Manson steps up for undermanned NU

News Staff Photo/Zack Williamson

By Jill Saftel, News Staff

If hard times bring out the best in people, an undermanned defense has brought out the best in sophomore Josh Manson’s game. While the men’s hockey team has struggled to rack up Hockey East points for a spot on the playoffs, Manson has been able to find points at the right time, scoring his first three collegiate goals in the team’s last three games.

His first couldn’t have come at a better time, as the minutes ticked off the clock during overtime against the Minutemen at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Feb. 19. But Manson has been clutch for the Huskies behind the blue line, helping to lead a young defense that lost its lone senior, Drew Ellement, to injury Jan. 26 at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

“He had a real good second half last year. His first half this year was a little inconsistent I think, from his perspective. He had some good games and some games that he could have been better at and then when he came back in January, we had four freshman defenseman, one senior defenseman and him as a sophomore who were playing regularly,” head coach Jim Madigan said.

With Ellement’s absence adding to the inexperience of Northeastern’s defensive core, Manson hasn’t only had to step his game up, he’s had to adjust to logging more minutes on the ice. Madigan noted Manson’s ice time during the team’s Jan. 26 loss to Lowell, when he played 30 minutes of the game’s 62 and a half.

“He plays in all situations, and then we’ve got him going on the power play at a net-front position, and it all came together. I think he’s emerged as a leader on the ice, a take charge guy on the ice,” Madigan said. “From that point he just continued to emerge and take on more of a leadership role because he was the oldest guy back there playing regularly.”

Madigan said it’s not as simple as equating his position as a leader to his recent scoring streak.

“He’s helping obviously on both ends of the ice. His game is just coming together and it’s the right time because in this push we’re going to need him in the next four games,” the head coach said.

Manson notched a goal in each of Northeastern’s weekend matchups against the Providence College Friars, first Friday in Providence and then Saturday back at Matthews Arena. Neither would be part of a win for the Huskies though, as they fell 6-2 Friday and 3-2 Saturday to a surging Providence team now part of a four-way tie for first in the conference with the University of New Hampshire, Lowell and Boston College.

The Huskies own the last place in the conference, but they are not out of the playoff hunt. Their final two weekends of regular season play begin Friday with the first of two road games at the University of Maine. The Black Bears are also fighting for a playoff spot, sitting just one place above the Huskies in ninth.

UMass is eighth and owns the final playoff spot with 17 conference points. Maine is one point behind with 16 and Northeastern trails the Minutemen by four, with 13 points on the season.

If the Minutemen win one of their two games at New Hampshire this weekend and Northeastern fails to leave Maine with at least one Hockey East point, which would mean one loss and one tie, the Huskies will be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

With two UMass losses and a weekend sweep of Maine, Northeastern would move into an eighth place tie with the Minutemen, their best possible position before heading into the final weekend of the regular season – a home-and-home weekend with Boston University.

In the event of an eighth place tie with UMass, Northeastern holds the advantage in the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Even with the losses, Madigan said he was happy with his team’s effort Saturday night. The Huskies were without freshman forward Kevin Roy, who sustained an upper-body injury Friday night at Providence. His status is week-to-week and game-to-game.

“We’ll get this effort for the next weekend, which is a big series coming up against Maine and an opportunity to get back in the playoff hunt,” Madigan said following Saturday’s loss.

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. at Maine.