The Huskies appeared poised to take home ice last year until dropping four of the last five games in the regular season, falling to fifth. Even with significant graduation losses, Northeastern remains within striking range of achieving that goal this time.
Unlike the past few years, the goaltending looks solid and could even be among the league’s best. Keni Gibson carried the Huskies for long stretches until he either wore down or suffered a crisis of confidence following Northeastern’s tough loss to BU in the Beanpot title game. (Prior to that marquee contest, he’d posted a 13-4-1 record, allowing as many as four goals only twice; from that point on, however, he surrendered four or five goals in all but one of the final seven games, all but one of them losses.)
Coach Bruce Crowder dismisses the possibility of anything but fatigue. “Kenny ran out of steam. Looking back, as a coaching staff we should have given him some nights off here and there. But you get into the heart of the season and every game becomes so important and you’re trying to get home ice. I think the coaches learned as much about it as the player did. He came in in great shape this year and we expect him to be the guy for us again.”
Mike Gilhooly, who played in 25 or more games his first two seasons on Huntington Avenue, returns for his senior year as one backup, along with Tim Heneroty.
“Depth-wise and strength-wise this is probably the strongest we’ve been in goal since I’ve been at Northeastern,” says Crowder.
Last season, All-America selection Jim Fahey helped bring along five freshman defensemen: Tim Judy, Jon Awe, Brian Nathe, Donny Grover and Jack Celata. With Fahey and Arik Engbrecht gone, that sophomore class will make or break the Husky blue line.
“You don’t replace a Jimmy Fahey,” says Crowder. “You’ve got to try to find ways to [take] what he did and maybe spread it [around]. It’s an area where we’re young. Extremely young. We don’t have a senior defenseman.
“We have Brian Sullivan coming off a medical redshirt year. He’s going to be a big question mark for us. We’re hoping that he can add quite a bit to this defensive corps. Other than that, the rest are sophomores and one freshman in Chuckie Tomes. It’s definitely an area where coaching-wise we’ll have to spend a lot of time, continually working with them and [teaching them] what we want them to do with our system.”
Up front, the Ryan-Guerriero connection will anchor an offense that will need the continued development of returning players as well as some freshmen making immediate contributions to offset the losses to graduation.
“We lost Chris Lynch, who was a 20 goals, 20 assists guy for us, and Willie Levesque,” says Crowder. “But I like our forwards. A guy like Mikey Morris coming in will probably find himself with Mike Ryan and Guerriero. I think that’s going to be a pretty good line for us. I think we’re going to see a better year out of a guy like Scottie Selig.
“Some of the role players we had last year have stepped it up. I thought [Jaron] Herriman came on at the end of last year. We expect him to continue moving in that direction. Eric Ortlip and Trevor Reschny are a couple guys who are going to bring leadership. I really like our forward position. I think we’re going to be able to get some goals out of those guys.”
While there are questions to be answered, there’s reason for optimism on Huntington Avenue.
“I think we’re a team that can be knocking on the door for home ice,” says Crowder. “I really do. But we’re a team that has to be hitting on all cylinders and guys have to be playing up to their level each and every time they step on the ice. That can make it happen.
“We fell short by three points last year to a veteran team in Lowell and then had to play them in the playoffs. Hopefully, all those experiences are going to help out a team that was loaded with freshmen last year. We’re going to be young again. We only have three seniors. We’ve got 18 or 19 freshmen and sophomores in the locker room. [Our success will depend a lot] on how these freshmen that we’ve recruited come in and how quickly they step up and play like they’re sophomores and juniors.”