Huskies Hungry for Championship

by NESN Staff

March 19, 2009

For the past three years, the Northeastern Huskies were bottom feeders of Hockey East. However, after finishing the 2007-08 campaign with a 12-13-2 record in the Hockey East, Northeastern was looking to prove to New England and beyond that they were ready to step things up to the next level in 2008-09. And that?s exactly what they have done.

In his fourth season at the helm, head coach Greg Cronin led NU to a 18-6-3 record in the conference and notched 25 overall wins. After returning from the Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage, Alaska with a win and a tie, the Huskies picked up their first four games against Hockey East foes, including a win over the reigning NCAA Champions, Boston College, and a sweep at Maine in back-to-back nights. Not to mention, the mighty Huskies outscored their opponents 15-4 in the process. The statement was made.

NU continued to roll through the blustery Boston winter, battling Boston University for the top spot in the conference all the way through. When the Hub?s biggest bragging rights battle ? the 57th annual Beanpot Tournament ? rolled around in the first week of February, the Huskies couldn?t have been more prepared as NU had won eight-of-ten Hockey East matchups heading in.

After smacking Boston College around 6-1 in Game 1, the Huskies were matched up against BU in the title match. The Terriers were in search of their 29th title while the Huskies were looking for their fifth ? the lowest amount of Beanpot titles among the four teams. BU took that battle 5-2, but Northeastern battled hard keeping it at a 3-2 game until about six minutes left in regulation.

Leading the Huskies charge this season has been Wade MacLeod with 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists). Ryan Ginand leads the squad with 20 goals and 161 shots to go with 12 helpers while senior Joe Vitale ? a draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins ? has seven goals and 20 assists in addition to a team-most 66 penalty minutes.

Four Northeastern players were honored by Hockey East as freshman Steve Quailer was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie team, senior Louis Liotti was named Old Time Hockey Best Defensive Defenseman, while Vitale was named Best Defensive Forward and junior Brad Thiessen was named ITECH Goaltending Champion and received the Three Stars Award.

Little by little the Huskies have been able to turn their program around. With major improvements over the past two seasons, the Huskies are still trying to achieve the one goal that stands between them and being an elite team in the conference. And that goal is standing alone once championship weekend is over.

How they got here

Despite losing to UMass-Amherst in Game 1 of the Hockey East quarterfinals, NU bounced back and took the next two games including a 3-2 overtime win thanks to Alex Tuckerman?s tally in extra time. Thanks to Tuckerman?s goal, the Huskies will advance to the semifinals for the first time since 1994, where they will face UMass Lowell in the semifinal round March 20 at 5 p.m. at the TD Banknorth Garden.

How they fared

During the regular season, Northeastern owned UMass Lowell, beating them in each of the three matchups including a home-and-home sweep of the River Hawks on Feb. 27-28.

Potential Tournament MVP

Brad Thiessen has certainly been the MVP this season for the Huskies, and it wouldn't be a surprise if the goaltender took home the award following the Hockey East Tournament.
Thiessen's numbers have been outstanding throughout the 2008-09 as he has single-handedly carried the Huskies to several victories. And judging by the various other awards he has been honored with this season, he is no stranger to being the main man.
If the Huskies are to finish on top, it will be because of Thiessen. And if it's because of him, expect the netminder to take home the hardware.

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