Fans of the Northeastern University men’s hockey team will not have to wait until midseason to assess the team’s chances of winning the Hockey East championship.
Beginning with Merrimack on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Matthews Arena, the Huskies will play the first seven games of the season against conference foes.
Second-year head coach Jim Madigan underscored the importance of a strong start. “It will be a battle right off the bat,” he explained, adding that Hockey East teams have won four of the last five national championships. “Our short-term goal is to have a good first 10 games, and then build on that in the second half of the year.”
This season’s roster will feature nine freshmen, including a pair of brothers who grew up in Lac-Beauport, Quebec, and had successful junior hockey league careers. Goalie Derick Roy played for the South Shore Kings of the Eastern Junior Hockey League a season ago, racking up 21 wins and sporting a 2.78 goals-against average. Forward Kevin Roy was named the 2011-12 United States Hockey League Player of the Year and was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks of the National Hockey League in the fourth round.
Madigan praised all of the new players for their work ethic both on and off the ice and counted passion, competitiveness and accountability as the key traits of a successful Husky. “We try to bring in players who believe in the culture that we’re trying to create,” he said.
Madigan pointed to the power play and team defense as two areas in which the Huskies need to improve. Last season the team scored on only 14 percent of its power-play opportunities and gave up 11 shorthanded goals.
“Last year we were pressing on the blue line and gave up too many odd man rushes,” he said in reference to being scored on during the man-advantage. “Special teams play such a significant factor in winning and losing.”
Senior goaltender Chris Rawlings, who sports a 2.74 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 97 career games for the red and black, may have to carry the club on his 6-foot-5-inch frame.
“He’s a big guy and who covers a lot of the net,” Madigan said. “He’s athletic for his size.”