Column: Cronin sees consolation win as stride for program

Column: Cronin sees consolation win as stride for program

Greg Cronin hears you, Northeastern fans – he really does.

The men’s hockey head coach can hear your pleas and feel your frustration.

He knows this ride isn’t easy, and he knows where Huntington Avenue stands in the Boston sports landscape. The street isn’t often at the top and isn’t often celebrated, but Cronin is here on your side, and if you know him or have heard him, that’s an encouraging feeling.

“It’s so funny how things happen,” Cronin said after Monday’s 3-1 Beanpot consolation victory over Harvard. “Today or yesterday, people are bellyaching about ‘Hey, here comes NU again, taking a dive,’ and all this gloom and doom after all the positive stuff. I get tired of hearing it.”

Cronin will convince you. He’ll make you listen and he’ll express what you need him to express. As Cronin continued speaking, he reached for his pocket.

In it? A newspaper article. Classic Cronin. Candid and thoughtful, aggressive and unabashed.

“I’ve got a newspaper article here with some comments saying ‘Here go the Huskies again,'” Cronin said, speaking of Northeastern’s deflating 4-0 shutout loss to Boston University in the first round of the Beanpot, and then a 1-0 loss at UMass-Lowell on Thursday. “It pisses me off. That’s history. It’s over.”

In many respects, the Huskies had reached the highest of highs before entering last Monday’s BU game. They most certainly had a right to feel good about themselves, as NU had reached the climax of a stunning rebound from last year’s three-win misery.

Suddenly, NU was the talk of the town.

Funny, wasn’t it?

Suddenly, we were told these Huskies were cocky. Suddenly, we were told these Huskies were going to win it.

Of course, the BU-biased public had a field day, using the Husky resurgence to produce a lame, boring mantra for the Terriers: This is our Beanpot.

If BU supporters were your only source, it would have seemed as if Mike Morris or Joe Vitale had spoken up and guaranteed an NU victory, Joe Namath-style. While the media and fans fed off a quickly-spreading rumor of Husky arrogance, suddenly BU was cast as the good guy with an axe to grind.

Like the Terriers need it.

Never mind that Cronin has never taken anything for granted since he arrived here. That’s what a three-win season does for you.

It’s expressed in every single one of his post-game press conferences, one-on-one interviews and casual conversations, in which the head coach provides easy access and more revealing information about the state of his team than anyone else in the business.

He’ll hit his players when they’re down, and he’ll celebrate them when they’re up. But cocky and at the top? Do you really know Cronin and his team?

“I’ll be honest with you,” Cronin said. “I was so pissed off after that BU game. And then I really wanted to vomit on myself after Lowell. But I’ll tell you, I’ve been in seven-game playoff series in the Stanley Cup and when the game’s over, you walk into the locker room and the guys are just drained – emotionally and mentally drained. And after BU, if you walked into our locker room, the guys were drained.”

Cronin said he thinks the pressure to win the Beanpot this year got to his squad.

“I think what happened – and I’m not a psychologist – there was so much positive buzz about our team. Our alumni were involved and were talking about how important it is to win the Beanpot. I think [the players] felt the gravity of that and when they let the NU community down, I think they just had a let-down.”

Here’s a reminder of what a three-win season can do for you.

It means you take every game and win in stride, and you learn the virtues of slowing down your season and evaluating each national contender, one by one, and week by week.

It means you celebrate a Beanpot consolation game over a generally successful Harvard team, yet another sign that the NU program is on a rebound and moving farther and farther from its 2005-06 troubles.

Morris, Chad Costello, Jimmy Russo, David Strathman and Joe Vitale all failed to suit up for the game against Harvard because of various injuries and the flu. That’s four of the Huskies’ top six leading scorers, and a victory was still produced.

It’s clear this team is different, and clear it was off its game against BU.

Next time, though, artificial team descriptions and pre-game hype won’t mean as much. The Huskies keep building, and the Huskies keep learning.

We know at least one coach is aware of that.

– Jeff Powalisz can be reached for comment at [email protected]

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