Archive | April, 2012

Hitting the Links

April 24, 2012

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Some news regarding both former and future Huskies, as well as some Hockey East info.
  • Russ Bitely sat down with ’13 recruit Ross Olsson.  Olsson was Madigan’s second recruit and with everyone jumping ship, its nice to hear someone say they are excited for the new era of NU hockey.    Olsson has still not decided between heading to the USHL for a season or staying one more year at his prep school before coming to Northeastern.

  • UNH released their schedule for next season.   They are the fist team to do so.  Once again, the Huskies will get an early meeting with them.  On the whole, their schedule is very similar to last year’s with home and away flipped, as well as some minor changes.   Thats pretty common for Hockey East, so expect more of the same for Northeastern’s schedule.


  • After a brutal series for Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins may need to reevaluate their goaltending situation.  Scott Burnside suggests maybe its time to start getting Brad Thiessen ready to eventually take over.  Thiessen is a restricted free agent this summer.

  • Its a rule change summer for college hockey.  Lets hope it goes better than last time, when they almost passed a rule prohibiting icing while on the PK.   On this year’s agenda: Half-Shields and changes to overtime.   We can only hope the coaches are smart enough to vote against the idea of a shootout.    Also in that article is a brief discussion on UConn to Hockey East.   That CT news station that reported it was a “done deal” seems to be a bit off the mark.   Good on Hockey East for making sure to get the proper assurances before letting a sub-.500 Atlantic Hockey team into the conference.

  • Wade MacLeod didn’t put up huge numbers in his first full AHL season,  but Bruce Landon had good things to say about the former Husky in his season-wrap for MassLive.

  • Former Coach Greg Cronin will once again be an assistant for the US team at the World Championships.

  • Earlier this season, it looked like Michael Ryan’s career might be over due to concussion problems.   But Ryan hopes to return tonight for the Rochester Amerks after missing almost all of this season.

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Luke Eibler to Leave Northeastern

April 24, 2012

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Photo Courtesy of Dave Luca

The hits just keep on coming for Northeastern with the news that rising Junior Luke Eibler will not be returning to the team next season.  The news, which was first reported by Kristin Kim on Twitter, was confirmed to Husky Hockey Blog by a team source earlier today.   Eibler is 8th Husky to leave the program this summer.

Eibler, a Michigan native, came to Northeastern after a year in the USHL with the Youngstown Phantoms.  In his first year at NU, Eibler found himself paired with another freshman, Anthony Bitetto.   The two of them combined to put together a pretty impressive campaign.  Bitetto was the one who got the Hockey East accolades, but Eibler was a solid defenseman in his own right.  He managed 3 goals and 10 assists, but more importantly, he finished 2nd on the team with a +12 rating.

Eibler returned to NU for his sophomore season despite interest from the NHL, namely Washington.    During this past season, circumstances forced the coaching staff to break up the Bitetto/Eibler pairing.   The change did not slow down Eibler.    He had just 1 goal and 7 assists, but his +10 rating was again second best on the team. Down the stretch, it became clear that Eibler was the best defensive option on the team.  Losing Bitetto earlier this summer was unfortunate.  Losing Eibler is a catastrophe.   Northeastern has been hit with many losses this summer, but with the exception of Steve Quailer, none of those losses were extremely detrimental to the team.   This one is.   Eibler has been underrated in his time here and over the past 2 years has really developed into a solid defenseman.  The defense is now a gigantic question mark at best.

The Huskies have just 5 defenseman on their roster now, plus 4 recruits coming in.   Senior Drew Ellement is really the only sure thing.   Sophomore Josh Manson really came on in the second half of last season.  He should also be in the lineup every night.  After that the Huskies have  Junior Jake Hoeffler (4 career GPs), Sophomore Ben Oskroba (9 career GPs) and Sophomore Dan Cornell, who walked on to the team and played very well in the first half, but struggled towards the end of the season.  As far as recruits go, Mike Gunn should step right into the lineup.  After that, its anyone’s guess.   Former Lowell commit Colton Saucerman has missed most of this season with a torn ACL.  Then there are two kids coming from Canadian leagues that don’t typical put many kids in Hockey East.  Jarrett Fennell comes from the OJHL and Dustin Darou, who was once committed to Michigan, comes from the CCHL.   One thing all 4 of these recruits have in common is age. Darou and Fennell are both ’91s.  Gunn and Saucerman are ’92s.  All 4 will come with every chance of working their way into what has become a wide-open lineup.  Freshman defenseman generally struggle in Hockey East, but Madigan is hoping that he can buck that trend by bringing in some older guys.

