(Photo: Northeastern University Athletics)
Turn on the television these days and you will see a variety of “back to school” commercials advertising everything from shoes to school supplies to clothes. And while many parents may be counting down the days to that first day of school, such commercials also remind us that college hockey will be underway just shortly after that first class is taken.
For the Northeastern University Huskies that means the return of an impressive group of players as well as the addition of five new players – all of which speaks to the team having another strong year.
The Huskies have lost their captain and top defenseman, Josh Manson, who signed an entry level contract with the Anaheim Ducks organization and will most likely be playing with their AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals. The son of Dave Manson, a 15-year NHL veteran, Manson was drafted by the Ducks in the 6th round (160th overall) of the 2011 Draft.
Returning NHL draftees include Matt Benning (2012, 6th Round, Boston Bruins), and Kevin Roy (2012, 4th Round, Anaheim Ducks). They will be joined by newly arriving freshman, and NHL 2014 Draftee Dylan Sikura (6th Round, Chicago Blackhawks). And red-shirted goalie, Clay Witt, will be playing in his senior year. Strong between the pipes, he was honored a number of times this past season for his skill and impressive statistics in keeping the puck out of the net.
Sikura has the distinction of being the 50th player in program history to be drafted by an NHL team, and the fifth player in team history to be selected by Chicago. He is joining a Northeastern team that went far this past season with a 19-14-4 record. They reached the Beanpot championship game for the third straight season and found themselves back in the Hockey East playoffs for the first time in three years.
Northeastern’s head coach, Jim Madigan, spoke highly of Sikura.
“Dylan is skilled, smart, plays with a lot of intelligence, gets around the ice really well, and can make plays,” he said. “He is always looking for that perfect play to set up his teammates – he’s obviously an unselfish player. He has really good offensive instincts and he’s someone that we look to try and crack our top six lineup. He is someone that has that ability because of the offensive skills and the instincts that he possesses and brings each and every day.”
Owens is coming to Northeastern after playing last season with the New Jersey Hitmen of the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL), where he was team captain. In 48 games he had 11-18-29, which included nine points (four goals and five assists) in six playoff games.
“Trevor is someone who is a character, two-way defenseman,” said Madigan. “He’s a physical, puck-moving guy, someone who takes a lot of pride in managing his own zone and moving pucks out of his zone, and taking care in front of his own net. He’s defensive because he can move pucks. He’s a really good skater, jumps into the play, but is someone that we’ll count on initially just to be that steady, calming influence defensively in and around the net.”
Defenseman Cockerill is a Brighton, Michigan native who spent the 2013-14 season playing for the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League (USHL) where he tallied six points (three goals and three assists) in 14 games after being traded from Des Moines on February 6, 2014. While with Des Moines during last season, he recorded five goals and nine assists in 32 games.
“Garret has a real good stick and is a smart, offensive-skill type defensemen,” Madigan had to say about Cockerill. “He has a very good shot, both a snap shot and a slap shot. He plays with his eyes up, moves pucks well, and he’s strong down low in his own zone. Garret is someone who has a physical aspect to his game, he can lay on the stick, lay on the body down low and he competes.”
A new addition to the roster, having just been added this month, though he committed to Northeastern last October, Stevens is coming from the U.S. National Under-18 Team of the USHL where he got four goals and nine assists in the 60 games he appeared in with Team USA during the 2013-14 season. The Manhattan Beach, California native had a 58% face-off win in the seven games he played with Team USA at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation’s U18 World Championship in Lappeenranta and Imatra Finland, helping the USA win a gold medal.
“Nolan will give us a little bit of versatility. He’s a really smart player, you can make some comparison with his brother [John Stevens, returning Northeastern sophomore who played before on the Clark Cup-winning Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)] that there’s a really good hockey IQ there.” said Madigan about Stevens’ skills. “It’s not hard to find out quickly that their dad was a positive influence on both boys and they were given some early teachings. Nolan has the ability to score goals, he’ll shoot the puck a little more than his brother and he has really good habits.”
With the addition of Stevens, the Huskies will have two sets of brothers on this season’s roster: previously mentioned Kevin Roy (a junior) and his goalie brother Derick, a red-shirted sophomore this year are the other siblings.
And speaking of goalies, Theut will round out the tending triad for the Huskies this season. Born in Washington, Michigan, Theut spent the 20-13-14 season playing with the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs (Eastern Hockey League) where he played 28 regular games between the pipes with a 2.10 goals-against-average and a .935 save percentage. During the playoffs he increased his save percentage to .938 in the twelve games he played.
“Jake is a big kid, covers up a lot of space, has a really good attitude, and is someone who’s really hardworking and a driven young man who will compete at the goaltending position with all of our goaltenders.” said Madigan about the freshman tender. “We’re thrilled with him and every good program needs three quality goaltenders and we’re fortunate, I believe, to have two really good goaltenders returning and Jake adding to that mix.”
Looking to Push
During the Boston Bruins development camp in July, Benning was asked about the coming season.
“Yep. Really excited. We didn’t lose a lot of players this year so we’re really excited.” Benning told The Pink Puck. “We’ve got a young group of guys so we’re looking to push really hard.”