Hockey East Preview: Providence Friars

skt friar with prov on topCoach: Nate Leaman (8th Season)

Last Season: 24-12-4 (13-7-4 Hockey East, 3rd Regular Season, 2nd Hockey East Championship), Frozen Four Quarterfinalists

Additions: D Michael Callahan, D Carl Ehrnberg, D Luke Johnson, D Luke Perunovich, F Matthew Allen, F Ryan Brushett, F Jack Dugan, F Parker Ford, F Mikael Hakkarainen, F Jerry Harding, F Matt Koopman, F John McDermott, F Jonny Mulera, F Jay O’Brien, F Riley Prattson

Losses: F Bailey Conger, D Tommy Davis, F Brian Pinho, F Alex Cromwell, F Robbie Hennessey, G Jake Beaton, D Truman Reed, F Erik Foley

Projected Finish: 2nd

By Patrick Milne

Coming off another very successful season, the Friars look to continue their trend as being one of the main competitors in Hockey East as well as in the nation. Over the past six years under the tutelage of coach nate Leaman, the Friars have been in the top five in hockey east every year and won a national championship in 2015. In fact, much of their success can be attributed to the coaching of Leaman and his ability to develop players to create a team that buys into the system that Leaman implements. While the team lost a couple of their most productive offensive players, the incoming class brings a lot of promise for immediate and long-term success. Plus, with Hayden Hawkey, one the best goaltenders in college hockey, going in to his senior year, Providence seems poised to be one of the teams to fear in Hockey East and capable of making a deep run into the Frozen Four.

Last year, the Providence Friars posted an outstanding 24-12-4 record and were the runner ups at the Hockey East Championship. Much of their success came from their impressive defense, which only allowed 85 goals all season, tied for 5th in the nation, and an 85.4% penalty kill percentage. A lot of Providence’s defensive prowess can be attributed to the consistent reliability of net minder Hayden Hawkey. Hawkey played in all 40 games for the Friars posting an impressive 2.04 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. Yet while Hawkey is without a doubt one of the key players on this team, he does rely heavily on his supporting defenders. For instance, despite starting 40 games (3rd in the nation), Hawkey only had to make 891 saves (24th in the nation). This stark discrepancy exemplifies the defensive minded team that Nate Leaman has created at Providence. This disciplined, stalwart defense combined with an offensive that can quickly counter attack with speedy goal scorers like Erik Foley (graduated), Josh Wilkins (Junior), and Kasper Bjorkqvist (Junior) made Providence a very difficult team to play against, especially for the strong offensive teams like Northeastern. It was this defensive minded combination that got Providence to the quarterfinals of the Frozen Four before bowing out to the runner ups, Notre Dame.

Heading into this year, the Friars have a lot of potential new faces despite to replace the eight players they lost. The most notable players who have moved on include Erik Foley (15 G, 17 A), Brian Pinho (11 G, 19 A), and Tommy Davis (1 G, 10 A). Foley and Pinho both had obvious impacts on the team offensively and both had a +13 plus minus. Defenseman Tommy Davis was one of the back bones of Providence’s defense, playing in 38 games with a +17 plus minus (2nd on the team). While losing these players does hurt the Friars, there are plenty of capable players to pick up the slack. It is expected that the Junior class of Brandon Duhaime, Josh Wilkins, Vimal Sukumaran and Kasper Bjorkqvist will provide most of the scoring along with senior Scott Conway. Defensively the Friars will lean heavily on senior Vincent Desharnais, juniors Jacob Bryson and Spencer Young, and sophomore Ben Mirageas, who were the top shot blockers last year. Of course, it goes without saying that senior goalie Hayden Hawkey will be the backbone of this team and will be relied upon heavily.

In terms of new faces, Providence has recruited a large Freshman class that should be able to come in and contribute immediately. The most exciting recruit is the 6’0″, 174lb 18-year-old forward, who was drafted in the first-round (19th overall) by the Philadelphia Flyers, out of Jay O’Brien. O’Brien, who was born and raised in Hingham Massachusetts, played at Thayer Academy last year, racking up 80 points in 30 games. The Friers also added two other players taken in the 2018 draft in forward Mikael Hakkarainen and defenseman Michael Callahan. Callahan, the 6’2″, 196lb Franklin Massachusetts native, was drafted 142nd by the Arizona Coyotes and spent time in the USHL with the Central Illinois Flying Aces and the Youngstown Phantoms. Hakkarainen, who was born in Finland and stands 6’0″ 194lbs, was drafted 139th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks. Hakkarainen spent the past two years in the USHL playing mostly for the Muskegon Lumberjacks, tallying 15 goals and 31 assists in 36 games last year. With these big-name additions, along with plenty of other young players for Leaman to develop, the future looks very bright for the Friars.

Bottom Line: Going into the 2018-19 season, the Providence Friars are absolutely contenders in Hockey East and have a chance to end there 22-year Hockey East Championship drought, dating back to 1996. While this will not be an easy accomplishment with BU, BC, Northeastern, and UMass Lowell looking just as capable as them, they have the right pieces to make a run. If they are able to be as stingy defensively as they were last year, keep Hayden Hawkey healthy, and get some offensive production from expected Freshman phenom Jay O’Brien, the Friars will be a very dangerous and capable team.

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