Hockey East Preview – Northeastern Huskies

By: Ryan Fallon

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Head Coach – Jim Madigan, 5th season

Last season – 16-16-4 (11-11-2 in Hockey East, 6th); lost in 1st round of conference playoffs to Merrimack

Losses – F Gus Harms, F Adam Reid, F Torin Snydeman, F Mike Szmatula, D Mike Gunn, D Dax Lauwers, G Clay Witt

Newcomers: F Jason Cotton , F Adam Gaudette, F Lincoln Griffin, F Sam Kurker, F Patrick Schule, D Jon Barry, D Eric Williams, G Ryan Ruck

For 21 games in the middle of last season, Northeastern played like one of the best teams in the nation. With a potent offense, the second-best power play in the conference, and two goaltenders on their game, the Huskies posted a 15-3-3 record. Outside of that stretch, though, the team was plagued with inconsistent scoring, a dreadful penalty kill, and mediocre goaltending.  Northeastern grabbed just 1 win in these other 15 games and saw its season come to an early end.

On paper, it’s tough to argue that the Huskies haven’t lost a significant amount of talent this summer. They graduated two of their top forwards, their best defenseman, and their starting goaltender. On top of that, Mike Szmatula, the team’s best offensive threat not named Kevin Roy, decided to leave the program and transfer to Minnesota. There are some big shoes to fill.

Despite all of this, there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful on St. Botolph Street. Kevin Roy is back for his senior season, a Hobey hopeful who leads all returning NCAA players in career points (124). The offense will also lean heavily on returning juniors Dalen Hedges and Zach Aston-Reese. Hedges posted the sixth-most points in Hockey East play last year (24 points; 34 overall) while Aston-Reese found his groove as a net-front presence at the end of last season, with 10 goals in his last 11 games. Northeastern will also look for continued improvement from Chicago Blackhawks draft pick Dylan Sikura, who struggled for most of his freshman campaign but rebounded to score 4 times in his last 7 games. Among the incoming forwards, Sam Kurker is expected to step in and contribute immediately. Kurker posted 24 goals and 49 points last year in the USHL. With two Hockey East seasons under his belt from across the Fens at Boston University, Kurker will bring valuable experience. Look for freshman Adam Gaudette to chip in as well, a fifth round pick of the Vancouver Canucks who posted 30 points in the USHL last season.

On the back end, the Huskies return a veteran defensive corps with room to grow. Matt Benning made significant strides in his defensive game during his sophomore season, while also racking up 24 assists. Dustin Darou is back, after emerging as one of the team’s better defensemen last winter. Colton Saucerman, a fellow senior and key piece of the power play, will join him. Northeastern will rely on continued improvement from sophomores Garrett Cockerill and Trevor Owens, but freshmen Jon Barry and Eric Williams will provide needed support. Williams, in particular, will be someone to keep an eye on; he was named the top defenseman in the Canadian Junior Hockey League a year ago.

In net, Derick Roy has the leg up after posting an impressive 0.922 save percentage in 7 games after the winter break. Madigan won’t hesitate to play the best goalie, though, with incoming recruit Ryan Ruck expected to challenge Roy and Jake Theut for time. Ruck posted a .903 save percentage last season in the USHL.

Bottom Line: With Kevin Roy and solid depth at forward, the offense should be a strength for Northeastern. If Matt Benning shows continued improvement and the freshmen can contribute, the blue line will hold its own. As usual, the team’s fate will likely be decided with goaltending. If the Huskies can find quality play between the pipes, they will find themselves on home ice come playoff time – and potentially make a push for a first round bye.

 

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