One thing is for sure.  Its been a rough summer for Northeastern and we are only in April.  Next season can’t come soon enough.

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Off Season News and Notes

April 19, 2012

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Northeastern
  • Northeastern’s captains were announced at the year end banquet last week.  Vinny Saponari will be the Captain, with Robbie Vrolyk and Ludwig Karlsson as his alternates.  You can read about the event and all of the awards that were given out here.  Saponari, a transfer from BU, could be considered a bit of controversial pick, but personally I like it.  Its been clear since Saponari arrived at NU that he is extremely grateful for getting a 2nd chance.  He won a national championship with BU, and he also served as a leader on his Dubuque team that won the USHL title.  He looks like a changed man and I think he is the perfect guy to lead the team.  Vrolyk is an obvious choice.  No one outworks him.  Karlsson is interesting.  Definitely a popular guy among teammates and fans alike.  I guess he is going to lead by example.
  • Never say never, but I don’t think Northeastern will suffer any more losses this summer.  So that means the team is losing 5 forwards and just 2 defenseman.  They have 3 forwards and 4 defenseman coming in.  I’m speculating here, but even though the numbers matchup, I don’t think the scholarship money does.  I believe Bitetto, Quailer and the Daniels were all on pretty large scholarships.  Out of the guys coming in Darcy will almost certainly be getting a full ride or close to it.  I would guess Gunn and Belonger are getting a decent amount as well.  The three Canadians kids are all in their 20’s already, so I’m betting they aren’t getting much.  So while we can’t say for certain, I think that NU might have some money to go get another forward if thats what they want to do.   Don’t be surprised to see Madigan bring someone in this summer.
  • Who might that player be? Hard to say.  It could be another older kid from Canada, or it could be someone committed to another college for 2013 that wants to play in the NCAA next season.  St John Prep star Sam Kurker could fit the bill.  The Reading, MA native is committed to BU for 2013, but rumors have been swirling regarding him wanting to play college hockey next season.  BU doesn’t have a scholarship for him next year, so he may be on the open market.  Northeastern was among his final 3 before he decided on BU, but that was when Greg Cronin was still the coach.  Kurker had this to say about choosing BU: “It’s Division 1, a Hockey East and Beanpot school … everything you dream of”.  So you have to think NU could be a possibility.  
  • Another guy who is still out is Mike Vecchione of Saugus, MA.  Vecchione played at Malden Catholic before leaving for the USHL’s Tri-City Storm.  He decommited from UNH this winter when they asked him to come in 2013, and he has not committed anywhere yet.   
  • The schedule for next year is starting to take shape.  Fans on the USCHO forum have for the first time in history contributed something positive to society besides massive amounts of laughs.   They have created a master schedule for next year based on teams that have released info.  Northeastern has not released any info, but from spreadsheet we learn that NU will be hosting St. Lawrence of the ECAC the Friday after Thanksgiving.  We also know the Notre Dame and Michigan owe them return games.  Notre Dame will probably be at Matthews for 1 game this season.  Michigan will probably buy their way out of it, if they didn’t already do that in the initial agreement.  On the flip side, NU owes RPI a return game from 2010, but RPI’s schedule for next year does not include NU.  So maybe it was pushed back, maybe it was cancelled.  The two Beanpot games are given which means NU only gets 5 OOC games.  So that means there is still 2 (3 if Michigan bails) games to fill. A home game against Alabama Hunstville has been rumored on DHD.  We should have more on this as the summer goes on.
 Hockey East
  • We will continue updating our Hockey East Off-Season Movement article with any additional departures around Hockey East.  Our most recent update added the announced Captains for Maine and UNH.
  • UConn to Hockey East remains the big story.  Nothing official yet, but it is clear UConn is the favorite.  I just don’t see UConn being a successful team in Hockey East, especially playing games off-campus.  Hockey East would have been better off just sticking with the 10-team, bus league that we all know and love.
Alumni
  • Joe Vitale and the Penguins are down 3-1 in their first round series against Philadelphia.  Vitale has played in 3 of 4 games and he picked up a game misconduct last night.  The playoff games are the first of Vitale’s NHL career.  He has yet to register a point.
  • In the AHL, the playoffs begin tonight.  Tyler McNeely and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers are the 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.  They host the Connecticut Whale.  Brad Thiessen and the WBS Penguins are the 4 seed.  They host the Hershey Bears.  Anthony Bitetto has joined the Milwaukee Admirals, but he won’t play in their playoff series.  
  • All of NU’s ECHL players have seen their seasons end either by missing the playoffs or being knocked in the first round.    
  • Best wishes to Kyle Kraemer.  He was injured in Game 3 of his team’s playoff series when he was “head-checked” by an opponent.
  • Jamie Oleksiak and his Niagara are in the Eastern Conference Finals of the OHL.  They face Ottawa in a best of 7 that starts Friday.
Recruits
  • Cam Askew is headed to Cushing Academy in the fall.  He is accelerating his studies and is planning on playing for Northeastern in 2015.
  • Daniel Willett was selected by Plymouth in the OHL Draft.   Should he choose to sign with them, he would lose his NCAA eligibility.
  • While most of the recruits’ seasons have ended, the USHL playoffs are just getting underway.  Mike Gunn (’12), Ryan Belonger (’12)  and the Youngstown Phantoms head to Green Bay as the 4 seed in the East this weekend.
  • Zach Aston-Reese (’13) and Lincoln are the 1 seed in the West.  They host Fargo this weekend.  Colton Saucerman (’12) also plays for Lincoln, but he season was ended by a torn ACL.
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The New Era of Northeastern Hockey

