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Photo Credit: Rick Boots/Cedar Rapids RoughRiders

Catching up with Aidan McDonough after he scored two goals and shone in his first NCAA game of the season

It was a hot start on Saturday night for Aidan McDonough as he kicked off his junior season at Northeastern University.

McDonough wasted no time as he scored Northeastern’s first goal of the season.

Expectations are high for the 6’3” winger after an offseason of hard workouts to improve his strength and the addition of a power skating specialist.

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“My skating felt good, my legs felt good,” said McDonough when asked about if his offseason work with a power skating coach was already paying off. “It could be a combination of a few things, I think. I don’t know how much my stride itself changed but I’m sitting a little bit lower than I used to, that’s one of the changes. I lost 10 pounds as well, that added a little more pep in my step. Ultimately I was just trying to move my feet, I think my skating did get better. I still think it’s a long and slow process but it got better. It showed when I got away on a partial breakaway.”

He is looked at as one of the best scorers in NCAA hockey this season and has a chance to compete for the Hobey Baker award. This would be a massive accomplishment for McDonough, who was selected by the Canucks in the seventh round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

His first goal of his season came from crashing the net and getting his stick on a loose puck and into the open net.

It was no surprise that McDonough scored the first goal of the season for Northeastern but he was a bit surprised how great it felt to do it in front of thousands of crazy fans.

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“Scoring in front of our fans, man, that was pretty cool. Having both ends of the doghouse packed like that was really cool. We definitely wanted to get one early to get them into it. I don’t care who gets the first one but it was nice to get it and get the crowd going wild. It was awesome, I found myself staring up because I’m just not used to seeing people up there. It was awesome to see friends and family after the game as well. It felt so normal, which is amazing. It’s been awesome the last few weeks being at school, how normal it’s been and be able to get back in a great routine. Then, getting the fans fired up like that was amazing. We’re just going to continue to win because the more we win, the more fans we get and they’re just amazing.“

Throughout the game, McDonough drove the net hard and no defender could stop him once he made his mind up that he was going to the net.

Being bigger and stronger is something we see from NCAA players as they reach their junior season. McDonough feels that it’s not so much about a mature body, instead, he believes it’s a mature mind.

“In college hockey, being stronger is more of a mindset,” said the 6’3” winger. “I think it’s more about confidence. Going into the corner as a freshman, you kind of go in there and hope to win the battle, and now, in my third year, I go in there and expect to win every battle and work hard to win them all. I feel like I know what it takes to do that but I definitely do feel strong. I feel good, I feel like I’ve put myself in a pretty good spot throughout preseason and a lot of the credit for that goes to our strength and conditioning coaches at Northeastern, they’re absolutely amazing.”

The goals kept coming as McDonough got to show off his shot in the second period.

He moved into an open-ice area where he found some room and ripped his strong wrist shot into the back of the net for his second goal of the game.

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Here’s how McDonough saw the play develop:

”I just hopped off the bench, received a pass into a three-on-two. Then, I took the puck to the net and when I took it to the net, they had like three guys collapse down. I got taken down on the goalie, so it was kind of like this a big scrum in front of the net and Jayden Struble, who is an unbelievable senior, picked it up behind the net. He took like two or three strides, which brought the puck right to the middle of the ice and I noticed that there was a bunch of guys in front of the net and I just kind of popped out to that soft area, which I knew was open all night against that team because they consistently collapsed in front of the net. I looked up and I didn’t really see the goalie because there was probably four or five people standing directly in front of him, and I saw the left side of the net and just tried to get my shot off as quick as I can. I owe it to my linemates on that one, they provided a heck of a screen, the goalie probably couldn’t see a thing. I’ll take them any way I can but I do love to find soft ice in the high slot there.”

The work that he put in this offseason with a skating coach appeared to pay off greatly as he looked noticeably quicker throughout the game and his stride looked much more powerful.

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On this play, he goes to the net hard and gets another good scoring chance off as he was gunning for the hat trick.

The game got pretty rough as it went on and McDonough was the first to stand up for his teammate who took an illegal hit to the head.

All in all, it was a great start to McDonough’s junior season as his skating looks like it has improved, he’s playing physical, going to the net with authority, and still has that rocket of a shot.

Northeastern should be one of the top teams in the NCAA this year and Saturday night was a good start for them. I asked McDonough if the team is taking things day-by-day or if their minds are already looking towards a national championship.

”I think a little bit of both,” said McDonough. “I think it’s mostly day-by-day. That’s how we always operate. We do also realize that these are steps towards our goal. We realize that we have to be a lot better than we were on Saturday. We have a lot of work to do and that’s okay because we take that process and stay in our day-by-day mindset. It was good to get a win but it was also good that we got a real game in. So many of our guys haven’t played together or played for fans. It was definitely an emotional game and I think it’s good to get some film on us and move on. I like our group here but we have to stay day-by-day. We’re building toward that ultimate goal of a national championship. It’s always in the back of our minds that we need to improve if we want to get to our goal. We’re just going to try getting better every day.”

They went on to win the game 4-0 with former World Juniors goalie for Canada Devon Levi picking up his first NCAA shutout.

We will continue to follow McDonough’s season very closely. He is one of the top Canucks prospects and could very likely sign with the organization after his NCAA season concludes.