Mired in a frustrating slump, Northeastern looks inward

There were plenty of bright lights and positive vibes coming from Matthews Arena when this season began. Not only had the Northeastern Huskies drawn blue-chip recruit Kevin Roy to Huntington Avenue, they also opened the season with home wins over Merrimack and No. 1 Boston College.

For Northeastern fans to believe this could be one very special season it was, at that time, hardly far-fetched.

Now, as the calendar moves toward December, that hope and promise has become frustration and pessimism. Since the victory against Boston College in game No. 2, Northeastern’s only two wins came against Alabama-Huntsville (which has a 1-12-1 record).

Last Friday, after the Huskies opened up a 1-0 lead only to allow five straight goals to St. Lawrence in a 5-2 loss, coach Jim Madigan was certainly not about to hide his concern.

“Right now, we’re just not a very good hockey club,” Madigan said. “We need to take stock in that locker room and which way we want to go. We can continue to feel sorry for ourselves and have a little pity party or we can decide we want to be like men and answer the bell. Each and every one of those guys was challenged in that room tonight to see how they want to respond.”

There’s no doubt that problems exist on both sides of the puck. On Friday, Madigan seemed most frustrated by his team’s defense.

“A lot of [Friday’s] game was just poor execution,” Madigan said. “St. Lawrence had 39 shots and they certainly had a lot of opportunities. But I would bet 10 of those shots came off of us just not executing in our own zone, not getting the puck out.”

He also said that his team has had the inability to bear down when faced with offensive opportunities. The inability to score goals when the chance is presented is part of the cycle that currently frustrates Madigan.

“We need to compete harder. When you’re not playing well, things get amplified and there’s a lot of areas you look to. The kids know what they want to do and they’re just not executing,” Madigan said.

“We’re getting some looks and we’re not burying some pucks. Last year at this time, when we were starting to turn things around, we were burying some pucks.

“So when you don’t bury pucks you keep games close and tight and then when you don’t execute defensively, you find yourself behind one or two goals. And it’s hard for us to climb out because we haven’t been scoring.”

It seems, though, at the end of the day Madigan really needs to have every single player ask the question of themselves, “What more can I do?”

“A lot of times in the locker room, we’re talking about how we want to play and some of [the players] will separate themselves [thinking], ‘It’s not me they’re talking about.’ We’re not at that point right now,” Madigan said. “We’re at a point where each and every one of them need to take stock in their game and we need to focus on what we need to focus on as an individual and as a team to get better.”

In the end, it’s pretty simple, Madigan said: “We need to go back to the drawing board.”

Putting BC’s streak in perspective

With a win last Saturday, Boston College extended its winning streak to 10 games and, at 10-1, is off to its best start since the 1977-78 season, when the Eagles lost in the NCAA title game to Boston University.

When combined with last season, BC has won 29 out of 30 games. On Monday in the Hockey East Blog, I sent out a challenge to readers to help me find the last team that had won 29 out of 30 games. My first thought was Maine’s 1992-93 team that finished the season 42-1-2, but that one loss came late in the season and the two ties, coming in the first half, kept that Black Bears team from winning 29 of 30.

But thanks to a number of readers, the first of which was Sid Whitaker, I believe that Rensselaer’s national championship team from 1984-85 posted what is the longest unbeaten streak in NCAA history.

RPI lost two games early in that season. After opening 1-2, RPI ran off 30 straight wins, posted a 3-3 tie in Game 2 of a two-game, total goals NCAA quarterfinal series versus Lake Superior and then won the final two games of the season to capture the NCAA title.

The following season, RPI won the first four games before tying its fifth and finally posting a loss in the sixth game to Cornell.

The overall length of that streak would then be 38 games. Now, looking at the schedule, you actually have to disqualify some of those victories. Two came against Toronto, not an NCAA member. Two victories also came against Union, which at the time was a Division II team.

Still, RPI posted 34 straight games without a loss. Pretty impressive.

Now, some additional notes on the BC streak:

• BC is 6-0 at home this season, 4-0 in Hockey East.

• In the last three seasons, BC has lost just four home games and just three of those were in league play. The overall home record since the beginning of 2010-11 is 32-4-2, 26-3-2 in Hockey East.

• Two of those losses came last season against Boston University, which will travel to Kelley Rink this Saturday night after the teams play at BU on Friday.

Teacher, student reunite

Last Tuesday night in Amherst, Mass., Massachusetts coach John Micheletto faced his former mentor, Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon, for the first time.

UMass came out on top 3-1 and, according to Micheletto, there wasn’t too much emotion about facing his old team.

“I know it sounds like it’s cliché, but there’s not a lot of emotion,” Micheletto said. “I think there was more emotion when I saw the team come in and drop their gear off and when they were in for the morning skate and I came down to say hello to the coaching staff. Seeing people that have been friendly faces for a long time, it’s always good to catch up with.”

Asked if there may be more emotion when Micheletto returns to Burlington, Vt., for a two-game series in January, the first-year head coach remained stoic.

“I hope not, I’d like to think that it won’t [be too emotional]. But ask me in January,” Micheletto said. He noted that by then, his Minutemen team will be engrossed in a positioning race for the postseason.

Still, in the end, it’s clear that is a road trip that Micheletto will enjoy.

“When it is down time, I’m sure I’ll enjoy people and friends,” Micheletto said. “But when the puck drops at 7:05, we’ll be fully focused.”

Quick hits

• With four points in last Saturday’s game versus Dartmouth, BC’s Steven Whitney is just four points away from the 100-point plateau. If he reaches that mark, he and his brother Joe will become just the third set of brothers to reach 100 points at BC. Others include Doug and Greg Brown and Ben and Patrick Eaves.

• Tip of the hat to New Hampshire goaltender Jeff Wyer, who earned his first career win at Denver last Saturday night. Wyer came in facing a 3-0 deficit and allowed just one goal as UNH scored six goals courtesy of hat tricks by Grayson Downing and Kevin Goumas.

• There has been a lot of light shined on some of BC’s top scorers in recent weeks, but overlooked has been Merrimack’s Mike Collins. After going scoreless in the first two games of the season, Collins has scored 15 points in 10 games and is tied for third in overall scoring among Hockey East players.

• If you’re looking for a great gift this holiday season, make sure to purchase tickets to this year’s Hockey East tournament at the TD Garden. Tickets go on sale at 11 a.m. EST Saturday. They can be purchased at the TD Garden box office, online at ticketmaster.com or by phone at 800-745-3000.