April 2, 2012

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When Greg Cronin left last summer, he left behind a program that was trending upwards.  The team was coming off a strong second half that included a huge playoff victory at BU.  The overtime loss in the Beanpot and the 1 goal loss in the Hockey East Semifinals, both to BC, were tough to swallow, but it was hard not to be proud of the team for really turning it around after a rough start.

Fueling the optimism was the fact that the recruiting class coming in was considered to be Cronin’s best yet.  Despite losing the top scorers to graduation and early departures, people were definitely excited about this team and the future of Northeastern hockey.

When Cronin left, that optimism took a hit.  No matter who they brought in, the new coach was going to have to steady the ship and keep all of the recruits on board before anything else. Unless they hired from within (Sebastien LaPlante), that was always going to be a tough task.  Even with LaPlante, they likely would have lost one or two.  But overall, it seemed like the next coach that came in would have a solid base and they would pick up where Cronin had left off.

When Jim Madigan was hired, he decided not to take that course. He chose to blow up the foundation Cronin built and start down his own path.   Most of the time when a new coach comes in, they do clear out memories of the old regime and craft the team into their own model.  Madigan’s supporters this year have been quick to point out that Cronin did the same thing when he came in.  To be fair though, the situation Cronin walked into was a far cry from the one Madigan did.  Unlike when Cronin came in, Madigan had plenty of talent to work with.  Still, he decided that he was better off doing things his way and getting his guys in.

Was this the right move by Madigan? We can’t say.  Not now at least.  If Madigan brings in his guys and can get a Beanpot or an NCAA tournament win, I don’t think anybody is going to still be upset about missing the playoffs this year.  But if Madigan’s plan can’t take the program to new heights, then it will probably feel like he did waste what Cronin left here.

Either way, its too early to tell if this the right course of action or not.  But its the course Northeastern is on.  For the second year in a row, its been a difficult summer for Northeastern and when the team takes the ice next season, it will be one major step closer to a Madigan-designed team.  “Cronin’s guys” have been heading for the exits: some by their own will (Bitetto), some because they had no reason to stay (Dongara).  There will be more departures before this summer is over.  Besides Chris Rawlings, Luke Eibler will probably be the biggest reminder of Cronin next year.  Look at the likely Top 6 forwards

1. Ludwig Karlsson (never played for Cronin)

2. Vinny Saponari (never played for Cronin)

3. Braden Pimm (3rd/4th liner under Cronin)

4. Garrett Vermeersch (Member of Cronin’s Doghouse.  4th liner in Cronin’s last season)

5. Cody Ferriero (President of Cronin’s Doghouse.  Suspended once, benched multiple times in just 1 year under Cronin)

6. Adam Reid or Joe Manno (never played for Cronin, Manno committed to Madigan)

Defense isn’t much better.  Just Drew Ellement and Luke Eibler will have played under Cronin.  And of course, Madigan has gotten commitments from his own recruits and let some of Cronin’s go (McKee, Renz).

Its a bit shocking when you look at it.  Obviously Madigan was going to mold the program in a way that suited him, but it is surprising just how quickly he has cleared out Cronin’s guys.  And for fans who watched Cronin turn this program around, that can be a little hard to swallow.  All will be forgiven if Madigan can win, but right now it feels like Northeastern hockey is back to square 1 and it might take a few years for this plan to get going.

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