Column: For Cronin, student involvement key to hockey success

Column: For Cronin, student involvement key to hockey success

by Jared Shafran, News Staff

Head coach Greg Cronin values his building and the fans that come to fill it. The men’s hockey schedule for the upcoming year was released in June and the 35-game slate includes 18 contests at Matthews Arena this winter.

There are all sorts of reasons to schedule one opponent in place of another. What conference they’re in, where the game will be played and the impact the game will have on Northeastern’s Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) are all important factors to consider before scheduling a game.

But what Cronin said he cared about most weren’t the opponents. He wanted more games at Matthews and no games over school breaks. He cares about the students. Cronin is trying his best to maximize the home ice advantage that Matthews Arena gives his Huskies.

“I really think the students have proven that whether we’re playing Bentley, Holy Cross, Minnesota, RPI or UNH, when they’re here, they’re going to show up,” Cronin said.

When students don’t make their positive impact and get to games it’s usually because they’re on break. Last year, when students were on vacation during home games, the team did not fare well. Losses to Vermont over Thanksgiving, UMass Lowell and UMass Amherst at the end of winter break, and UNH during spring break all hurt the team’s chances of making the Hockey East playoffs.

“I thought last year was an absolute shame,” Cronin said. “Particularly after averaging over 4,000 people a game a year before that, to have so few home games when the students were on campus was a tragedy.”

This season, Cronin said he set out to change that. He has been striving to build the culture at the arena ever since he came to Northeastern in 2005 and his efforts have been noticed.

“We want to make this the place to be, not only for our students but also for opponents coming in here to walk out here and say, ‘Holy smokes, that place is wild,’” Cronin said.

All of this, in addition to 10 new recruits, allowed Cronin to come to the conclusion that he was going to schedule as many home games as possible.

“[Matthews] becomes like a very unique place to play,” Cronin said. “It already is because of the history here, but when the history is really amplified by the students there and the cheers it becomes an extremely unique place for any sport and it resonates with both recruits and spectators.”

So mark your calendars, because there are going to be plenty of chances to see this team in action at home in their historic building this year.

“My mission when I got here was to take ownership of the atmosphere in the building,” Cronin said. “Because to me that’s a huge advantage and it becomes the Northeastern students’ building, not the hockey teams’.”

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