It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for the Huskies. After losing star sophomore forward Tyler Madden to injury, the Huskies dropped two games against first-place Boston College, including their worst loss since 1992. After losing senior Grant Jozefek to injury in the second BC game, the Huskies were swept by last-place Vermont.
The Huskies look to rebound with a home-and-home against Boston University this weekend. Both games are critical, as the Huskies — who sit in eighth place, one point ahead of New Hampshire — need to finish in the top eight to make the Hockey East Tournament.
The Friday game begins at 7 PM, the Saturday game at 4 PM. WRBB will call both games, with Matt Neiser and Adam Doucette on the Friday game and Christian Skroce and Adam Doucette on the Saturday contest. Both broadcasts will go live about 15 minutes before game time.
WRBB Sports caught up with head coach Jim Madigan and captain Ryan Shea at Northeastern’s Wednesday practice at Matthews Arena.
I saw in your postgame press conferences that you were down to ten forwards. How is Jozefek doing?
Jozefek is day-to-day and we’re hoping he can play on Friday. He skated yesterday, he skated today, he looks good. So he’s getting close. Madden’s getting close, but he probably won’t go on Friday.
How’s the morale of the team?
We’re not a fragile group. We’ve lost four in a row; we haven’t lost four in a row all season. And Vermont was an emotional game for them up there. It was their coach’s last weekend, their senior night, and they’d been playing well. We’re not looking at it as “we just lost two games to the last-place team.” They’re a good team. Every team in this league is a good team.
But I think when people see that we’ve lost four in a row and we lost to Vermont they think that it’s doom and gloom here. Certainly there are things we need to clean up and get better at, but we’ve had two real good practices here yesterday and today. We got back to some fundamentals and some basics yesterday and today and we’re excited about the opportunity to play on Friday. We still control our own destiny in terms of the playoffs. We’re a point ahead of New Hampshire for that eighth spot; we play BU here at home [which] is a very good team and is a rival for us. Expect our guys to be ready.
Was that the message this week to the team, that there’s still a lot in front of you despite the way things have gone the last couple games?
What happened the last two weekends is in the rearview mirror. [We need to] learn from those situations, but it’s all about what’s in front of us, the opportunity to make the playoffs, playing well this weekend, focus in on Friday and be ready to play BU. We’ve played well at home all season long.
And it’s BU. It’s going to be an emotional game. The last time we played them was the Beanpot. So we know they’re going to be hungry. They’re fighting for a playoff seeding more than a spot. We’re in a spot where we can not just sneak into the playoffs, but if we play well this weekend we could move up in the standings. So there’s a lot to play for.
You’ve talked a lot in the last couple of weeks about the leadership of your veteran guys at a time like this. What is it you’re expecting from them to push this team back to where it can go?
To lead. To let their actions show on the ice. Make sure that — there’s going to be adversity as there is in every game — they get us through those tougher times in a game. Be a difference maker. I thought last weekend on the back end Ryan Shea tried to be a difference maker. Matty Filipe scored a big goal for us to get us going on that second night. We can play better when we score that first goal. Last time we played BU we were down 2–0 after one and came back.
Those guys need to step up and show the way for the younger guys. Since the Lowell game they’ve been playoff-type games, so this is the biggest game of the season because it’s the second-to-last game of the regular season.
Looking ahead to BU, what have you seen from them since the last time you guys faced off, and what are some strengths and weaknesses you’re looking forward to?
Their strengths are — and we’ve seen them a couple of times on video since we played them — they’re great in transition. They’re fast, they want to play fast, they want to score off the rush. You can’t turn pucks over in the neutral zone because [Trevor] Zegras and some of their forwards are just too good in transition that way.
And they jump up into the play. [David] Farrance is leading the league [and the nation] in scoring from the defender [position]. He’s up in the play a lot. So we’ve got to manage pucks, we’ve got to play in their zone, we’ve got to get pucks below the goal line and make them defend, and forecheck as much as we can.
So what do you do as a senior right now? What are you trying to say to your teammates?
Everyone knows where we are right now. UNH is playing well — obviously they’ve got a tough opponent in BC — but my message is if we play the way we know how to play against BU — we beat them in the past and we played them well even when we lost — but we just gotta get to the playoffs because once you get to the playoffs it’s a whole new season.
Before I came in, when they won Hockey East the first time, they had to beat Notre Dame and they had to beat all these top teams and they beat UMass Lowell in the championship. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, being an underdog. I think that’s honestly a positive for us, because it’s kind of gives us a chip on our shoulder that we need right now that.
You mentioned you beat them before; that was a pretty emotional ending. Any concerns that you know they’ll be carrying into this weekend series?
Right now both teams are on losing streaks. They lost to UConn, Merrimack, and BC and we got swept the last two weekends, but they’re going to be pretty upset because of the Beanpot and especially how it ended with the power play in the OT. But that’s in the past for us. If I was in their locker room I’d be trying to take — not runs at people — but make sure you get an extra bump in or an extra slash. They don’t like us and, honestly, we don’t like them. So we I think we play two different types of styles, and I think if we stick to ours we’ll come out on the good side of it.
Are you feeling the sense of urgency from your teammates? Do they understand what they’re up against this this weekend?
Yeah for sure. Everyone was a little down after Vermont. We gave them their first two wins in Hockey East. We kind of had the look on our face like “the season’s over” and it’s not even close to being over. I know the seniors definitely don’t want to be over, and I think once some of the younger guys see like the reception we have on Senior Night and all the families coming out and how important these four years were to us, I think we’ll step up our play right away after that. There’s no better night to start then Senior Night.
In the Vermont game you came out in the third period and really tried to get people energized. How do you think your on-ice leadership will factor in Friday and Saturday against BU?
Just controlling our emotions. There’s going to be there’s going to be a lot of talking and chirping back and forth between the teams. We just got to stick to the way we play. We don’t need to worry about the refs, we don’t need to worry about their coaching, their coaching style, their top players. Every team’s got top players; it’s Division I hockey.
I think, especially on senior night, we’ve got to set an example. There’s no room for error. We’ve got to have our best game every game no matter if it’s two more games or we end up making it to the Hockey East Championship. Our seniors, older guys, and younger guys — they’re not freshmen anymore — everyone needs to have their best game. It’s like we’re playing the Beanpot championship every night. You don’t want to make that mistake that ends up costing the season.
How have you guys managed the workload and the fatigue given that you haven’t been at full strength for a little while?
That hasn’t been bad. [If] we have a hard weekend where we play a team that’s heavy and strong, we’ll have short practices, kind of more of a rehab-type week. I think they do a good job with that.
During the game, you got to kind of manage it within yourself. For me, it’s making sure you don’t take that extra-long shift that’s going to affect your next one because I might be out there the shift after. And same with a guy like Jordan Harris, and Solow, Filipe because Madden’s out and someone has to fill that extra center spot right now.
But like I said earlier, it’s a chip on your shoulder once Madden went down, everyone thought the world was over. We won a couple games and obviously we’re in a little slump right now but hopefully we have Jozefek back and Filipe’s already back, so that’s a positive.