Mid-season Review: What’s in store for the Huskies this year


Mika Podila

Northeastern’s men’s hockey team rejoices after a goal scored during Frozen Fenway. Northeastern came away with a 4-1 win over the University of Connecticut.

Ariana Ottrando, news staff

The Northeastern men’s ice hockey team (9-9-3, 7-4-2 HE) has learned one very important lesson in the first half of the 2022-23 season: There is no easy opponent or schedule. Currently sitting at number three in Hockey East, as they reflect upon the last few months, the Huskies are eager to get back on the ice and take on the second half of the year.

With big tests still to come in the second half of the season including games against Boston University, the University of Connecticut and Merrimack College, the latter two currently ranked above Northeastern in Hockey East the Huskies know that positivity, confidence and hard work will be the keys to success.

Eight out of nine losses thus far were one or two-goal games that could have swayed their way had Northeastern not lost its lead and momentum in the final period. 

“This year … whether it be bounces, or lack of discipline, sitting at the penalty box, puck management, there’s been some things that have caused those really close games to go the other way,” said senior forward and captain Aidan McDonough. “We need to get back to [the little things] and rely on those when things aren’t going our way.”

Junior goaltender Devon Levi agreed with McDonough’s sentiment.

“There’s been a few games that we would’ve obviously liked to win, but you can’t win them all,” Levi said. “We’ve been working on locking it down in the third period, and I think we’re getting better at it. We still have a bit of work to do, but now’s the time to learn how to do that.”

In the final stretch of the first half before the new year, the Huskies lost five out of six games — the outlier being a 4-3 overtime win against the Long Island University Sharks (6-13-1) where Northeastern blew a three-goal lead in the latter half of the 60 minutes. 

“[Losing leads] really does go back to being a little bit fragile, not having that confidence to close games out,” said head coach Jerry Keefe. “Kind of feeling like, ‘Is this going to happen again?’ as opposed to just playing on your toes and attacking the game, going out and winning the third period when you’re up.”

While a losing streak is never the objective, the Huskies have taken these adversities in stride and focus on the upsides.

“It just happens to be that we’re losing a lot, but even if we were winning, we would have the same mindset: flip the page and be ready for the next game,” Levi said. “I think the good part about [losing] is building character and it’s bringing us closer as a group, so when we start winning and getting good bounces, we have the opportunity to go on a roll.” 

The team recognizes the defense has been struggling — most likely a product of numerous veteran injuries for the majority of the first half of the season, including senior defensemen Jeremie Bucheler, Tyler Spott and Jayden Struble. 

Therefore, the defensive newcomers — including four freshmen and one transfer student — have needed to fill big shoes from the jump, with the team heavily relying on them and some playing starter minutes in their first ever games of college hockey.

“I can’t imagine playing 20-25 minutes a night in my first 10 games in college,” McDonough said. “[The freshmen] did a good job, battled hard, and I think it’s going to help them out in the long run. They’ll be ready to go because they have that experience.”

Keefe said that he thinks the “freshmen d[efense] have been great” — particularly Jackson Dorrington, Vinny Borgesi and Hunter McDonald. 

“All three of them have really stepped up. I’m excited to get our d[efensive]-core healthy because I think that’s really going to help the freshmen out too, not having to put too much pressure on those guys back there,” Keefe said. 

Northeastern’s most recent loss ended at 4-8 in a hard-fought game against the #9 Harvard University Crimson (10-4-1, 8-2-0 ECAC). While the Huskies’ play was lacking defensively, they generated many scoring chances and have improved offensively in their past few matchups.

“We got some life out of the offense we haven’t had in a few weeks, and it was really encouraging,” McDonough said. “The score may not dictate that, but by watching the game, all the lines offensively were going. Let’s keep that offense up, but now we got to tighten it up on the backend.”

Keefe agreed, noting the offense’s strengths and key forwards in the lineup.

“[Jack Williams and Cam Lund] have been excellent for us up front … I’m glad [Jack Hughes and Sam Colangelo] are starting to come on offensively. If we can get those guys to continue to keep making plays like they are, that’s going to help us moving forward,” Keefe said.

In addition to McDonough, sophomore forward Justin Hryckowian and junior forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine ranked high for scoring in Hockey East in 2022. McDonough and Hryckowian led the conference with 17 points each, while Fontaine came in at number five with 14 points.

The highest-scoring game for Northeastern so far resulted in six goals against the University of New Hampshire Wildcats (6-16-1, 1-11-1 HE) — three of which were scored by Hryckowian for his first collegiate hat trick. 

In the past few weeks of practice, Northeastern has analyzed their first half of the season both on and off the ice — working on all aspects of the game offensively and placing a special emphasis on advancing defensively. 

“Offensively we’re working on finishing,” McDonough said. “Defensively, after Harvard, we have to work on everything: closing quicker, gaps, backchecking, sorting in the d[efensive] zone.”

While Northeastern hasn’t quite yet met the expectations they had set for themselves after winning the regular season title last season, the team is dedicated to putting in the extra effort in order to meet its ambitions.

“[We’ve] had some tough conversations over the last month or so,” McDonough said. “We’ve had some long video sessions, some long workouts … but at the end of the day, our group is positive. Work a little bit harder and good things will come. We’re closer than we were last week in terms of being where we want to be.”

Keefe emphasized that the team’s goals are right in front of them: Beanpot, Hockey East championship and the regular season championship.

“There’s a lot of hockey left,” Keefe said. “We just want to make sure that we’re playing our best hockey moving forward here throughout the year.”

The Huskies’ most recent test came in a special conference matchup versus the #9/10 University of Connecticut, or UConn, Huskies (13-6-3, 8-5-2 HE) in Fenway Park on Saturday.

The contest served as Northeastern’s fourth appearance at Frozen Fenway — a series of college hockey games hosted in Fenway Park since 2010. 

While the team was playing for Hockey East points, the most exciting component of the game was the chance to play at Fenway Park, Keefe said. “This is a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s even that much better when you win the game.”

Northeastern came away with a 4-1 victory, dominating offensively and maintaining the lead for the full 60 minutes of play. The four goals were scored by McDonough, Hryckowian, Williams and Liam Walsh, a graduate forward — his first as a Husky. 

The second Frozen Fenway win for the program was a crucial one for this maturing team as they head into this second half with a full healthy roster and a boost of confidence.

No matter the outcome of their games, the Huskies have demonstrated resilience throughout the last few months, working hard and retaining positive mindsets in order to attain their goals.

Northeastern will face UConn in another Huskies versus Huskies matchup Jan. 14 at the Toscano Family Ice Forum with the hopes of building on their momentum and taking more points in Hockey East.

“We have high expectations from people on the outside, but we have high expectations for ourselves,” McDonough said. “There’s frustration, but that’s not going to get us anywhere. To be positive and to keep working is the only way we’re going to get to where we want to be and that’s all we got to do.”