The Northeastern men’s hockey team is surging into the holiday break, having notched six-consecutive victories after starting the season with only one win in its first 10 games.
Head Coach Jim Madigan attributed the recent success to a renewed focus, smarter play and strong work ethic. Execution in the offensive, defensive and neutral zones of the ice has improved considerably, he said.
“Our compete level and effort continue to be there, but we’re playing with more intelligence and we’re playing a full 60 minutes,” Madigan said. “Those factors have allowed us to win those tight games that we were losing early in the season.”
The team’s victory last Saturday night at home over No. 18 UMass Lowell brought its record to .500 at 7-7-2. During its winning streak, Northeastern secured impressive road victories over nationally ranked Michigan and Notre Dame, the latter of which the Huskies beat 9-2 and 2-1 on successive nights.
“It’s a great confidence booster for the team,” Madigan said of the team’s success against top competition. “It does wonders for your hockey club when you can string a series of wins together.”
Madigan said the holiday break would give his club some much-needed rest after completing a grueling early-season schedule. He hopes the mental and physical layoff will propel the team to continue building momentum, starting with a tournament in Minnesota — the Mariucci Classic — at the end of the month. Northeastern will face Princeton in the first round on Dec. 30; the victor will face the winner of No. 2 Minnesota vs. Niagara on Dec. 31.
The Huskies will make a historic trip to Fenway Park on Jan. 14 to face Boston College in the first outdoor game in Northeastern men’s ice hockey history. The Fenway faceoff will serve as a sneak preview of the first round of the 60th annual Beanpot Tournament, when the Huskies and Eagles drop the puck at the TD Garden on Monday, Feb. 6 at 8 p.m.
However, Madigan doesn’t want the team’s recent success and the highly anticipated matchups with Hockey East rivals to cloud his squad’s focus on playing hard one game at a time.
“Our league is so competitive,” he said. “When you also factor in a non-conference schedule that matches our own conference, it’s the best competition in the country, and we’re playing it every weekend. We just need our focus to be weekend to weekend.”
Along with improved team play, Madigan said star players have sparked the team’s resurgence. Junior forward Steve Quailer, for example, has tallied 12 points over the last seven games, and Northeastern goaltender Chris Rawlings has allowed no more than two goals in each of the six consecutive victories.
Leadership among the student-athletes in the locker room has played no small part in the club’s recent success. As Madigan put it, “The senior leadership really stepped up, both on and off the ice.”