Northeastern got their season underway with an exhibition game against the Acadia Axemen. This was the sixth straight season that the Huskies have begun the year against a Canadian club. In the last five the Huskies have gone 2-3. Unfortunately, the Huskies, though valiant in their efforts, fell to the Axemen 3-2.
The exhibition game at the college level could be considered the equivalent to the preseason games played among the NHL teams. The Pink Puck asked Huskies head coach Jim Madigan about what his team gets out of the exhibition.
“It’s to give our first year players, which we have six or seven of them, and six in the lineup that played, an opportunity to see what a college game is like,” he answered. “It’s good for our returning players to get their feet wet again and get back into it and acclimate themselves.”
For the Huskies, this game followed their first official practice, so the team is still working on their chemistry and communication among their line mates. And this was not lost on the players themselves.
“I think it’s just everyone getting to know the systems. Even the guys coming back from last year are playing with new guys,” Zach Aston-Reese told The Pink Puck, “It’s just a matter of knowing where you’re new line mates area and welcoming in the new guys into the system.”
In addition to the incoming freshmen, the Huskies have a new sophomore in Brendan Collier, who spent his freshman year at Boston University. The Pink Puck asked the Boston native about his experience with the team during the game.
“It’s a fresh start, so I just want to prove to everybody that I’m here to play as hard as I can,” Collier said. “I thought my speed increased over the summer, and I thought I showed that tonight.”
Collier also knows his personal strengths and his role on the team.
“[My role has] always been the same, play like a pest out there and get on pucks and get to the net and make plays,” he continued. “I was never slight of foot so I always had to use my mind. Coach always says I have a good mind for the game, so that’s what I have to play as.”
Hockey sense is important. And the Huskies got a taste of the need for it when they played the Axemen.
“[Sunday] was a great test because [the Axemen] is a real smart hockey club. They’re a highly skilled team. They’re all ex-major junior players in Canada and you have to think when you play them,” Coach Madigan said. “It made us be a little more cerebral team, so that was good and hopefully it will help us out going into the game with Vermont.”
Each year a team changes in personnel and as such the team’s leadership goes through a change with new players stepping up. Last season Northeastern had a large freshman class, who are now a year older and sophomores.
Coach Madigan discussed his expectations for the sophomores, but also the others on the team.
“I expect [the sophomores], like they were last year, to contribute in all phases of our team and they’re older now so they can help out the freshman class and there’s a lot of leaders in that sophomore class,” he said. “I expect them to lead on and off the ice. It’s nice because we’ve got John Stevens who’s a sophomore who is a real quiet leader and his brother [Nolan] is in the freshman class, so there’s a strong bond there. So that makes a stronger bond with all the freshmen. Looking for them to again lead on and off the ice.”
And Coach Madigan realizes that he has a wealth of leadership among his team this season. Even with the appointment of Adam Reid and Dax Lauwers as co-captains and Torin Snydeman and Clay Witt as assistant captains, he’s looking for everyone to step up as he knows they can.
“More than any year for us because the freshmen last year, sophomores this year, played such an important role, they’ve emerged as leaders but so are our juniors and seniors this year,” he said. “I’m not looking to any one person to step up. We’ve got the core four that’s really good. And then we’ve got a real good complimentary group of leaders.”
The Huskies have their first game of the season against the University of Vermont Catamounts this coming Saturday, November 11 at Matthews Arena. They’ve got tape to review and some experience on the ice with their line mates and the opportunity to work on things for the coming week.