For the first time since 1988, the Northeastern University Huskies are Hockey East champions and team captain Kevin Roy knows exactly when, and who transformed NU from being one of the conference’s also-rans into a national college hockey power.
“It was Josh Manson, my sophomore year (2012-2013), that turned it around and he passed it onto us, the senior class now, and there was Dax Lauwers last year and I think that they passed it onto me and us seniors and assistant captains so when you know what to do and the culture is set, it was easy for me and the people that helped me with this team,” Roy said when asked if he could pinpoint when NU’s culture became one in which the team began to believe in itself. “We already had a culture and we just kept it going, and even though we had a tough start, we had the same culture in the locker room and I just think it starts from there.”
The ”tough start” Roy spoke about came in the first 14 games of the season when Northeastern broke out of the gate 1-11-2. Since then, the Huskies have gone 21-2-3 including their defeat over UMass Lowell in the Hockey East championship game.
“I think coming into this year we knew we could do it and whatever start we got it didn’t matter to us and I think that’s what made us win,” Roy continued. “You know, after the first win at home against Maine we just felt confident to keep moving forward, just win one game by one and slowly make our way here. It’s not easy to make it to the Garden and much harder to win, but you know we did it as a group and everyone stepped up and we could not have done it if all 28-30 guys in that locker room didn’t show up every day at practice to work hard and workout, even the guys that weren’t playing, they play a great part in making us win.”
Roy went on say what winning the championship means to the Northeastern campus and school as a whole.
“I think it’s pretty big,” said Roy, who was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft (4th round, 97th overall). “You know, in the past years, we always seem to come short, just a little short. I think the players that were here were tired of that and the main reason I came back to play this year was to accomplish something and at the beginning of the year, when things were not going right, times were harder but with character, you just can overcome a lot and doing this (championship) is pretty special. I think it’s more special than winning a personal award. Doing that with a program that hasn’t won since ‘88, it speaks a lot for our team and it’s pretty special to come back and do that with six guys who came in with me as freshmen and pass it along to the juniors, sophomores, freshmen, so I think it’s pretty big.”
Huskies head coach, Jim Madigan, who first set foot on the Northeastern campus in 1981 as a student/athlete and agreed with his senior captain.
“It opens up the excellence in a different area of the university,” Madigan said. “The university has a lot of pride, and we invest a lot of money and resources in athletics, so it’s nice that the ROI (Return On Investment) is good. And for this group of young men and the seniors, I alluded to Kevin [Roy] and the group of seniors, they helped turn this program around, in terms of the culture, and that was our first real recruiting class. Josh Manson was in the class before, and was great, but this was the first one that we had some tangible involvement with, in terms of recruiting, and they’ve been fabulous. So, from a university perspective, it’s great. It just broadens our level of excellence, in a broad-based way, and for these young men, they’re awesome. They’ve been great all year long, and for four years.”
The ninth-ranked Huskies hope to be great for four more games, for if Northeastern can continue its winning ways and goes on to win four more contests in the NCAA tournament, starting with a tilt against the third-ranked team in the nation North Dakota Friday at 2:00 pm ET (ESPNU) in Cincinnati, Ohio, they will have a national championship banner to raise along with a Hockey East banner at Matthews Arena on Boston’s Huntington Avenue.
Follow ESPN New Hampshire NHL/NCAA Hockey Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.