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Take 5: Why the Huskies will make history

The women’s hockey team will begin the 2014-2015 campaign on a season-long eight-game road trip, which begins Friday night at Syracuse and ends Oct. 30 at New Hampshire. Here are five reasons why the Huskies will reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.

The return of Kendall Coyne

The star forward missed the entire 2013-2014 campaign in order to play for Team USA at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, where she led the club in scoring and won a silver medal. Her return to Northeastern’s lineup should spark the offense, which averaged just 2.7 goals per game last season. And how could it not? In 65 career games for the red and black, Coyne has amassed 63 goals and 50 assists. “I think the offense is going to perform really well,” said Coyne, who was selected by her teammates to wear the “C” on her sweater, “but we could definitely work on getting more shots to the net.”

The newfound depth

The team performed admirably last season, persevering through a slew of injuries and player departures to reach the semifinal round of the Hockey East Tournament. But the Huskies’ lack of depth—exemplified by head coach Dave Flint’s inability to ice three healthy lines on a consistent basis—ultimately led to their playoff demise. His biggest problem this season might be finding space for the abundance of healthy playmakers. “We have some tough decisions to make in terms of our third, fourth, and even fifth lines,” Flint said. Noted Coyne: “We have five lines of forwards who are going to be battling to get in the lineup.”

The quartet of first-year playmakers

The 2014-2015 roster features 10 new players, including freshman forwards Taytum Clairmont, McKenna Brand, Denisa Krizova, and Shelby Herrington. All four first-year players have acquitted themselves well in the preseason, with Clairmont, Herrington, and Krizova scoring four of the Huskies’ eight exhibition goals. “We’re going to rely on them early,” Flint said, “and how quickly they acclimate will be a big factor in determining how our offense performs overall.”

Krizova helped the Czech Republic National Team win the International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship in 2014, and her offensive skills have made an especially strong impression on the coach. “Denisa possess a ton of skill and has a really high hockey IQ,” he said. “She can thread a needle with a pass but can also put the puck in the net when she needs to.”

The play of Chloe Dejardins

Northeastern’s No. 1 netminder had an especially strong season last year, posting a 2.31 goals against average and a .925 save percentage. “Chloe has been the backbone of our team for the last two seasons, and I’m expecting big things from her in her senior year,” Flint said. “She is a great leader and works extremely hard.” Her strong play is one reason why Flint thinks the Huskies have a shot to win Hockey East, despite being picked by the league’s coaches to finish third behind rivals Boston College and Boston University. “Those teams are loaded from top to bottom,” he said, “but one area in which I think we’re better than both is in goal.”

The intangibles

The team’s eight-game road trip to begin the season will test the players’ mettle. Flint told them as much in a pre-season meeting, noting that the tough schedule to begin the season will prepare them for playing games down the stretch. “Starting the season on the road is going to be a challenge for us,” he said, “but the games in February and March are going to seem easy compared to what we went through in October and November.”

Both he and Coyne cannot wait to drop the puck on the regular season. “I think we can win the league,” Flint said. “I’m expecting to make the jump into the NCAA Tournament.” Noted Coyne: “I’m excited to see what everyone is made of once it’s go time.”

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