NU’s Cronin: Team needs to “scratch their way back”

The first half of the season hasn’t gone the way that the Northeastern Huskies expected. The team reached the break with a 3-9-4 record and has earned just nine points in Hockey East.

With an experience goaltender and some depth on defense, head coach Greg Cronin expected more of his club.

Thus far, Northeastern has been a pretty solid defensive team and, aside from a stinker last week against Boston University where he was pulled midway through the game, goaltender Chris Rawlings has provided the team the opportunity to win most games.

So that leaves the one Achilles heel of this Northeastern team. The offense.

Northeastern’s offense ranks 51st nationally, though ironically is only the 8th of 10 in Hockey East (Massachusetts-Lowell and Vermont are worse). The Huskies have scored just 35 goals in 16 games. Putting that into perspective, Miami’s Carter Camper, the nation’s leading scorer, has factored into 35 goals for the RedHawks himself.

For the Huskies, though, the goals aren’t coming. Wade MacLeod and Tyler McNeely are doing what most expected them to do and that’s lead the team in scoring, but they’ve done so with just six goals apiece. Those two are the only two players on the team with double digits in points.

So when Greg Cronin was asked what he wants his team thinking about throughout the break, his answer was simple.

“Scoring goals,” Cronin said. “We don’t score enough. Defensively we’ve been really good. We’ve had nine losses and seven of the nine have been nail-biting down to the end and we haven’t won. That gets old talking about that.”

Cronin hopes that in the second half he can get more players finding the net, particularly the underclassmen. Freshmen like Brodie Reid and rookie blueliners Anthony Bietto and Luke Eibler have started to show progress. That needs to continue.

“We’ve got a lot of freshmen and if we can get guys like that to score that will provide some support,” said Cronin.

The sixth-year head coach, though, isn’t giving up. He’s been in a position before, namely a season ago, where his team had to turn things on to get back into the playoff race.

“It’s eerily similar to what happened last year,” said Cronin, whose team last year entered the break 6-8-1 but rallied to finish at .500 overall and missed the Hockey East playoffs by a point in one of the most competitive league races in history. “We did it last year and came back. We faltered at the end but we have to start climbing.

“I liked the way we were playing in the Providence game (a 5-0 win). Vermont’s a tough place to play and we won. Merrimack is a tough place to play and we win. I told the guys want them to think about getting their claws out and prepare to scratch their way up back into the upper echelon of the standings.”

If there’s any silver lining for Northeastern it’s the fact that the remainder of the league is struggling to pull away from the middle-to-bottom clubs. Northeastern enters the break in seventh place but is just five points behind Maine for the final home ice spot.

Thus, if this Huskies team can sharpen their collective claws over the break, expect them to begin climbing up the Hockey East standings.