Northeastern University season preview

By DJ Powers

The Northeastern University Huskies will open their 2005-06 regular season on October 14th when they travel to Ralph Engelstad Arena to face off against host North Dakota.

The first noticeable change to Northeastern is the man behind the bench, as Bruce Crowder was fired back in the spring. Fans of the New York Islanders will be familiar with the Huskies new head coach Greg Cronin. Prior to his arrival at Northeastern, Cronin was behind the bench of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers as well as served as Director of Player Development with the Islanders.

The Huskies lost many of their key players on defense. Workhorse goaltender Keni Gibson, and defensemen Jon Awe, Tim Judy and Donny Grover have all graduated. Talented sophomore Bryan Cirullo has left the team for personal reasons.

Gibson capped off superb collegiate career with an excellent senior campaign that included backstopping the Huskies to a Beanpot Finals appearance and a sixth place finish in Hockey East. Gibson finished up with a record of 15-16-5 that included one shutout. His .919 save percentage ranked 17th in the nation while his 2.46 goals against average was 26th. His outstanding season earned him numerous accolades including a selection to the Hockey East All-Conference First team.

With the departure of Gibson, the battle in goal should be an interesting one to watch. Junior Adam Geragosian, who backed up Gibson last season, returns as the possible starting goaltender this season. He played in just four games posting a 0-2-0 record. Geragosian is going to get some serious competition from senior Tim Heneroty, who did not play a single game last season. Two newcomers in Doug Jewer and Jake Thaler will also be looking to get some ice time as well. Jewer comes to Northeastern from Kanata (COJHL), where he posted a 14-28-4 record that included three shutouts. Thaler comes to Northeastern from Cornwall (COJHL), where he posted a record of 24-9-2.

The Northeastern blue line will be noticeably younger this season, with the loss of four of the Huskies top blueliners from last season. Senior Chuck Tomes and juniors Steve Birnstill and Brian Deeth return as the only upperclassmen on the Huskies blueline. Tomes will bring some sound defensive play along with some stability to the Huskies blueline. He finished the season with four points (one goal, three assists) in 36 appearances. Birnstill and Deeth continued to make great strides in their overall play last season and return as possibly the Huskies two best all-around defensemen this season. Birnstill finished second among Huskies defensemen in scoring with 19 points (2 goals, 17 assists) playing in all 38 games last season. Deeth finished with five points (one goal, four assists) in 30 appearances.

The Huskies welcome five new additions to their defensive corps this season, many of whom bring some very good size. Among them are newcomers are Jacques Perreault, Louis Liotti and Stephen McClellan (COL). The rugged Perreault comes to Northeastern from the Boston Bulldogs (Atlantic Junior Hockey League), where he amassed 26 points (7 goals, 19 assists) and led the team in penalty minutes with 84.

Liotti, primarily a defensive defenseman known for his great work ethic and strong leadership skills, comes to Northeastern from Sioux City (USHL), where he had 14 points (3 goals 11 assists). The smooth skating McClellan is a 2004 draft selection of the Colorado Avalanche (ninth round, 281st overall). He comes to Northeastern from Cushing Academy, where he had 26 points (6 goals, 20 assists) last season.

The Huskies lost two of their top three scoring forwards in Jason Guerriero and Jared Mudryk to graduation. Guerriero led Northeastern in scoring last season with 48 points (17 goals, 31 assists). Of the 48 points Guerriero racked up last season, 34 came in Hockey East play and led the conference. Guerriero sensational season earned him the Hockey East’s Len Ceglarski Award for Sportsmanship and joined teammate Gibson on the Hockey East All-Conference First team. Mudryk finished fifth on the team in scoring with 17 points (ten goals, seven assists).

With the loss of Guerriero and Mudryk, returning players such as seniors Mike Morris (SJ) and Brian Swiniarski and junior Bryan Esner will be relied upon to lead the offense. Morris is the returning top scorer. He finished second in scoring with 39 points (19 goals, 20 assists). Morris has been hampered by concussion problems recently and there have been some speculation that he may take a medical redshirt, but the team is expecting Morris to play this season.

Swiniarski enjoyed solid junior season and became a force on the Northeastern power play. He finished the 2004-05 season with 16 points (ten goals, six assists). Five of his ten goals came on the power play. Esner really emerged for the Huskies last season and was arguably Northeastern’s most improved player. He finished his sophomore campaign with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) playing in all 38 games.

Northeastern will have six forwards this season. Among them are Joe Vitale (PIT), Dennis McCauley, and Ryan Ginand. Vitale, who was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins in this summer’s draft, comes to Northeastern from Sioux Falls (USHL), where he amassed 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists). The St. Louis, MO native is noted for his strong character and work ethic. McCauley will bring a big, strong physical presence to the Huskies team this season. He comes to Northeastern from Sioux City (USHL), where he had 39 points (18 goals, 21 assists). He also led Sioux City and finished fourth in the USHL in penalty minutes with 236. Ginand comes to Northeastern from the Boston Junior Bruins (EJHL), where he posted 46 points (29 goals, 17 assists). Ginand will add some speed to the Huskies.

(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 5)

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