Northeastern got off to a rocky start this weekend, dropping its first two games, both of them within Hockey East. The Huskies lost to Providence, 3-2, and Boston College, 2-0.
At the same time, however, they got a good look at the freshmen who project to be instrumental in the team’s success this year. Seven of them played on Friday night and an eighth was added against the defending national champions on Saturday.
“We got to really focus on getting them familiar with what we’re trying to do as a team,” NU coach Greg Cronin said. “I looked at the roster and saw 11 new guys which is really startling. One of the worst teams you want to face with a young team is BC, but we also said it was a great opportunity to evaluate where we are in terms of personnel. I’m not happy with the loss, but I am happy that we have a good grip on what we need to do to become a better hockey team. We were very loose and calm before [the] game.”
Despite the presence of six veterans with 20-point seasons on their resumes, it was freshmen Cody Ferriero and Brodie Reid who scored the weekend’s two goals.
On the defensive end, the BC game was particularly encouraging. The Huskies held the nation’s top team scoreless going into the third period and allowed only a singleton plus an empty-netter. Before the season, Cronin said that three freshmen defensemen — Anthony Bitetto, Jamie Oleksiak and Luke Eibler — would be “critical to determine whether we finish fifth or we finish first.” The trio got their ice time and now stand a collective minus-1 in plus-minus with 12 shots on goal.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign was the play of sophomore goaltender Chris Rawlings, who stopped 59 of 63 shots on the weekend. Last year he made the league all-rookie team but it was a roller coaster ride.
“Somebody told me before the season started [last year] that whenever you’re starting a college season with a freshman goalie, you’re going to white-knuckle it the first couple of months,” Cronin said. “You don’t know what you’re going to get.
“For Chris, it was a Tale of Three Seasons for him, honestly. The first part of the year he flirted with greatness. He’d have a crappy game and then he’d bounce back and have a great game. That happened the whole first half.
“Then we had that game up in Vermont where we lost 9-1 and we outshot them. I thought at that point that he might have lost his confidence completely. But we had a good talk after the game and he went on a run. And we went on a run because he went on a run.
“Then the last three weekends, he struggled. He went back to being a little bit unpredictable. Somehow he’s got to take those three ‘seasons’ and he’s got to learn from it.”
Based on the season’s first weekend, consider the lessons to have been learned.
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Thanks to Arena Reporters Mike Hopey and Katy Fitzpatrick for use of their post-game quotes.