The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News



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Men’s hockey: After a season of adversity, what’s next for the Huskies?

Sofia Sawchuk
Justin Hryckowian skates next to Merrimack’s net March 13. The captain departed Northeastern at the end of his junior season after signing with the Dallas Stars.

The Northeastern men’s hockey season was filled with highs and lows. Consecutive losses and major injuries riddled the early part of the season, but the Huskies weren’t finished. In January, the team regrouped and began to settle into a rhythm, earning huge wins against some of the best teams in the country and claiming its second straight Beanpot victory. But it wasn’t enough to execute the team’s main goal: making it to the NCAA tournament. Northeastern’s Hockey East quarterfinals loss to Boston University shut down any opportunity of a tournament appearance. 

“Getting to the NCAA Tournament is our goal coming in every single year, and it’s not going to change next year,” said head coach Jerry Keefe after the loss to BU on Mar. 16. “So from that standpoint, it’s disappointing. You know that that was the ultimate goal.” 

The week after the season’s conclusion, the roster was already shifting, with three notable departures. On March 18, after four seasons with Northeastern, forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine entered the transfer portal. Per NCAA COVID-19 protocol, Fontaine’s class is the last to be granted an extra year of eligibility.  

On March 20, junior forward and captain Justin Hryckowian signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Dallas Stars.

“I’m beyond proud. I’ve seen all the work he’s put in, just growing up from day one,” freshman forward Dylan Hryckowian said. “Just seeing how much the sport means to him and to be able to see him move on is really special to see.” 

Two days later, Hockey East’s 2022 Defensive Defenseman of the Year Hunter McDonald signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. McDonald signed as just a sophomore, so his departure was a shock to Northeastern fans. 

The loss of two key leaders, including the Huskies’ team captain, could cause concern, but Keefe said he isn’t worried. 

“As far as the leadership goes, that’s one thing that I thought was a strong suit of ours. Justin is a phenomenal captain. I think that’s where [our team’s] culture comes in,” Keefe said. “Our captains learn from the guys before them. Justin did a great job, and now it’s up to the next group to carry that on.” 

The roster is still full of star-studded talent. In their freshman years, goaltender Cameron Whitehead and forward Dylan Hryckowian had outstanding seasons. 

Whitehead had 1,005 saves throughout the season, the most out of any Hockey East goalie, and a .917 save percentage, the third highest in the conference.

“The sky’s the limit for [Whitehead],” Keefe said. “He played in all the big games. He likes the pressure, and that’s what you need your goaltender to do.”

In massive games against top-10 teams and playing in the Beanpot in front of thousands of fans, Whitehead held his composure and did not falter under enormous pressure. 

“As a goalie, you’re always told that you can’t show emotion. That’s always been something I’ve been working on,” Whitehead said. “I think this year, I took a big step on the mental side of the game, and I think it showed.” 

The graduates of the Northeastern men’s hockey team are honored on senior night. The Huskies skated to a 17-16-3 overall record on the season. (Katie Billman)

Dylan Hryckowian had seven goals this season and 34 points, going toe-to-toe with some of the veteran players on the team. His ability to set up players for shots was close to unmatched. He was second in assists for Northeastern — his brother the only one to top him. Dylan Hryckowian also thrived under pressure, most notably in his overtime game-winning goal against BU Jan. 30. 

“I think the biggest thing was I didn’t have high expectations. I decided I’m just gonna work as hard as I can try and work my way up the lineup and see where it takes me,” Dylan Hryckowian said. “It ended up working out.”

The team will miss the Hryckowian-to-Hryckowian connection on and off the ice. Assisting each other on several goals this season, they were an unmatched duo, combining for nearly a quarter of the team’s total points. 

“[Dylan Hryckowian’s] a driven kid, just like his brother. The Hryckowians are special kids,” Keefe said. “They put the work in, they care, they want to be players. We’re expecting huge things from Dylan next year.”

Throughout the season, Keefe talked about the team needing to find its confidence and swagger on the ice. The six-game win streak in January and February, which included three victories over top-10 teams and a Beanpot title, helped the Huskies find it. 

“I think everybody counted us out and I think we embraced that a bit,” Williams said. I think everybody would have told you BU and BC were gonna win [the Beanpot]. We went in there and we didn’t just shock ourselves but we shocked everyone else.”

Other young stars for the Huskies include sophomore forward Jack Williams, who was the second-highest scorer on the team with 17 goals, sophomore defenseman Vinny Borgesi with 34 points this season and sophomore forward Cam Lund with 11 goals on the year, the fourth highest on Northeastern’s roster. 

While the challenging season may not have been what the Huskies originally hoped for, they overcame tremendous adversity. They were repeatedly considered the underdogs but proved they had the potential to take on any team in the league, with six teams in Hockey East consistently being ranked in the top 20 nationally, and come out on top. The Huskies were the only school to beat both No. 1 Boston College and No. 2 BU. 

“We’ve got a phenomenal group of kids,” Keefe said. “[There’s] a lot of leadership and character coming back.”

About the Contributor
Esha Minhas, Deputy Sports Editor
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