The men’s hockey team enters the NCAA tournament this weekend focused, hungry, and determined to make a national championship run.
But as senior captain Nolan Stevens said, achieving that goal requires a narrow focus, starting with Northeastern’s first-round matchup against Michigan.
“We’ve just got to win a hockey game. At the end of the day, that’s all we’re worried about,” he said. “Obviously our goal is to win the national championship, but you can only do that one game at a time.”
The No. 3 seed Huskies will face the No. 2 seed Wolverines on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in Worcester, Massachusetts, in the Northeast Regional. The game will air on ESPNews. The winners of that game and the other regional matchup between Cornell University and Boston University will meet on Sunday afternoon, with a trip to the Frozen Four at stake.
The team departed for Worcester on Thursday afternoon, as the Northeastern community cheered them on at a send-off party outside Matthews Arena. Northeastern will hold a watch party for the Michigan game in the Curry Student Center at 4:30 on Saturday.
The Huskies last made the NCAA tournament in 2016. The team said earlier this week that it hopes that experience will pay dividends.
“We were excited for the game [in 2016], but I don’t think we realized there was another level,” said Stevens, who scored a goal in the 2016 NCAA tournament game. “I think mentally we have to be prepared for that battle. It was the first time for all of us, and the second time around we have a little more experience and will be ready for the pace and intensity of the game.”
Fernie Flaman Endowed Men’s Hockey Coach Jim Madigan added: “This time around, because we’ve been there, it’s more of a business approach.”
The Huskies enter the NCAA tournament having won seven of its past eight games, beginning with the Beanpot championship on Feb. 12—the program’s first Beanpot title in 30 years. Northeastern lost in the Hockey East semifinal in overtime, and, as goaltender Cayden Primeau put it, the team is “hungry” to bounce back from that loss with a strong NCAA tournament performance.
Northeastern will face an equally talented Michigan team, which had won eight in a row before losing in overtime to Ohio State in the Big Ten semifinals. Madigan said the Wolverines are a well-coached team that will present its share of challenges.
“They’ve got balance up front,” he said. “They’ve got a real good core of physical and puck-moving defensemen. We might go up against best defensemen we’ve seen all year in Quinn Hughes—who is a projected first-round pick—and they’ve got a really good goaltender.”
The Huskies are excited about playing close to home in the NCAA tournament, as they attempt to return to the Frozen Four for the first time since 1982.
“Staying in the East I think is great for our program, great for our university,” Madigan said. “Our team travels well. We’ve got alums all over the state, so it allows our alumni, our students, our university community to be able to continue supporting us.”
“I expect a big DogHouse crowd,” added junior Adam Gaudette, who leads the country with 60 points and is a Top 10 Finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. “They’ve supported us all year.”