It’s officially October, which means – in the words of the late, great Jim Prior – the teams are ready, so let’s play hockey! The Northeastern Huskies will take the ice tonight against the Acadia Axemen of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada, in a game that means absolutely nothing and yet is the moment we’ve been waiting for since the Huskies’ season ended on March 25th, 190 days ago. Hockey is back.
Acadia is generally a top team in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Hockey. The Axemen have finished with records of 19-9 and 20-8 over the past two seasons. Last year, Acadia played BU and Vermont in exhibition play, posting a 1-1 record. The year before, the Axemen went 2-0 in exhibition games against two very good NCAA teams, Quinnipiac and Northeastern. So this team is nothing to sneeze at and no easy victory, unlike the Division III Simon Fraser squad the Huskies played last year.
NCAA rules are relaxed for the exhibition game, so expect every healthy and eligible skater and goalie to play. Ryan Ruck will play the first period in net before handing duties over to Jake Theut and Curtis Frye, while the Huskies will likely dress 5 forward lines and 4 defensive pairings, plus a few extras. It should be a good chance to see how everyone is looking to start the new year and to learn what the coaching staff are using as their initial line combinations, especially on the revamped D.
Don’t take any single player’s performance too literally, though. Jason Cotton scored three goals in thie game last year before posting a 0 point Northeastern career and leaving the program, while Ryan Ruck was the least effective of NU’s three goalies in the game. Having said that, the team we see Saturday is the same team that will be playing Quinnipiac a week from now. So if NU comes out on top against Acadia while rolling out all their depth players, it should be a promising sign for the season to come for the reigning and defending Hockey East Champions.
New Year, New Huskies
One of the Huskies’ star recruits, Maine transfer Liam Pecararo, will unfortunately not be in the Huskies’ lineup for this game or for the remainder of the fall. Per Jeff Cox (@JeffCoxSports), Pecararo’s transfer to Northeastern has not been approved by the NCAA and the would-be sophomore will not be eligible to play in the fall semester. As of the time of this writing, Pecararo is not listed on the Huskies’ roster, which supports that report. Pecararo is expected to join the team at the end of December and be eligible for the game against Clarkson on 12/30. With the absence of Pecararo, here are the lines we think the Huskies will take on Saturday night.
Players to Watch
Matt Filipe: Filipe is the next big thing at Northeastern, and is the player who will have all eyes on him every time he steps onto the ice. How will the third round pick fare in his first game with the Huskies?
Lincoln Griffin: A sophomore who is actually younger than most of the Huskies’ freshmen, the winger has skill to spare and should get a bigger role this year than he had while skating on the Huskies’ fourth line last year. Griffin could be poised for a breakout season like the one Nolan Stevens enjoyed a year ago.
Jeremy Davies: A quality defenseman whose skills have sometimes been overlooked in favor of the hype surrounding Ryan Shea, Davies was a first team All-USHL player last year, led the league in defenseman scoring, and is the all-time leading scoring defenseman in Bloomington Thunder history. Davies certainly seems ready to take over and lead the Huskies’ power play now, but will the freshman thrive immediately or need time to adjust to playing at the next level?
Ultimately, I’d like to see a win for the Huskies in this game. After two years in a row of awful starts and an offseason where pundits around college hockey who argued whether last spring’s run was the real deal or a flash in the pan, nothing would be better than to show everyone that the Huskies are here to stay. Northeastern needs to have a strong start to the year, beat the one difficult oppponent they play before moving on to Bentley and Arizona State, and send the fans home happy. Let’s Go, Huskies.