Hockey East Preview: Providence Friars

Last Season: 24–12–6 (14–7–3 HE, second place); lost in HE quarterfinals to Boston College; lost in NCAA semifinal to Minnesota Duluth

Head Coach: Nate Leaman (eighth season)

Coaches’ Poll Projected Finish: Third

Losses

  • G Hayden Hawkey
  • DJon Barry
  • D Jacob Bryson
  • D Vincent Desharnais
  • F Scott Conway
  • F Bryan Lemos
  • F Ryan Tait
  • F Brandon Duhaime
  • F Josh Wilkins
  • F Kasper Björkqvist
  • F Jay O’Brien

Additions

  • G Jake Kucharski
  • G Michael Lackey (transfer from Harvard)
  • D Max Crozier
  • D Luke Johnson
  • D Cam McDonald
  • F Garrett Devine
  • F Jamie Engelbert
  • F Parker Ford
  • F Jerry Harding
  • F Patrick Moynihan
  • F Craig Needham
  • F Albin Nilsson
  • F Caleb Rule

By Matt Neiser

The Providence Friars continued their run of success in 2018–19, finishing second in the Hockey East standings and earning their sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. The Friars pulled off two straight upsets over No. 3 overall seed Minnesota State and Cornell to advance to the Frozen Four, where they were defeated by eventual champions Minnesota Duluth.

The squad’s going to look a little different in 2019–20 though. Much of the talent that brought Providence so far last season has left the program. Hockey East All-Stars Josh Wilkins (first team), Jacob Bryson (second team), and Brandon Duhaime (third team), all juniors last season, forewent their last season of NCAA eligibility to sign NHL contracts. Star goaltender Hayden Hawkey (.921 SV%, 1.88 GAA) graduated — taking with him arguably the best name in the sport.

A host of other important names graduated or left early for the NHL as well. The top four goalscorers and five of the top six point-getters from last season won’t be on the squad this year, including Wilkins, their leader in both categories. The Friars lost 78 of the 133 goals (about 60 percent) they scored as a team last season.

But enough about who isn’t here. Head coach Nate Leaman has plenty to work with this season. The roster includes seven NHL draftees, five of whom were chosen in the first five rounds of their respective drafts. 

The standout of the group is sophomore forward Jack Dugan, who notched 10 goals and a team-leading 29 assists en route to a Hockey East All-Rookie Team selection. The 6’ 2” Vegas Golden Knights prospect has plenty of opportunity to shine this season, and he’s primed to take full advantage. A physical wing with excellent distribution, Dugan is the perfect player for Leaman’s system.

Besides Dugan, look for sophomore New Jersey Devils draftee Tyce Thompson (8 goals, 17 assists) and junior Greg Printz (11 goals, 7 assists) to step into bigger roles on offense this season.

Leaman has turned Providence into a perennial defensive powerhouse. His squad allowed just two goals per game last season, tied for fifth best in the nation. The Friars are physical, smart, and well-drilled on the blue line, led by senior Spenser Young, junior Ben Mirageas, and sophomore Michael Callaway.

The departure of Hawkey left many concerned about the Friars’ goaltending situation — netminders not named Hayden Hawkey played just 54 minutes last season for Providence — but the addition of graduate transfer Michael Lackey has allayed worries. Lackey posted a 14–8–3 record in his senior year with Harvard, compiling a 2.34 GAA and .918 save percentage while backstopping the Crimson to an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Bottom Line: Providence lost A LOT of talent this offseason, but the Friars have reinforcements waiting to step up and fill the holes. If Nate Leaman can maintain the defensive excellence that has become the trademark of his teams, Providence should be right back in the mix for a top-four spot in Hockey East.

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