ATTLEBORO — After winning only four games in 2016-17, the Northeast Generals are determined to make sure this year is much different.
So far, so good.
The Generals opened their season by winning their first two games against the Johnstown Tomahawks, 4-2 on Wednesday and 5-1 on Thursday, before dropping a 3-2 decision on Friday.
The message to their North American Hockey League opponents should be clear.
“It’s not going to be a walk in the park for the other teams if they come in thinking they can blow right by us. We’re going to make teams work hard to beat us this year,” said coach Joe Lovell.
“We added some nice pieces to the puzzle. Some young guys have stepped in right away and contributed, defensively and offensively. I’m very happy with our start,” he said.
Against Johnstown, the Generals generated chances, outshooting the Tomahawks in all three games. They played solid defense and received good goaltending from David Fessenden and Marko Sturma.
All in all, it was a welcome change for a team that went 4-53-3 in its inaugural season.
“The kids have bought in pretty well. We have a lot to go over and still there’s room for a lot of growth. That’s the best part about the team right now. We haven’t really hit our stride yet. We’ve got some nice chemistry and we’ll just run with it as we go,” said Lovell.
The Generals, with a mix of returnees and newcomers, received goals from 10 different players in the first three games. Captain Colin Bilek, a ’97 from Michigan, and ’98 Louis Boudon, a rookie from France, are the leading scorers with a goal and four points each.
Bilek, the team’s top scorer a year ago, is helping point his teammates in the right direction.
“He has been a great leader, helping the new kids adjust to the level and the pace (of the NAHL). He’s been great in the locker room for us,” Lovell said.
The Generals have two protected players in camp with Cedar Rapids of the USHL, Lowell commit Brian Chambers and Northeastern commit Matt Demelis.
“We’re hoping they stick. It’s great for us to show that we can push guys on to the USHL,” Lovell said.
Next stop is the NAHL Showcase. On Monday, the Generals fly to Blaine, Minn., where they will play games against Coulee Region, Austin, Kenai River and Amarillo at the Schwan Super Rink.
Lovell believes they can keep up the momentum they built in their first three games.
“The kids on our team have a lot of heart. The work ethic, the effort, the desire is there,” he said.