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.”