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.
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.