Sophomore forward Zach Solow celebrates with the Lou Lamoriello trophy (Getty Images)
by Joe Barbito
BOSTON, MA – The success keeps on coming for the Northeastern Huskies.
On Sunday night, the NCAA announced the men’s hockey team would be competing in the national tournament in the East Regional, as a two-seed against the three-seed Cornell Big Red. This is the Huskies’ third trip to the tournament in the past four years for Northeastern, and their second in a row.
Last season the Huskies earned themselves an at-large bid and earned the right to play Michigan in Worcester. Northeastern fell short in that game, a 3-2 loss to the Wolverines. Head Coach Jim Madigan had tears in his eyes after the game as he acknowledged the loss of the “Big Three” – forwards Nolan Stevens, Dylan Sikura, and Adam Gaudette. Many doubted the team would be able to compete at the national level without them in the 2018-19 season.
Nearly a year later, Northeastern has set a new program records for wins in a season and defeated Boston University and Boston College – twice – at TD Garden for the Beanpot and Hockey East Championships. While anyone would call this season a success, it is clear the team is ready to finish what they have started and hoist a trophy in Buffalo.
Northeastern and Cornell will meet at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, RI on Saturday at 4:30pm. WRBB will have full coverage beginning at 4:15pm.
“Last year, I think we all thought we left something on the table, quite frankly,” Madigan said, after a season that saw the Huskies hang two banners up in TD Garden.
“Now, we gotta win games in the tournament to bring our program to the next level.”
Madigan’s emphasis on needing multiple wins was evident.
“We’re really proud of what we’ve accomplished, but we’re not done yet,” said senior captain Eric Williams.
Williams and the Huskies hope to get past the first round of the tournament, something they have not done in their previous two trips. ”
Losing in the first round both times was a little disappointing,” Williams said.
“This time we have a little extra motivation to get past that first game.”
We're Howlin' all the way back to Huntington Avenue!
— Northeastern MHKY (@GoNUmhockey) March 24, 2019
The last time Northeastern advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament was 1982 when they came in third place overall. The college hockey landscape was quite different back then; coach Madigan was actually a player on that team.
Expectations for this Northeastern team have shifted. The official twitter for the team has even gone so far as to poke fun at the “rebuild” expected out of this program, tweeting “The only thing we’re rebuilding is our trophy case” and commenting, “The rebuild continues…” when the Huskies were given the #5 spot in this week’s USCHO poll. The chorus of Twitter has even insisted that Northeastern may have overtaken Boston University and Boston College as the best program in the city.
Madigan agrees that what the team believes, they can accomplish is different. When speaking of the senior class, he mentioned their three NCAA appearances. In 2015-16, the Huskies fell to North Dakota, which did not trail once in the tournament save for the few moments after Nolan Stevens scored in the first period of the first round game. He then mentioned last year’s game against Michigan and how Northeastern failed to play the game to their best of their abilities.
“First year, just happy to be there and play against a real good North Dakota team that was frankly better than us,” Madigan said.
“Now, let’s seize this moment and make sure we cash in on this opportunity.”
The Huskies hope to play the winner of the Minnesota St. vs Providence on Sunday, but first they will have to defeat Cornell, and Williams felt good about their chances.
“We like the matchup,” Williams said.
“They’re a big strong team, but we’re okay with that. We’re gonna stick to what we do best.”
Cornell lost to Clarkson in the ECAC Championship game in overtime after sophomore goaltender Matthew Galajda left the game with a knee injury after the net fell on him. The Big Red also lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season to BU.