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Historic season for men’s hockey comes to an end

02/24/18 - WORCESTER, MA. - Northeastern University battles Michigan in the 2018 NCAA Tournament Northeast Regional game held at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts on March 24, 2018. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

WORCESTER, Massachusetts — For head coach Jim Madigan, checking off the final box on his Northeastern to-do list will have to wait another year.

The annual checklist for the Huskies includes three boxes: the Beanpot championship, the Hockey East championship, and the national title. The Beanpot trophy is back on Huntington Avenue for the first time in 30 years, but a pair of one-goal losses in pivotal games kept the Huskies from completing that list.

02/24/18 – WORCESTER, MA. – Northeastern University battles Michigan in the 2018 NCAA Tournament Northeast Regional game held at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts on March 24, 2018. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Northeastern’s season came to an end with a 3-2 loss to Michigan in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday evening at the DCU Center. Despite the loss, Madigan talked about what he said to his players and what they’ve done for their university by making it to the national stage.

“After these situations, it’s not so much reflecting on tonight’s game as it is just thanking them for all their efforts and dedication and sacrifice to our university,” Madigan said. He praised the hard work that his players put in, but admitted that it wasn’t his team’s best night.

After the Wolverines took a 1-0 lead, senior Dylan Sikura got the Huskies on the board late in the second period when he finished off a gorgeous passing play with captain Nolan Stevens and sophomore Jeremy Davies. With Michigan ahead 2-1 in the third, junior Eric Williams rifled a shot from the point to tie the game. But a goal with 4:30 left put Michigan ahead 3-2 and the Huskies couldn’t muster the equalizer they needed.

02/24/18 – WORCESTER, MA. – Northeastern University battles Michigan in the 2018 NCAA Tournament Northeast Regional game held at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts on March 24, 2018. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

The Huskies’ passionate fans cheered the team on throughout the game, all the way until the final buzzer.

The loss concludes the collegiate careers of the winningest class in Northeastern history. Sikura, Stevens, Jake Theut, and Trevor Owens joined the program in 2014 with high hopes. As sophomores, they helped the Huskies to their first Hockey East title in 28 years and a national tournament bid. Northeastern showed it was relevant on the national stage.

“Through my four years, there was a lot of good players and we were able to do some things that hadn’t been done in a while,” Stevens said.

Last season, Garrett Cecere joined the Huskies as a junior after starting his career at Colorado College. He played a pivotal role in Northeastern’s return to Beanpot glory in February and was an anchor on the blueline for the Huskies for two seasons.

02/24/18 – WORCESTER, MA. – Northeastern University battles Michigan in the 2018 NCAA Tournament Northeast Regional game held at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts on March 24, 2018. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

No one was more appreciative of the dedication to the university shown by the senior class than Madigan.

“I drank the kool-aid long ago in 1981 about Northeastern,” Madigan said. “It’s all about the institution, and these gentlemen represented our institution really well for the last four years.”

The 2017-18 season has come to an end for the Northeastern Huskies, but it was a season that will be remembered at Huntington Avenue for years to come.

Though the Huskies won’t be able to check off the box they wanted to in Minnesota for the national title, Sikura and Adam Gaudette have an opportunity to achieve further personal success at the college level before moving on with their hockey careers.

02/24/18 – WORCESTER, MA. – Northeastern University battles Michigan in the 2018 NCAA Tournament Northeast Regional game held at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts on March 24, 2018. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Both are top-10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to college hockey’s most outstanding player. Gaudette’s 60 points lead the nation while Sikura’s 54 points are third nationally and his 14 power-play goals lead all scorers. Northeastern has never had a player win the Hobey Baker, but this could be the year for a Husky to take the award home.

A season featuring a Beanpot championship, a national tournament appearance, and two Hobey Baker finalists confirms that Northeastern hockey belongs among the elite in the college hockey universe.