BOSTON -- Saturday night’s season-opening exhibition was not the most aesthetically pleasing game for Northeastern, but the defending Hockey East champion Huskies got a good look at their future and, in the end, a positive result.
The Huskies received goals from Adam Gaudette, Trevor Owens and Eric Williams en route to a 3-1 win over Nova Scotia’s Acadia University at Matthews Arena.
All in all, the contest was what Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan expected and knows it will help his team as the season begins for real next Friday with the first of a two-game series at Quinnipiac.
"For us, it was an opportunity just to play a different team and to get a gauge of where we were," Madigan said. "This allowed us, more than anything, to use the tape and what we saw tonight to help us prepare for next weekend’s games."
There were four goals, but the game’s biggest number was a combined 114 penalty minutes between the Huskies and a team ranked first in Canada for three weeks midway through last season.
The game was, of course, a bit sluggish with all the special teams play, but it gave NU an early chance to see what it could do in such situations. The Huskies finished 0-for-9, despite generating 13 of their 34 shots on the power play.
"We knew there were going to be a lot of penalties just because of the referees calling the standard that is in the rule book," Madigan said. "But, I liked some of the things we did. On the power play, we moved it and had a lot of chances. Penalty killing, I thought we did a real good job."
Gaudette was outstanding in the tuneup to his sophomore season, scoring just 3:35 into the game after rushing down the right side on a 4-on-4. He picked up right where he left off as he scored all but six of his 30 points over the final 22 games last season.
"I anticipate Adam being on the scoresheet a lot again this year," Madigan said of Gaudette, last year’s fifth-round choice of Vancouver. "He’s a guy who goes to the net, plays hard and gets pucks off his stick around the net really well. That’s what he did earlier."
Seven freshmen got a chance to take the ice for the first time at Northeastern, but no newcomer stood out more than defenseman Jeremy Davies. He and forward Grant Jozefek were taking regular shifts among the top two lines for Madigan’s club, while Ryan Shea was paired with top returning defenseman Garret Cockerill.
The all-time top scoring defenseman for the USHL’s Bloomington Thunder, Davies was involved in all aspects of the game. He showed strong vision despite not getting on the scoresheet, especially on the man advantage.
"It felt great. It was good to get a game to adjust to the speed before the season starts," Davies said of his collegiate debut. "The guys were feeling a little rusty, but I think we had a good game going into the season here."
Speed is an obvious adjustment for most college freshmen, and the adjustment can take several weeks or more. If his first action was any indication though, Davies seems poised to contribute right away. Madigan agreed, seeing positive signs from the recent Devils draft pick and several other newcomers.
"Jeremy is a hell of a player and I think his name will be called a lot this year," Madigan said. "He’s a skilled player, moves pucks. He’s smart and intelligent, so he’s brought in to play in a lot of key situations. He did that tonight and will continue to for the rest of the year."
NU’s rookie class was highly touted entering the season as Davies and classmates Shea and Matt Filipe were selected in the NHL Draft over the last two years. It is a class Davies says has developed chemistry quickly and can become impact players.
"We have great chemistry. We all live in the same building, hang out together all day and are in the same classes," Davies said. "It’s a really good group of guys. I think we’re all good players and will be able to contribute to this team."
Canadian colleges bring a physical presence to the game, in a fashion unseen in the NCAA. Despite the high penalty count on both sides, Davies sees a benefit to playing against an elder, physical team in preparation for the grind of a college hockey season.
"Playing a Canadian team, guys are a lot bigger and stronger," Davies said. "That really gets us ready for next weekend and the season, so I’m really glad we had this test."