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Fresh ice

Photo by Jim Pierce.

First-year head coach Jim Madigan wants the Northeastern University men’s hockey team to take a page out of the playbook of the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.

The Northeastern alumnus and three-time Beanpot champ knows a thing or two about winning. “We want to put pressure on the puck and be aggressive and hard to play against,” he says.

Captain Mike McLaughlin, a 5-foot-9-inch senior forward who scored 11 goals and chipped in four assists last season, agrees with his new coach. “Our team’s greatest strength is our work ethic,” he explains. “We’re a hard-nosed team that pursues pucks and doesn’t try to complicate things.”

The team opens the regular season on Friday night, when it faces off against the University of Massachusetts at 7 p.m. at Matthews Arena.

The Huskies, who finished in sixth place in Hockey East last season, hope to improve on their middle-of-the-pack performance without their top four scorers from the 2010–2011 campaign. The quadruplet accounted for 57 of the team’s 108 goals.

Madigan says junior forwards Steve Quailer, Justin Daniels and Vinny Saponari — a transfer from Boston University — have the offensive pluck to pick up the goal-scoring slack. 

As he puts it, “We have talented players on the roster who have demonstrated the ability to produce offense, but they just haven’t done it at the same time.”

Two of the six incoming freshmen — 6-foot-2-inch, 193 pound forward Ludwig Karlsson and 6-foot-3-inch, 205 pound defenseman Josh Manson — figure to make an immediate impact from the blue line and in front of the net.

“Those two guys will contribute right away,” Madigan says, “but all six players had a solid preseason.”

Junior goalie Chris Rawlings, who had a 2.68 goals-against average, a .920 save percentage and five shutouts in 35 games last season, may have to carry the club on his 6-foot-5-inch frame.

“Rawlings has shown his ability to win big games at the end of the season like he did last year,” Madigan says.

“Having a good goalie is vital to any team, whether they can score or not,” McLaughlin adds. “You can always lose an 8-6 game.”

The red and black are scheduled to play 18 games against teams currently positioned in the top 20, including the No. 1 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. But the difficult schedule doesn’t faze the club’s coaches or players.

“The fact that top teams in the country want to play Northeastern is a reflection of where our program is,” Madigan says. “Our goal is to get better and better each week.”

McLaughlin just wants the puck to drop on the regular season. “I’m excited to see what the guys can do,” he says.

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