After just missing playoff home ice the previous year, Northeastern fell to the Hockey East cellar last season. Coach Bruce Crowder minces no words in pointing to the solution.
“What we really need is great years out of our juniors and seniors,” he says. “Our junior class as freshmen had okay years and I think as sophomores they maybe didn’t have as good years. We need them to elevate their game quite a bit.
“And obviously you always look for your seniors to go out with a bang. You’ve got guys who maybe haven’t had the impact you’d hoped they’d have and this is their last hurrah. Hopefully, they’re going to give you the kind of year that at Lowell Normie Bazin gave me, scoring 22 goals in his senior year.”
Up front, Northeastern lost only Mike Ryan, but those are still big shoes to fill. Ryan scored 18 goals, the only Husky with such totals in double digits, and his 14 assists were second among forwards. Seniors Eric Ortlip, Trevor Reschny, Brian Tudrick and Scott Selig will be looking to pick up some of that slack, but arguably the junior forwards plus sophomore Mike Morris hold an even bigger key to the offense.
“Jason Guerriero and Mike Morris should lead the offensive parade,” Crowder says. “And Jaron Herriman and Jared Mudryk are two guys that we’re looking to come in and produce more offense for us.”
While the Huskies have only the one hole to fill up front, there are multiple voids on the blue line. Only four defensemen return, led by juniors Tim Judy and Donny Grover.
“We’re going to be young,” Crowder says. “We won’t have a senior. We’re going to have Timmy Judy, who played alongside Jimmy Fahey as a freshman. We’re looking for [Judy] to step his play up. Donny Grover is another one who our expectations were a little higher than what we’ve gotten so far.
“We’re going to have two or three freshmen on defense. We have three ’85s [1985 birth years] in Steve Burnstill, Brian Deeth and Bryan Cirullo. We’re going to have to live with those guys for a little bit, knowing that they’re going to be good players for us down the road.
“We’re going to go as far as our freshman defensemen take us. What I mean by that is, as soon as we can get them playing like they’re sophomores, the better we’re going to be.”
The biggest key to the season, however, skates in the crease. Keni Gibson appeared destined to become one of the league’s elite through most of his freshman season, but suffered a sophomore slump last season, giving way to since-graduated Mike Gilhooly for nine of the final 11 games last year. Gibson will be pushed by Tim Heneroty and freshman Adam Geragosian.
“Kenny’s year was very typical of all our sophomores,” Crowder says. “They had pretty good freshman years, thought they had this thing figured out pretty well, and thought it was like a VCR and they could just hit rewind and play and it was all going to happen again.
“I think Kenny is as much in that loop as Herriman, Mudryk and Guerriero. I think they have something to prove. Kenny is one of those guys.
“You need the guy in the net to do the job. You need him to make those game-saving saves and be a difference-maker.”
Questions remain for this team, particularly on the blue line, but the Huskies have the potential to finish as high as fifth or sixth or perhaps even higher if the pieces all come together.
“I like the makeup of this team,” Crowder says. “We have a hungry bunch of kids who have something to prove.”