Monday night saw the annual Friends of NU Hockey (also referred to as FONUH or FOH) meeting take place in the lobby of Matthews Arena. This meeting is an excellent gathering of alumni and supporters of the Northeastern Men’s Ice Hockey program to discuss the growth and state of affairs for the organization, as well as hear from Coach Madigan and get his perspective on the year that just ended, as well as the year(s) ahead for his team. The Friends of NU Hockey is an organization whose mission is to “achieve the highest level of support for the Northeastern University hockey program,” and coming off a historic season, there is no better time to become a Friend of the program. Visit http://friendsofnuhockey.com/ for more information, or follow them on Twitter HERE for a more active, up-to-date interaction.
Friends of NU Hockey Round-Up
The start of the meeting focused on updates and new announcements related to the FOH organization. There is new leadership at the top this year- former players Torin Snydeman and Adam Reid were nominated and confirmed for the positions of President and First Vice President, respectively, and I think these are two outstanding nominees for the positions. Both men were leaders of their Northeastern teams, with Snydeman being voted assistant captain and Reid being voted captain during their senior season. Both men clearly still have a passion for Northeastern hockey, and will be present around the program quite a bit this year. I think having more active leadership will be a benefit for the organization as they try to expand and attract more interest, thereby helping the Northeastern program as a whole.
The organization also saw an uptick in members for the first time since 2015-16. With no dues being collected anymore, the FOH evaluate membership based on donations to the Fernie Flaman Fund, and this year we had over 250 members via Fernie Flaman Fund donations, which is the highest count in Jim Madigan’s tenure and is the highest on record since the 2009-10 season when Greg Cronin was head coach. The outpouring of support for the program after one of the best seasons in program history, coupled with the Beanpot victory, shows that the fan base and the energy for support is out there, and it is wonderful to see people contributing to the Fund in support of the team.
After finishing discussion about finances of the organization, Coach Madigan was the center of attention as he recapped the last season and looked ahead to both the upcoming hockey season and beyond. I’ve broken his comments down into sections below, with bullet points for each section.
Year In Review
- 5th straight winning season, the most consecutive in NU history; previously 4 in a row had never been done.
- Compared this past team to the 2004 Red Sox, citing a combination of talent and a “special bond” between the players, from the senior class down to the freshman class. Coach called this one of the most consistent teams he has seen from the program since 1981 when he arrived, citing the five losses in each half of the season as evidence of that year-long consistency.
- He mentioned being well aware of the PairWise rankings and the implications that each game, particularly out-of-conference games, can have on the PairWise. He talked about educating some of the younger players about the ranking system as a way of refocusing them on the importance of every game, and said the players really took to that mentality.
- Coach feels they did not have many “off games,” but said that if he could have one game back it would be from the Quinnipiac weekend early in the season. He attributed the losses to Quinnipiac to still “learning how to win” and getting settled with lineups and goaltending, but feels that last season we were certainly a better team than Quinnipiac.
- When discussing the loss to Michigan in the NCAA Tournament, he said that he truly felt we had a team capable of making a run to the Frozen Four (and I still agree with him). He said that over the season, the team relied on the Big Three so much that when they scored, that changed the mentality of the team and added that “killer instinct” that just did not manifest against Michigan. He said in hockey, coming back from a deficit often leads to generating momentum, and often results in getting the lead, but that it just didn’t happen in Worcester. He mentioned hitting two posts where the Michigan goalie did not move as puck luck factors against Northeastern, but did not blame the loss solely on puck luck.
- He spoke a bit about Adam Gaudette, and what his growth represents for both Adam and the program. He started off his speech saying “at any level it’s all about the players,” and continued later to say “You don’t have individual success without team success,” pointing to the differences in awards for Zach Aston-Reese two years ago (no Beanpot, no NCAA Tournament) and Gaudette last year. He called Gaudette “the epitome of a Northeastern player” who “worked his tail off” every year for three years, striving to get better year after year. He lauded over the ability of Gaudette and Dylan Sikura to leave NU and jump right into the NHL level and show they belonged at that stage.
