By: Marisa Ingemi
For the Northeastern Huskies, their hallmark has been their late season runs. Last season they rode one all the way to a Hockey East title.
This year is not last year however, and the Huskies have struggled to find their groove. Despite that, a small stretch of success has them feeling more confident heading into their Beanpot contest against Harvard.
“It’s really important,” said Huskies head coach Jim Madigan about maintaining momentum. “Heading into the Beanpot, you want to be feeling good about your team. You want the team to have confidence and you want to carry momentum.”
Since that four game unbeaten run to end January, Northeastern also knocked off Massachusetts last Tuesday, 6-5. But when they do face Harvard on Monday night, it will be a team they haven’t seen much of; the last time the Huskies faced the Crimson was in last year’s Beanpot consolation game.
“We’ve played Harvard in the past, but we don’t schedule them regularly but we have played them in non Beanpot years,” said Madigan. “It’s hard for scheduling purposes, more on Teddy [Donato]’s side because they have a limited amount of games, but it is a fresher look. With how you can break down teams now, there’s no advantage or disadvantage.”
Northeastern has found moderate Beanpot success, appearing in three championship games before last year. Losing all of those, however, has left he Huskies looking for more.
“Your focus and preparation have to be a little bit better, and those older guys, having gone through it with three Beanpots, and the seniors have been in two Beanpot finals,” said Madigan. “They’ve been there, and they’re smart enough to help our younger guys out.”
Senior forward John Stevens is one of the seniors who was in those last two losses, including an overtime loss to BU in the title game.
“It’s something I look forward to every year,” said Stevens. “It’s a game like no other, it means so much to every school. Just seeing how passionate our fans are makes the game that much more special.”
Above .500 for the first time since November, the Huskies have had some struggles this season, but one of their biggest positives has been forward Zach Aston-Reese, one of the early front-runners for the Hobey Baker. Aston-Reese is tied for fifth in the nation with 42 points.
“His production has been tremendous,” said Madigan. “Aston-Reese contributes to our team not just on goals and assists, but he’s a two-way player. He’s really good defensively in his own zone, he kills penalties for us, he’s out there late in the period. He’s the complete player.”
“Zach’s had an unbelievable year,” said Stevens. “Other guys like [Dylan] Sikura and [Adam] Gaudette are having great years too. More than just scoring, he’s been good off the ice, he brings a lot of intangibles for us. He can kind of do it all.”
Not to be lost is Sikura, who actually is tied for the lead in the nation with his 44 point total going into Friday night’s games.
Northeastern heads into the Beanpot near the bottom of the Hockey East standings, but will start out with an ECAC team in Harvard. With 13 points in the conference, it would take a whole bunch to climb in the ranks and catch Boston College and Boston University at the top. However, points are still important for the Huskies.
Their hope is to keep momentum from this tournament into conference play as well, and the Huskies have been on this stage before.
“We’ve played on the big stage at the Garden, just playing those elimination games, those do-or-die. It is a different animal so you have to be used to raising your intensity that much more,” said Stevens.