When Northeastern started its 2012-13 campaign, the team knocked off Merrimack and No. 1 Boston College, which ended the Eagles’ win streak at 19 games.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, that was the highlight of the first half. The team is ninth in the Hockey East standings at the break with a 3-8-1 record (5-9-1 overall). They won once in their last five games heading into the recess.
Second-year coach Jim Madigan, who said the first semester was disappointing and inconsistent, said there are plenty of improvements that can be made going forward, beginning with the first game back at Harvard on Dec. 29.
“We felt good coming out of training camp and had a good start to the season with a couple of good wins,’’ said Madigan. “In games that we played well, we didn’t get rewarded with results that we wanted. During the first half, we were inconsistent where we couldn’t put all three parts of our game together, whether it be consistent defensive play or offensive play or special teams. We’ve talked to our players about it, ‘Hey we need to bring all three components of our games to win and be successful.’ ’’
In Madigan’s first season, the team finished 13-16-5 and missed the Hockey East playoffs. The Huskies are in transition and Madigan is determined to get the program headed down the right path.
“We started to establish [an identity] last year when we first came in as a staff,’’ said Madigan. “We’ve got good players. Whether it was the previous coaching staff or our ability to tinker with the lineup and bring in a few of our own guys, they’re Northeastern hockey players and we continue to build on the culture that was established and tweak it the way we want. That’s not an excuse from our end. For me, it’s a work in progress.
“We’ve got good players and we just have to put it together in all those phases. As you build that success, that foundation continues to build from this year to next year and the new players coming in are part of that. We’re continuing to work on our identity and our players know the type of way we want to play. We like the players we have. It’s a matter of playing together and playing consistently.’’
Madigan believes the players have bought into the system he and his staff have put into place.
“There were some changes to the personnel at the end of the year,’’ he said. “The players who returned came back with a great attitude and they worked hard over the summer. I do believe they’ve bought into what we want to do and where we want to go. What happens when you’re struggling and you lose some close games and then you come up with some inconsistent play, guys start questioning themselves a little bit. They lack that confidence. When you a lose few close games like we have, people start second guessing themselves. That’s natural and our job as coaches is to keep everyone on the right path.’’
When teams aren’t doing well, players will often take on too much and when they’re doing other people’s jobs as well as their own, it throws off the entire team. Madigan said his team went through that at times during the first half.
“We were so close, we lost a close game at UNH with 53 seconds left [Oct. 26, and settled for a scoreless tie against UNH the next night],’’ he said. “One of our focuses has been, let’s work hard, let’s work smart and just do your own job because we were trying to do more than what we’re capable of doing and then we’d turn over pucks or made decisions. You like the fact that guys want to step up and answer the bell, but at the end of the day, you still have a job to perform and have trust and confidence that your teammates will do their job and then it all comes together.’’
Madigan said the morale and attitude have stayed strong as well as the work ethic. He said the break comes at the right time for the Huskies.
“When kids come back, particularly the freshmen, they have 15 games under their belt and one semester of school and living on their own so they’re different players,’’ he said. “We have to work harder, smarter and believe in ourselves. Our focus the second half will be on the process.’’
BU, BC team up
Boston College and Boston University will be on the same side in a matter of speaking when the 2013 World Junior Championships kick off in Ufa, Russia, from Dec. 26-Jan. 5. Coach Phil Housley will name his 23-man Team USA roster on Dec. 23. It’s expected that Eagles forward Johnny Gaudreau and Terriers defenseman Matt Grzelcyk will both make the squad. Harvard forward Jim Vesey is also expected to compete for the Yanks, as well as Providence goaltender Jon Gillies . . . Holy Cross (9-4-2, 6-3-2) went into the break in second place in the Atlantic Hockey standings. That is the Crusaders’ best record since 2005-06 when they were 10-4-1 in their first 15 contests. They have their most goals through 15 games (51) since they tallied 55 in 2006-07. The team starts the second semester on Dec. 30 when it takes on Yale at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough at 2 p.m., which won’t be an easy matchup. The Crusaders are 0-4-0 against the Bulldogs . . . Bentley went into the recess with a record of 6-8-1. While leading the nation in goals per game (3.80), with Brett Gensler the leader in points per game (1.73), the Falcons give up an average of 3.40 goals. Only three teams in the conference have given up more — RIT (3.88), American International (3.73), and Sacred Heart (4.75). Bentley next faces UMass-Lowell on Dec. 30 at Tsongas Center.
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.