Hockey East Preview – Providence College Friars

By: Josh Brown

Friar_hockey_logoHead Coach: Nate Leaman (5th season)

Last Season: 26-13-2 (HE: 13-8-1); 2nd place, NCAA Champions

Losses: D Logan Day, D Mark Adams, F Steven Demopoulos, F Ross Mauermann,  F Shane Luke, F Noel Acciari, G Jon Gillies

Newcomers: D Vincent Desharnais, D Steven Ruggiero, F Ryan Tait, F Erik Foley, F Garrett Gamez, F Bryan Lemos, G Hayden Hawkey

After starting off the year as the consensus favorite to win Hockey East, the Friars season comprised of a whirlwind of twists and turns that most certainly even made the most diehard Providence fan queasy at times.  Nobody said winning your first national championship in program history would be a smooth ride though.

Falling below the radar, some of which can certainly be attributed to Jack Eichel and Boston University taking the league by storm, a 4-5-1 start left the media questioning if this was the powerhouse everyone anticipated heading into the year. Even with winning streaks of four and six games as the season progressed, not many knew what to expect come postseason, and after loosing a three-game series at home to New Hampshire in the Hockey East quarterfinals, those thoughts were affirmed even more heading into the NCAA Tournament.

From there, dominating goaltending by Jon Gillies, an electric offense, and a bit of luck were all on the Friars side en route to the national title, where they beat conference foe Boston University 4-3 in the championship game. With that being said, if the Friars want to return to the promised land in 2015-2016 they are going to have to do so without three of their top six scorers from last season. With Ross Mauermann (11 goals, 16 assists) and Shane luke (13 goals, 19 assists) graduated, and Noel Acciari (15 goals, 17 assists) joining the Bruins organization, seniors Nick Saracino (14 goals, 24 assists), Trevor Mingoia (15 goals, 16 assists) and Mark Jankowski (8 goals, 19 assists) are going to be relied on even heavier in the upcoming season.

The biggest loss for Providence though, without a doubt, is goaltender Jon Gillies, who forgoed his senior season to join the Calgary Flames. Posting a 24-13-2 record between the pipes, with a 2.01 goals against average and .930 save percentage, the South Portland, Maine native was the most consistent player for the Friars all year long. It looks like it will be the relatively unproven Nick Ellis taking over, a junior who appeared in five games last season, starting in two, both victories, with freshman  Hayden Hawkey, a 2014 Montreal Canadiens draft pick, competing for time in net as well.

A solid returning cast along the blue line (which allowed just 2.05 goals per game last season, best in Hockey East), headlined by defensemen John Gilmour, Kyle McKenzie, Tom Parisi and Anthony Florentino will help Ellis’s transition into a full time starter. Look for Anaheim Ducks prospect and USHL U.S. U-18 National defenseman Steven Ruggiero to log significant minutes as well, a player who could be atop the freshman class in the league this season.

Bottom Line: With a target on their back, and the loss of several key contributors to last year’s squad, it is hard to envision the Friars will become the first back-to-back national champions since Denver did it in 2004 and 2005. With that being said, they do still certainly have a good enough returning core and talented freshman class to make enough noise in Hockey East as a likely top-five finisher.

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