By Jeremy Leonard
Head Coach: Nate Leaman, 3rd season
Projected finish: Coaches Poll: 5th
Last season: 17-14-7 (12-8-5 in Hockey East, 5th); lost to UMass Lowell in Hockey East semifinals.
Losses: G Russ Stein, D Myles Harvey, F Kyle Murphy, F Tim Schaller, D Alex Velischek, F Chris Rooney.
Newcomers: F Trevor Mingoia, D Anthony Florentino, G Nick Ellis, F Connor MacPhee, D Kyle McKenzie, D Josh Monk, F Niko Rufo.
Last year, Providence was in the middle of the pack for the Hockey East. While the Friars defense ranked third in goals per game with 2.37 g/gm, their offense was average, averaging 2.76 g/gm the fifth best in the league. Where providence struggled was their special teams, ranking second to last in the Hockey East with a net of -8 goals when it wasn’t five-on-five hockey.
The Friar’s offense returns Derek Army and Mark Jankowiski who led the way last season with 19 and 20 points respectively. Also returning is goalie Jon Gillies, who won rookie of year in the Hockey East last year and was named an All- American after an impressive freshman campaign. In front of him, the loss of Tim Schaller, the Gladiator Hockey award winner for the best defensive forward in the Hockey East. They’ll also lose Alex Vilischek, who played in all 38 games last year. Returning defenseman Steven Shamanski and John Gilmour should be able to fill the void after the two had 27 points combined and had a plus/minus of plus seven and plus three, respectively, last season.
The Friars have already started this season hot with a 5-1-1 (1-1 in Hockey East) record. The USA Today/ USA Hockey Magazine Poll has Providence ranked 5th nationally. The defense, anchored by Gillies, who has only allowed 1.97 g/gm in the six games he has started, has continued their success from last year while the offense has picked it up, leading the Hockey East with 4.43 g/gm. Forward Ross Mauermann has starred offensively with 13 points in just 7 games.
Bottom line: Leaman’s squad should be improved this year with a year of experience under the belt of star goaltender Jon Gillies. They will likely be right there near the top of the conference at the end of the season. Where they ultimately finish, however, will depend on if they can maintain their improved offense and special teams (+3 so far this season). Ultimately, the Friars’ should have no trouble with a top five finish again this year with a top three finish not out of the question.