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For someone who has closely followed the men’s hockey team here since arriving on campus, the highs and lows year in and year out are expected. This program isn’t Boston University or Boston College, and just as previous head coach Greg Cronin was beginning a promising second phase of his tenure, he left the school after a solid end to the season.
Since then, the program has been mired in a constant loop of success and failure. The initial departures were hefty, and left the defensive core weak and wanting as Jim Madigan and company waded through his first season. But the current coaching staff rebounded a bit, bringing in some intriguing players for this year, including the USHL player of the year, Kevin Roy. This alone was enough to make many Husky fans hopeful for the upcoming season.
This development would prove to be a lone bright spot juxtaposed against old problems. As usual, a perfect storm of events dragged the Huskies down from an impressive opening weekend, and the memory of the Doghouse erupting after Roy’s goal in their win vs. Boston College couldn’t seem more distant. What looked like a team of young talent dissolved into a collection of players, running into the same problems night in and night out. Tendencies like this point in one direction: this team lacks a concept.
The gameplan is too predictable. It’s a familiar sight: Northeastern comes out firing in the first period, and the other team plays patiently and contains the attack. The opponent then makes its adjustments, and returns the favor after the initial push. The Huskies have been outscored 15-4 in the second period this season. In the season-plus he has been head coach, the team has been 4-14-3 after surrendering the first goal, 3-13 when trailing after the first period, and most alarming, 0-16-3 when trailing after two periods of play.
This goes to show that when the Huskies fall behind, they don’t make the right moves to come back. One of the quickest ways for an attack to die off is to make the moving parts second guess their instincts. The players are thrust into losing situations, instead of being put in a position to succeed and make a favorable move.
Shuffling the lines and varying the zone entry is just like giving a car with transmission problems a new paint job instead. All it took was a rebound loss on BC’s banner night and a derailing in Durham to make the players realize that their considerable talent and desire may not be enough by themselves. These are smart players, but they can’t see everything going on. And if the facts have any bearing, it shows the direction of the program is stagnant, and not geared towards going the extra mile.
But on top of all of this, the people who miss out are the fans. They’ve poured their time, energy, and money into this team. Recently, they’ve witnessed a program that has shown the ability to at least get its hands on some of the most coveted players in the country, and been a part of the excitement that goes with it. Whether these promising moments actually mean anything has been up to the powers that be, and so far it has been a failure.
Some tough decisions will have to be made over the break if any of this season is to be salvaged, but it will be difficult to keep the players motivated. While it is the university’s job to staff coaches who can produce well rounded student-athletes, this doesn’t always result in winning records. It seems like the program’s well-being on the ice is being ignored more and more. And for many people who follow hockey at Northeastern, a successful hockey team at Matthews Arena is important. It can inspire, excite, and give students and others something to look forward to in an engaging and stressful time in their lives. This applies to both fans and players alike.
Overall, an unsuccessful hockey program has no bearing on the educational success of the university. However, when it comes to hockey, it looks like losing regularly is becoming the norm. And frankly, the people around this team don’t deserve that experience.
– Cory Bigda can be reached at info@HuskyHockeyNews.com