh Manson hurts the team defensively, but expect to see Matt Benning, Colton Saucerman, Dan Lauwers and Dustin Darou all step up and play big minutes between the lines, in what should be an exciting year of hockey at Mathews Arena.