Coach said that unlike past years, the Hockey East schedule is not 100% finalized at this time due to the changes made to the playoff structure. For those unaware, Hockey East has done away with the the “octofinals,” the first round of the playoff format. This season, the league will be reverting back to an 8-team playoff format, meaning the second weekend of March is now open for league games to be played. Coach mentioned Northeastern will have one game that weekend, on the Friday, but could not give more specifics related to the schedule until it is finalized by Hockey East other than it will mirror last season’s schedule very strongly.
He was able to confirm our out-of-conference schedule for next season
- Opening the season 10/12 and 10/13 at Sacred Heart
- Home opener against Union on 10/19 and 10/20
- Home against St. Cloud State on 10/27
- Home against RIT 11/24, the Saturday after Thanksgiving
- Participating in the Catamount Cup in Burlington, VT, on December 28 and 29. We will play RPI and Alabama-Huntsville, respectively.
- Rounding out the OOC games with the Beanpot
- Coach made no bones about the fact that we are losing a significant portion of our offense from last season, and that there are a lot of jobs and opportunities open to his returning players. He stated that this year he expects to rely on four lines consistently, rolling a true top six or top nine that he feels will be able to contribute fairly regularly and evenly. He likened the style to what PC and UMass-Lowell have been doing regularly for the past half-decade.
- He expects steps to be taken by his returners, and that they will no longer be “looking over their shoulder for the Big Three” to contribute.
- Specifically, he cited Zach Solow, Matt Filipe, Grant Jozefek, Brandon Hawkins, and John Picking as players he expects to take steps next season to be bigger contributors to the team. On Hawkins, he added “no one shoots a puck better than Brandon Hawkins,” which is a trait we heard about last season and saw a couple times on the ice, so I am hopeful that Coach gives Hawkins a license to fire at will next season.
- Coach says that we will see Liam Pecararo in a Northeastern hockey jersey next season, playing for the team on the ice and he expects Pecararo to be an offensive contributor next season.
- He is very excited about our defensive corps- he gushed over the abilities of Jeremy Davies, saying both he and the New Jersey Devils think very highly of him. An All-American in 2017-18, Davies will again be relied on heavily offensively and defensively. Eric Williams, the captain for the 2018-19 Huskies, will see an increase in responsibilities and ice time for his senior season. Coach mentioned that he expects growth from Collin Murphy, Ryan Solomon, and Billy Carrabino to compete for a spot in the bottom pairing next season; Williams, Davies, and Shea will compose three of the top four defensemen once again next season.
- Coach was very honest about not having the types of guys we’ve become used to see in a Husky uniform in seasons past- there is not a Dylan Sikura, an Adam Gaudette, a Kevin Roy, a Zach Aston-Reese, at least not at this moment. So he expects that we will be player closer, tighter scoring games, but also mentioned that we allowed the fewest goals last season. Building on that will be the focus for the team this season, as Coach expects to be part of more 2-1, 3-1 victories this year rather than the track meets we became accustomed to.
- Cayden Primeau will be the rock in net again next season. Ryan Ruck has recovered from his concussion injury and will be the primary backup. Curtis Frye will return to the team as the third-string goalie after one year away from the roster, though he remained at Northeastern.
- In coach-related news, Jerry Keefe will be returning to the Husky hockey program next season. There had been rumors that Keefe may join longtime friend Albie O’Connell at Boston University, and while he acknowledged the rumors, Coach Madigan squashed them saying “Jerry Keefe will be a part of this program for a long time.” As the associate head coach, achitecht of the powerplay, a tireless and prominent recruiter, and owner of a masterful knowledge of the game and development, Jerry Keefe is priceless for the hockey program and I am thrilled that he is staying on board for the foreseeable future.
The Huskies will bring in six players next season, per Coach. Three forwards and three defensemen.
- Tyler Madden, Forward– the son of former NHL forward John Madden, Tyler just completed his first year in the USHL, totaling 34 points in 50 games. He has been projected to be drafted in the NHL Draft between rounds 2-4, with Coach expecting it likely to be on the higher end of that scale. When describing him, Coach said he fits the “Dylan Sikura mold,” with excellent puck and stick skills akin to Sikura when he arrived. He says Madden has “a little more grit in his game, likely from [his father],” and that he expects Madden to put on muscle when he arrives and be a top six contributor immediately.
