Three Games, Three Observations

Northeastern has played three games so far this season (well, two official games and one exhibition but we’re counting it for this article), and has this weekend off ahead of their first Hockey East games of the year with New Hampshire and Merrimack going into Halloweekend. With only 180 game minutes of action observed, it’s important to not draw sweeping conclusions in such a small sample size. However, we live in a snap-reaction world, so let’s go over three observations we made about this team after watching two wins in regulation over Stonehill and Bentley and a shootout win over Quinnipiac.

1) Energy, intensity, and effort– One thing we heard repeatedly in the offseason was how Northeastern wanted to reshape its identity to be a team that was relentless on and off the puck, with an intensity that makes them hard to play against for a full sixty minutes. Quality of competition be damned, these Huskies show up and play each shift like it could be their last. Very much an “eye test” observation, against all three opponents you could tell they were playing with speed, with confidence, and with an aggression that will keep them competitive against every opponent they play this season. The usual suspects are back in full force- captain Justin Hryckowian is the hockey equivalent of a ball-hawk; Jack Williams stays glued to his man on defense; Cam Lund, Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, Alex Campbell, darting through the neutral and offensive zones with purpose; even in the bottom six, Dylan Hryckowian, Liam Walsh, and Billy Norcross are flying through all 200 feet of ice making a difference offensively and defensively.

It’s translating to a greater quantity and continued quality of shots from the team in the offensive zone, while suppressing chances for the other team. After watching a year of Husky Hockey where the effort night in and night out was inconsistent at times, it’s almost exhilarating watching this team maximize their effort every game. Look for that mindset and quality of play to continue as the competition ramps up next week.

2) Offense from the blue line– anyone who has watched Northeastern hockey with me in the last dozen years knows that I’ve clamored for more shots from the point and more offense being generated by defensemen, whether that’s slap shots generating tips and rebounds or defensemen activating and pinching in the offensive zone to keep pressure up. So far in 180 minutes of game action, these Huskies on the blue line have answered my prayers. Pito Walton has scored twice, plus another in the QU game, exhibiting an absolute bomb of a slap shot that rivals any player at Northeastern the last 10 years; Jackson Dorrington scored his first career goal and has shown an increased propensity to shoot; Vinny Borgesi already has 5 points after scoring 13 all last season, showing an increased playmaking ability. Even players who are defense-first like Matt Staudacher are getting in on the action firing shots from the wings onto net.

Through two games, defensemen have accounted for 31.5% of team shot attempts per CHN data. Last season, they accounted for 26.1%. That addition 5% shift is enough to add a new layer of attack to the offense, one that is already paying dividends and one we can expect to continue to provide offense as the season progresses. As the competition gets tougher and there’s less room to create between the dots, shots from the point will be critical to get defensive players moving, and get teams out of their defensive alignments, opening scoring opportunities for the Huskies.

3) Transfer portal additions making an impact– Northeastern brought in 6 transfers this offseason, and 4 of them (Pito Walton, Alex Campbell, Brett Edwards, Matt Staudacher) have hit the ice making immediate impacts in all 3 games. The other 2 (Connor Hopkins, Patrick Dawson) by all accounts have been incredible teammates and important presences in the locker room and at practice. Walton has helped transform the Huskies’ offensive attack and powerplay potency. Campbell already has 2 goals, 4 points, and added an assist in the exhibition, showing speed, skill, and finishing ability. Edwards has slid up and down the lineup already proving to be a valuable role player. And Staudacher has been everything he was billed to be as a defense-first calming presence on the back end. A lot of assumptions and declarations were made after Northeastern had multiple transfers and departures in the offseason, but if early returns are any indication, they were absolutely overblown and the Huskies brought in way more than they lost.

Northeastern returns to game action next Thursday, 10/26, at UNH, who are playing Quinnipiac this weekend. The Wildcats held a lead through 2 periods on Friday before losing 5-2, and host QU again tonight. After UNH, Northeastern returns home to host the Merrimack Warriors, who are hosting Clarkson this weekend and beat the Golden Knights Friday night. The competition is starting to ramp up so the Huskies will need to bring that same energy and commitment to a full game of hockey to have a chance each night. Bye weeks are great to help the team get healthy and locked in, but we look forward to having more Husky hockey to talk about next week.

As always, go Huskies!