Team of the Week: Northeastern
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Last season, Northeastern was ranked as highly as seventh in the country, before injuries and the psychological pressures of a young team caught up with it.
So this year's 3-0-1 start is not setting off any celebrations yet. However, with the 4-3 win over Boston College on Saturday, the Huskies are positioning themselves to fulfill the kind of big things many people speculated they were primed for. And combined with Friday's 4-0 win over Providence, the Huskies were named CHN's Team of the Week.
"It's a good thing going through as a group what we did last year," Northeastern coach Greg Cronin said. "We don't get giddy. We don't get caught in that trap. When we beat BC — and it was a tremendous game, one of those unique college hockey nights where the crowd is full of energy — but when the game was over, the guys were business-like."
Cronin said this year's good start is as much mental if anything. But the team has a lot going for it in the skill department already. Goalie Brad Thiessen is a junior now, and taking another step up. And only two main skaters were lost to graduation, with most of the top 10 scorers returning.
"He took it personally last year (Thiessen)," Cronin said. "Which is awesome — it's what makes a great goalie. He's come back this year determined."
Of course, you don't him having to stop 40 shots a game, as he did against BC.
"The shots can be misleading. A lot of teams shoot the puck from everywhere," Cronin said. "BC definitely had the advantage for large chunks, especially in the third period. They were down a goal, it's going to happen. But ... we've done a good job steering teams to the outside. I think of the eight we've allowed, I think five have gone off our players."
Two of the goals scored against BC were of the shorthanded variety, including one by Joe Vitale (who also had a power-play goal). Cronin said this isn't a coincidence.
"We've got a lot of guys back that killed penalties last year," he said. "And most penalty killers will identify with this, the chemistry with the two forwards is important. You can read the other guy's body language, anticipate when pucks are going to get chipped out."
The atmosphere Saturday against the Eagles was also something inspiring to Northeastern. For what seems like forever, Northeastern has taken a back seat to a lot of other college teams and other activities in Boston. Matthews Arena, for as storied as it is, hasn't exactly been a threatening place to play. Of course, winning helps solve some of that, but it will be a process — one that Cronin hopes has already begun.
"I knew this was going to be a challenge," Cronin said. "But the biggest thing is getting the administration to wrap their arms around the hockey program and provide us with resources to be successful. And one of the things is doing the right thing to get our students in the building. There are 8,000 students on campus, but there's been a disconnect with students and Matthews Arena.
"The school has done what they can to eliminate that. We're putting $18 million into the buliding, and half of that is dedicated to quality amenities for the students. They're using hockey as a focal point for school spirit. They've made a concerted effort to blanket campus with flyers, e-mails (advertising the games). They just didn't do it (in the past) for whatever reason. Now, we had a tent in the parking lot for BC game."