With just a tad more than 48 hours to go before the puck drops on a new season, the time finally has come to open a new season thread for the defending Beanpot and Hockey East champions.
“Reload” isn’t a word often associated with the Boston collegiate hockey teams located south of Commonwealth Ave. but it certainly applies to Northeastern this year. Mainstays of the last two glory years like Lincoln Griffin, Brandon Hawkins, and Patrick Schule, not to mention the incomparable Jeremy Davies and Cayden Primeau have moved on, to be replaced by prized recruits like forwards Aiden McDonough, Riley Hughes, and Neil Shea along with defensemen Jayden Struble, Mike Kesselring, and Jeremy Bucheler, and goaltender Connor Murphy.
Augmenting the matriculating recruits are grad transfers Craig Pantano (Mack) in goal and Brendan Van Riemsdyk (UNH) up front. (Husky fans of a certain vintage are sure to have culture conflict over BVR but nothing that some early wins won’t fix.) Additionally, proven NU veterans like Ryan Shea and Matt Filipe should help balance the rookie potential with championship experience.
The big question during the offseason has been how to replace all-everything Primeau, the answer to which is…you don’t. But a presumably stronger, faster, more mobile defense should cut down on the number of shots that reach the Pantano/Murphy combination. NU hasn’t had much trouble scoring goals over the past two years and that should continue. But the newcomers up front, if they live up to expectations, should put the heat on some upperclassmen who skated regular shifts last year.
It shouldn’t take long to figure out where things stand. Although ranked 14/15 in the pre-season national polls and picked to finish fourth in the league, the Huskies play seven of their first 11 games against pre-season Top Ten teams, including #4 UMass (three times), #6 Providence (twice) and #7 St. Cloud (twice).