By Matt Noonan
During last week’s Hockey East men’s ice hockey media day, Noontime Sports caught up with Northeastern University head coach Jim Madigan, who has high hopes for the Huskies this season. Madigan chatted about the team’s outlook and goals for the upcoming campaign in an interview we’ve provided below.
On starting a new season: “I think if you polled most of the coaches at this time of the year, we’re all excited. I think we’re all looking forward to a new beginning and so are our players. We’ve got a lot of younger freshmen and sophomores, but with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement on campus and our older guys have come back and led the way (with) off ice training last spring and beginning of this year. It’s a new league with the addition of Notre Dame, another quality opponent of course and (we) can’t wait to get going.”
On building on the past two seasons: “Certainly you know the league much better and I knew the league, but from a different perspective from watching in the stands, but now you’re there every day. The biggest thing is that each and every night you have to get your guys to play hard each and every night and that’s an easy thing to say, but the way this league is set up and built there’s no easy night.
“The biggest thing for me with our staff and players is having gone through a little bit of transition with the personnel, we have players that understand the culture that we want to create here at Northeastern for Northeastern hockey. We’ve got players who’ve bought into the direction and the philosophy that we’re going in college hockey. We are all on the same page where we want to get to and when you don’t make the playoffs two years in a row, I think that sends a clear message that we weren’t good enough and the only way we’re going to be better is if we work harder because the other teams are going to continue working hard, so we’ve got to work harder, we’ve got to work smarter and we’ve got to dedicate ourselves a little more.”
On playing 60 minutes of hockey: “So playing 60 minutes of hockey is something that we didn’t do last year and will be an emphasis on this year. Before I touch on the goals, we need to be better defensively. We gave up the most goals in Hockey East last year and that’s an area we need to be vastly improved on and we will be and it’s just not our goaltender (with that) responsibility, (but) it’s team defense. I think our team defense has to improve, it’s been the emphasis since the beginning of training camp beginning two weeks ago and that falls with our goaltender and our defense and our forwards.
“I like our offense. I believe we’re going to have enough offense to score goals and last year there was times of the year where we didn’t score, but there were enough games where we had chances and the ability to score enough goals to win, but we just couldn’t keep it out of our own net.”
On improving on defense: “Last year we played four first-year players. A sophomore transfer and then three freshmen defensemen, not all those defensemen were (on the ice) at the same time because of injuries, but they learned an awful lot last year (and) probably played more minutes than normally they’re used to playing, so they’ve grown from that and they’ve developed it and learned from that so I’m excited about them coming back and you can see it in these (past) two weeks of practice (and) how much more mature they are out on the ice.
“When you infuse a Matt Benning, who is an incoming freshman and a draft choice of the Boston Bruins two seasons ago, but now he’s with us, a 19-year-old freshman, who I expect to come into play and play some quality minutes. I like our blend of defensemen there and they are and have improved (with) their puck moving skills, so that our transition offense will be much better this year.”
On players to watch on offense: “If you look at last year, I think one of the hottest players in the Hockey East was Cody Ferriero, who had I think 20 points in 20 games and I think it was – he had 12 goals and he only had one the first half, so we had 11 goals in his last 20 (games), so I’m expecting him to build on that and Cody had a good sophomore year, (but) it was interrupted because he missed the first seven games and then he got hurt and missed the last nine games of the season, so in 16 games as a sophomore he had nine goals. If you project that (equation it’s) a goal every two games, but he’s a 17 goal scorer, which is where I think he is, he’s a 15-20 goal scorer and he’s looked really good. He’s a senior and he wants this year to be really good and he’s got a freshmen brother that he’s trying to show the way for in a leadership capacity and that’s also a good thing.
“I’m also expecting real good things from Braden Pimm coming back and getting back to his sophomore production. (Another player is) Kevin Roy. People know how gifted (Kevin) is offensively and he’s ready for a breakout year. He was the freshmen point getter in all of college hockey last year up until seven games left, so I am looking for him to take it to the next level because quite frankly he has the ability to do so.
“(Other players to watch include) Adam Reid, who finished on a strong second half, Mike McMurtry, who will pick up from where he (left off last) year, so I think we have enough offensive guys coming back and then with the (addition) of five or six good freshmen who will play with those sophomore and juniors and seniors will help them out (to) make an impact.”
On playing at Fenway Park this winter: “From an institutional perspective it’s a great opportunity. If you look at where we’re located, we’re right beside the Red Sox, we’re a partner with the Boston Red Sox and now we’ve got the ability to go back in and play our second time in three years. It’s a wonderful experience for our kids and for our alumni and student body and our kids are going to embrace it. We had a real good game there two years ago against Boston College and unfortunately we came up on the short end of a 2-1 game, but we had 29,000 fans there and our kids walked away with a great memory, so we’ve got to turn that now into a great memory and two points, but when you look at it this year we’re going to play at two of the three best venues (in Massachusetts), Fenway Park and the Boston Garden. If they asked us to play at Gillette (Stadium), we’ll play at Gillette also, so we’re fortunate.”