On Tuesday July 25th, Northeastern Men’s Hockey finally released their schedule for the 2023-24 season. Those who follow us on Twitter likely have seen many of these dates confirmed through other teams releasing their schedules, but we were still missing official dates for about eight games. Now, we have the full picture of what to look forward to for the upcoming college hockey season.
The first thing I noticed when I looked through the schedule is that contrary to last season, there is an even distribution of home and away games, with 15 of each, plus 4 games at a neutral site between the Beanpot Tournament and the Kwik Trip Holiday Faceoff Tournament being held in Milwaukee, WI. The schedule is fairly balanced, with 6 home games plus an exhibition taking place before Christmas break, and not as front-loaded as last season where we saw more than half of Northeastern’s home games played before Thanksgiving, let alone Christmas.
The worst aspect of the schedule is that somehow, Hockey East found it appropriate to schedule both games against Boston University on Tuesdays, rather than on a traditional Friday or Saturday. Truly an atrocity of a decision, this will absolutely impact attendance at both games of both students and non-student fans alike, and those NU/BU games tend to be extremely entertaining affairs that you’d think Hockey East would want to get as many people to as possible. It’s absurd to me that they could not find any weekends during the season to make it work. Other schedule quirks include the two games against Maine being played in Orono for the second year in a row, a deviation from the normal alternating plan Hockey East has routinely performed; a weekend with no games between the Beanpot games; and the bonus conference games being played against Providence, Merrimack, New Hampshire, and Maine.
The second thing I noticed was that for the first time since 2017, Northeastern will play an exhibition game, however it will not be against a Canadian college team as was formerly customary. Instead, Northeastern will host defending NCAA Champion Quinnipiac on Sunday October 8th, a day after both teams play their first game of the season (Northeastern hosts Stonehill; Quinnipiac hosts Boston College). In the media and fan Q & A event put on by the team in mid-July, Coach Keefe talked about how he and Coach Pecknold of Quinnipiac felt it was important to get their teams used to playing back-to-back nights early in the season, so they worked together to make it reality. It will be a very good test for Northeastern early in the season and an excellent reminder of what quality competition will look like as they strive to reach the collegiate mountaintop.
Northeastern’s out of conference schedule has an excellent balance of teams from across multiple conferences. Northeastern has regular season games against Quinnipiac (in addition to the exhibition); Minnesota-Duluth as part of the Holiday Tournament; one of Wisconsin or Air Force depending on the results of their game in the Holiday Tournament; two games at RPI; one game at Brown; Bentley and Stonehill at home; and they round out the non-conference play with Harvard in round one of the Beanpot, and either BC or BU in the second round, hopefully the championship to defend their 2022-23 title. In total, Northeastern will play non-conference games against four of the six NCAA conferences, possibly five if they match up against Wisconsin, and between QU, Duluth, Wisconsin, and the Beanpot schools, there are plenty of games against teams expected to compete for the NCAA Tournament and national championship, presenting both challenge and opportunity for the Huskies. The Stonehill game will be the first meeting between the two programs; the trip to Brown will be Northeastern’s first to Meehan Auditorium since 1999; and their matchup with Duluth will be the first game against the Bulldogs also since 1999.
The 2023-24 season will be one defined by change for Northeastern, in terms of the players on the ice but also the attitude and type of play they show in each game. The Huskies will be without all-time great Devon Levi in net, and without Aidan McDonough, their most reliable goal scorer since Adam Gaudette walked the halls of Matthews Arena. However, in the same media session in July, captain Justin Hryckowian spoke about the attitude and work that he and his teammates have been putting in this offseason, and he talked about everyone buying into the mindset and quality of play that will be needed to bring this program back to the NCAA Tournament. Coaches Keefe and Levine also spoke about the need to play competitive in every game, every shift, and executing that gameplan could absolutely keep the Huskies in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament in a year where many pundits consider them in a transition year.
In the dog days of summer as we await hockey’s return in the Fall, keep your eyes on NUHB’s Twitter and website, as we are about to enter the hottest month of recruiting across the sport, as rising high school juniors can make their college commitments starting 8/1. We will cover any commitments Northeastern secures both here, on Twitter, and on Threads. As we approach the season we also will have preseason articles highlighting the newcomers to the program and our expectations of the season. We’re more than halfway there folks.
As always, go Huskies!