The Northeastern University men’s hockey team will drop the puck on the 2015-16 season on Saturday night at Matthews Arena against Colgate University. Here’s a preview of what you can expect from the Huskies, with insight from head coach Jim Madigan and assistant captain John Stevens.
Last year’s team finished the season with a 16-16-4 record and lost in the first round of the Hockey East Tournament. What are your expectations for this season?
Madigan: “We started last year 0-8-1 and then finished the regular season very well, going 16-6-3 down the stretch. But we were disappointed with how the playoffs ended, because we had come so far after a tough beginning. It’s something that we’ve learned from. This year, our expectations are to win Hockey East, win the Beanpot, and then get to national championship.”
Stevens: “Right now, we’re focused on getting off to a good start. We saw how badly getting off to a bad start can hurt you no matter how well you finish.”
The team surrendered an average of three goals per game last season, but got stingier as the season progressed. What’s your assessment of the team’s defense this season?
Madigan: “We definitely got better as last season went along, but we do need to continue to improve. In camp, we’ve placed an emphasis on defense and have worked on it every day in practice. This year, the returning players are more experienced and understand the system better. They’re committed to playing defense.”
Stevens: “We have a lot of new guys in the lineup, so we obviously won’t be perfect right away, but we’ve definitely focused on defense this year. The key to being a good team is taking care of your own end first.”
Last season’s top two scorers—Kevin Roy and Dalen Hedges—will return this season. What role do you think they will play in the success of the team’s offense?
Madigan: “Roy, Hedges, and Mike McMurty, who comprise our top line, have good hockey skills as well as good hockey intelligence. They’ll get points because they’re smart and know how to play with each other.”
On Roy, who amassed 44 points in 35 games last season: “We have a lot of offensively gifted players, including Roy, who is one of the best in the entire league. He takes the pressure off of other players, because the opposition keys in on him. Every time he’s on the ice, he’ll draw two opponents, which will open up space for other players.”
The team is welcoming seven freshman into the fold. Which of them do you think will make an immediate impact and why?
Madigan: There are several. Eric Williams, a defenseman, shoots the puck really well and gets the puck off his stick very quickly. Jason Cotton—a tall, highly skilled forward—scored a hat trick in our exhibition game against Simon Fraser. Both of these players—along with forwards Adam Gaudette, who was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks, and Lincoln Griffin, who brings grittiness to his game, will be noticed pretty quickly.
Derick Roy, Kevin Roy’s brother, is the most experienced goaltender on the roster, amassing a .908 save percentage and 2.76 goals against average in 14 games last season. How crucial will his play be to the team’s overall success?
Madigan: “Derick was the Hockey East Goaltender of the Month for January last year, and we’ll look to him to continue to play well and be the guy we count on. He’s quick, with very good reflexes. He plays with a lot of passion and energy—he’s a competitor and you want your goalie to be a competitor.”
Stevens: “Derick played well for us last year, and the fact that he’s already played in big games will help us a lot. But he’s also a really good teammate and cares about the other guys on the club.”
The team’s non-conference schedule is difficult, with several games against national championship contenders, including Minnesota, Colgate, and Quinnipiac. What challenges and opportunities will these games present?
Madigan: “Like last season, we probably have one of the nation’s most difficult non-conference schedules. But we want to play these games—they’ll help us get better so that we’re peaking at the end of the year.”
Stevens: “It’s a very tough schedule, but it’s good for us. It will give us a chance to see the different playing styles of teams in other leagues, which will help us down the line.”