2022-23 Schedule Review

On Wednesday the 2022-23 schedule for Northeastern was released on the school website and social media pages. We had already known many of the games’ dates thanks to other schools announcing their games first, but now we have all the information we need to sharpie Husky hockey into our calendars. Let’s review the schedule to see what’s in store for Northeastern.

Home Cooking

Initial viewing of the schedule was met by some criticism by fans, both for the way games were spread out on the calendar but also the number of games they may be able to attend at Matthews Arena. Northeastern will have 14 home games this season, tied with 2019-20 for the lowest total since they also played 14 home games in 2013-14. To my eye, there seems to be an easy explanation: it appears to me that many of the teams that Northeastern owed away games to due to them coming to Matthews Arena previously called in those games this year, namely Harvard, Bentley, and Long Island. Union and Sacred Heart are teams we had previous two-year agreements with for games, so these away games may be the start of a new pact. Add in three neutral site games and it’s easy to see how the Huskies ran out of home dates for the season outside of conference play. Fourteen home games certainly is less than ideal but it’s happened before and always has seen the games come back around in future years. I expect it will again.

Possibly what drew greater ire (at least on Twitter) was the fact that by the end of November, the Huskies will have played over half of their home games already. The Huskies open with six straight home games (great for The DogHouse), but between November 20 and February 1st, they only have three home games, none of which are in December and one of which is a Tuesday. Then in February, the Huskies play at TD Garden more than they play at Matthews Arena (two games to one). I have less of an explanation as to why the schedule is laid out this way. It’s not great. Let’s hope Hockey East has a good plan for streaming games again for when the Huskies are away.

Non-Conference Opponents

As has been routine for as long as I can remember, the Huskies have a smattering of games against both Atlantic Hockey and ECAC teams. From those conferences they play (all on the road) Harvard, Union, Bentley and Sacred Heart. They added the team that eliminated them from the 2022 NCAA Tournament, Western Michigan of the NCHC, in a special one-off game in Nashville at the home arena of the NHL’s Nashville predators. They have two against Long Island University, the (relatively) new NCAA Independent team. Two Beanpot games as always. And they round out the non-conference schedule with….Boston College?

That’s right, not only do Northeastern and BC play each other three times because of the rotating Hockey East schedule plus the possible Beanpot or playoff games, but they will play a non-conference game at Matthews Arena in October. My running theory based on the pairing is that a team that may have had an agreement to play both schools (similar to what Colorado College and St. Cloud State have done previously) may have bailed leaving both teams high and dry, so they tried to help each other out in a pinch. We’ll probably never know the truth related to it. It’s unorthodox at best and disappointing at worst, but hopefully the Huskies can run the Eagles out of the building four times this year and bank both conference and bonus PairWise points for their efforts.

What’s Up With That First UConn Game?

Northeastern will play UConn three games in a row in January on January 7th, 13th, and 14th. The latter two are the classic home and home, but the first does not have a time or an arena. What gives? Well we can confidently state that the game is planned to be a part of the latest edition of Frozen Fenway, pairing with UMass-Amherst versus Boston College on the same day. Obviously still to be announced officially by the event, but UConn gave up their second home game against Northeastern to play in the event.

Whether the late or early game, there’s an upside to both. The early game will have the freshest sheet of ice and allow fans to either stay for the late game or go about their day. The late game will allow fans to hit up their favorite Fenway-area spots ahead of puck drop and there will likely be more fans in the stands when you account for folks staying after game one and others who come in after having the rest of their Saturdays. Hard to see a downside playing in this event. The players love it, the coaches love it, and by and large fans tend to enjoy it. It will be my second one (after previously attending the infamous Flooded Fenway in 2014) and I’m looking forward to it.

Beanpot Break

Usually all four Beanpot teams will have a single game the Friday before each Beanpot Monday, but both Boston University and Northeastern appear to be bucking that trend this year. Northeastern has the weekend prior to the first Beanpot game off, whereas BU has the weekend prior to the second Monday free. In fact, Northeastern will only have one game in the 2 weeks leading up to the Beanpot- a Tuesday game against BC (this one will count for conference points). So between January 22nd and February 5th, Northeastern will play one game smack in the middle and then wait a week to play their biggest regular season game of the schedule to that point. Rest is one thing- it will certainly benefit the Huskies if they are bit with the injury bug again and need the extra time to recover. But naturally we also worry about too much rest causing rust when the next game begins. Trust Coach Keefe and his staff to keep the players primed and ready to go come Beanpot time, even with the long layoff.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I echo many of the sentiments fans shared when the schedule was released. The front-loading of home games is very strange. I wish there were more home games but I do see what may have caused fewer this season. I do wish there was a final non-conference opponent that was not also a conference opponent. I wish there was another non-conference opponent from the western side of college hockey as a test for the team. But for both the team and myself, personally as a fan, I see some positives in this schedule.

The team will get to kick off against a real opponent, with real stakes, which should put some immediate pressure on them to play well, especially with three conference games coming right off the bat after that. The schedule is spread out in terms of expected opponent difficulty- no month-long gauntlets of previous NCAA teams or lulls against teams that previously struggled. I also expect Northeastern to be competitive with a chance to win all of their out of conference games- including the Beanpot games again- which will be crucial in maintaining a NCAA Tournament-quality PairWise ranking. The team gets to play in big-stage settings not many other collegiate players get the opportunity to between the games in Nashville and Frozen Fenway. For the state of the program and for what we could be looking back at come mid-April, there’s a lot to look forward to here.

Personally, I am excited to see a new team live in Long Island for the season opener, which will bring my total count to 39 NCAA teams seen live. It also looks like I’ll be able to add at least two new collegiate arenas to my tally (Bentley and Vermont, possibly LIU) as well as an exciting trip to Nashville for Thanksgiving and Black Friday for the first time. Most of all, the schedule drop means that hockey is getting even closer, and that’s the real exciting part of it all. Less than three months away, folks. We’re halfway through the offseason.

As always, go Huskies!