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Huskies off to scorching start

The men’s hockey team has high expectations for the remainder of the season, beginning with a nationally televised game on Friday night at Boston College.

Northeastern has won five of its first six games in dominant fashion, dispatching three non-conference foes by a combined score of 30-15. The team’s 5-0 mark to begin the season matched its strongest start since the 1988-89 campaign.

Northeastern’s play has caught the attention of college hockey’s cognoscenti: On Monday, the Huskies were ranked No. 19 in the USCHO.com Division 1 men’s poll of the nation’s top 20 teams.

The numbers tell the story: in six games, the Huskies have scored 30 goals, 10 of them on the power play. Three players—forwards Kevin Roy, Mike Szmatula, and Braden Pimm—rank among the nation’s top 10 scorers. Roy has the most points in the country (12), Szmatula has the most assists (10), and Pimm has the most power play goals (4).

Kevin Roy is leading the nation with 12 points in six games.

Kevin Roy is leading the nation with 12 points in six games.

Head coach Jim Madigan praised the offense following a 5-2 win over Holy Cross on Oct. 19 at Matthews Arena, a game in which the Huskies scored three power play goals. “I think we’re moving the puck pretty well on the man advantage,” he said. “We’re crashing the net really well and getting rebounds.”

The defense has been equally impressive, holding opponents to 15 goals on 185 shots. Goalies Clay Witt and Derick Roy have split the playing time, starting three games apiece. Witt has fared slightly better, posting a 2.00 goals against average and .939 save percentage to Roy’s 2.68 GAA and .907 save percentage.

Witt turned aside 39 of 42 shots in Friday night’s come-from-behind victory over St. Lawrence in the first of back-to-back games against the Saints. “He made some key saves at key times in the game,” Madigan said in the post-game press conference. “What I liked the most was that he was under control and wasn’t sliding out of position.”

While Northeastern’s strong start has captured the fans’ attention and the media’s respect, the team has also targeted areas for improvement. The Huskies have won fewer than 50 percent of their faceoffs, taken 46 minor penalties, and allowed nine power play goals, including three in Saturday’s 6-4 loss to St. Lawrence.

“We want to play hard and we want to play physical, but we have to stay on the ice and play five-on-five,” Madigan said following Saturday night’s setback. “It’s a point of emphasis, and we’ll work it out going forward.”

Next weekend’s home-and-home set with BC begins with a nationally televised game on NBC Sports Network on Friday at 8 p.m. at Conte Forum. The Huskies will then face the Eagles on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the friendly confines of Matthews Arena.