- Jordan Harris, Defenseman– another gem in this recruiting class, Harris is a highly regarded prospect coming out of Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire, where he was coached by former Maine head coach Tim Whitehead. Coach said from Day One Harris might be the best skater out of all the defensemen on the team. A blend of Davies’ and Shea’s skills, Coach said Harris is “a good puck mover, smart and intelligent,” a top four defenseman from the get-go. Harris is also projected to be drafted by the NHL, and Coach expects between the late third and early fourth rounds.
- Julian Kislin, Defenseman– a right-handed defenseman, which is an asset that the team has been lacking since last season, Kislin was described as an offensive defenseman with stick skills. Madigan compared him to former assistant captain and current Edmonton Oiler Matt Benning when Benning first arrived at Northeastern from the USHL. Kislin was injured late in the year, but is still expected to compete for a starting spot.
- AJ Villella, Defenseman– another puck-moving defenseman, Villella is a left-shot player out of the USHL, posting 34 points over two full seasons in the league. Also expected to compete for a starting position, meaning the Huskies may be starting three freshman come opening night if all three players play to their capabilities early on.
- Matt Thomson, Forward– a local product from Reading, MA, Thomson comes to the Huskies also via the USHL. Cited as a goal scorer, we’ve heard for a couple years now how his shot is his best asset, and we’ll look for that shot to be put to good use when he arrives to campus.
- Austin Plevy, Forward– a graduate transfer from UMass-Amherst, Plevy will play his last season of college hockey in a Huskies sweater. Formerly a top scorer in both the BCHL and AJHL, he arrived to UMass in 2015 and put up 24 points as a rookie. He saw his production fall each of the last two seasons, particularly after the coach that brought him to UMass, John Micheletto, was fired and Greg Carvel was hired before the 2016 season. Madigan expects Plevy to fill an “offensive role” for the Huskies, bringing a scoring touch and experience at the Hockey East level.
Look to the Future
- Looking ahead for the program Coach said that new Athletic Director Jeff Konya is the type of person who wants to win at everything he does, “even tiddlywinks.” Madigan said Konya is committed to providing the resources the program needs to continue to win and achieve higher levels of success. He says part of Konya’s plan is working to attract new fans, new season ticket holders, and improve the fan experience at NU hockey games, creating a true brand for Northeastern athletics.
- There is the possibility that the NCAA may demand a unified overtime format for the entirety of college hockey beginning next season. Whether that is 5-on-5, 3-on-3, or another creation remains to be seen.
- The NCAA is looking into removing the requisite “sit year” for players that transfer between schools, on the basis of doing the most they can for the benefit of the student-athlete. I think this would be a wonderful move for college athletes, however Madigan says that it would not be implemented until next offseason if they do make the move.
- On recruiting, Coach cannot talk about specific players unless they have signed a National Letter of Intent, however he said that recruiting is “healthy,” and he likes the pedigree and quality of players that have given their commitment to the Northeastern program. He cited their model of successful development as an appealing factor, and having put eight Huskies in the NHL this past season with the potential for more next season, players, parents, and clubs see that success and want to become a part of it. He says that many NHL teams now see Northeastern as a good place for their prospects to develop, knowing that they will leave Northeastern having grown “physically, emotionally, mentally, and socially.” Once again, a strong testament of outside support for the work put in by Coach Madigan, Coach Keefe, Coach Smith, Coach McLaughlin, Coach Walsh, Dan Boothby, and the rest of the Northeastern hockey program.
- Coach still is trying to get the team into unique tournaments and events; he cited a return to Frozen Fenway in the near-future, a return to Belfast, Northern Ireland for the week of Thanksgiving 2019, and participating in tournaments in places such as New York City, Las Vegas and Long Island. Long Island in particular he named two other teams who appear to be ready/confirmed to play in that tournament, but that it is not locked down just yet.
- The return trip to Arizona State, which we owe them from their trip to Boston in 2015, will take place New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in 2021-22.
- The schedule, per Coach, is set through the 2021 season.
And that’s a wrap on the 2018 Friends of NU Hockey meeting. Once again an insightful, productive night discussing the program we all love, I highly encourage people to get involved with FONUH if they can, and come to Matthews next season to support this team. We will have continued coverage over the summer as news breaks and this need to be written about, including the NHL Draft and Development Camps over the next month or so.
For more news about the Huskies and the hockey program you can follow us on Twitter at @NUHockeyBlog. Thanks for reading and following and as always, go Huskies!