After a few starts and stops, it appears the Northeastern men’s hockey team is ready to get its season under way this weekend when it faces Merrimack in a home-and-home series beginning Saturday at Matthews Arena.
“We’re ready to go. We’ve practiced a lot. Our kids are excited,” said Huskies coach Jim Madigan.
Originally set to open Nov. 27 at UMass Lowell, Northeastern’s season was delayed on Nov. 23 after some members of the athletic community tested positive for COVID-19. Although the men’s hockey team was not affected, the decision was made to delay competition for all winter teams until Dec. 18.
“When I had to deliver the news, it was almost as bad delivering the news to the locker room on March 12,” said Madigan, equating the experience to when he had to tell last year’s team that the season was over. “The players were deflated. They were disappointed.”
A few days after the decision, as the thrice-weekly COVID-19 tests continued to come back negative, the team was allowed to return to practice, and last week the school announced that the program could return to play this weekend.
The Huskies will be without a pair of promising freshmen to start the season. Goalie Devon Levi has been participating in Canada’s selection camp in Red Deer, Alberta, for the World Junior Championship, and was named to the team on Thursday. Forward Sam Colangelo, a Stoneham native, is at the US camp in Plymouth, Mich. Should he also be selected to the final roster, both players will head to Edmonton on Sunday to prepare for the tournament, which will be Dec. 25-Jan. 1.
Even with Levi out of the picture, Northeastern has three goalies on the roster: senior Curtis Frye, sophomore Connor Murphy, and junior Nick Scarpa from Andover. Frye and Murphy have been getting the most work in intrasquad games.
“One of those two will get the nod for Saturday,” said Madigan. “We’ll just keep evaluating like we do with all of our players, but I’m very happy with where all three of our goaltenders are to this point. It will be a tough decision that will have to be made.”
Senior captain Zach Solow is back after putting up 13 goals and 18 assists last season, as is Milton native Aidan McDonough, who had 11 goals and 16 assists in his freshman campaign. Juniors Jordan Harris and Julian Kislin anchor the defense.
Northeastern will be facing a Merrimack squad that opened its season last week with a split against UMass Amherst.
“It’s a typical Merrimack team. They play heavy. They’re physical and they finish their checks,” said Madigan. “I thought last year in the second half they were playing as well as anyone in our league.”
The Warriors dropped the opener in Amherst before returning to North Andover for a 3-2 win. Freshman Alex Jefferies had a goal and two assists on the weekend to take home conference rookie of the week honors.
Saturday’s game is at 6 p.m. and will air on NESN. The home-and-home shifts to Lawler Rink Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
Next Eagle up
Boston College is off to a 4-0 start after last week’s sweep of Providence, but will face a challenge as goalie Spencer Knight, forward Matt Boldy, and defenseman Drew Hellenson departed for the US training camp earlier this week. The No. 2 Eagles were already without forward Alex Newhook, who is in camp with Canada.
“Someone’s going to have to step up and fill some roles here,” said coach Jerry York. “We wish them all the best of luck. If ever there could be a Canada-US gold medal game, that would be an incredible night to sit in front of a television and watch those four guys play.”
BC will turn to freshman Henry Wilder in goal for this weekend’s home-and-home series with UConn. The Needham native starred at Hotchkiss last season and was named USHS First Team All-New England after posting a 1.69 goals-against average and .942 save percentage.
The series begins Friday at 6 p.m. (NESN) at Conte Forum, before shifting to Storrs on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Boston University announced that its men’s hockey team will continue a pause of all activities and postponed this weekend’s games against UMass. The team had a positive COVID-19 test last week, and as a result, forward Robert Mastrosimone, defenseman Alex Vlasic, and goalie Drew Commesso were replaced on the preliminary roster for the US team and will not be available to participate in the World Junior tournament.
The Terriers are not scheduled to play until a home-and home series with Northeastern the weekend of Jan. 1, with BU announcing that the team would focus on completing the semester and final exams before returning to campus to prepare for the new start to its season.
Let’s get it started
In addition to Northeastern, three more Hockey East teams are slated to begin their seasons this weekend. New Hampshire was scheduled to travel to Maine for a pair of games beginning Friday night, but that series was shifted to Durham this week since the Black Bears do not have approval from the state to host an event with more than 50 people in the building. Both games will be at 7 p.m. and air on NESN Plus.
UMass Lowell is also making its season debut, hosting Providence on Sunday. Ron Rolston will handle the coaching duties for the 0-2 Friars while Nate Leaman is serving as the coach for the US team for the World Junior Championship.
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.