By: Dan McLoone
Head Coach: Nate Leaman; 6th season
Last Season: 27-7-4 (16-3-3 in HE, 2nd); Lost to Minnesota Duluth in NCAA Round of 16
Losses: F Brooks Behling, G Nick Ellis, D John Gilmour, F Mark Jankowski, F Steven McParland, F Trevor Mingoia, D Tom Parisi, F Kevin Rooney, F Nick Saracino, F Brandon Tanev
Newcomers: F Kasper Bjorkvist, G Kristofer Carlson, F Scott Conway, F Brandon Duhaime, F Shane Kavanagh, F Jordan Kawaguchi, F Vimal Sukumaran, D Spenser Young, F Chase Zieky
Head coach Nate Leaman’s squad has been the picture of consistency in Hockey East over the past few years, but after losing so many key pieces from last season’s squad, the Friars may be facing a down year by their lofty standards. The Friars graduated their top four scorers from last season in Mark Jankowski, Trevor Mingoia, Nick Saracino and Brandon Tanev, who combined to tally 55 goals and 82 assists in leading Providence to a 3.26 goals per game average.
With the loss of such dynamic scorers, junior defenseman Jake Walman slots in as the team’s leading returning scorer. The Hobey Baker nominee logged 13 goals and 15 assists in 27 games last year before undergoing season-ending surgery. Junior Brian Pinho and sophomore Erik Foley will have more offensive responsibility up top after tallying nine and seven goals respectively last season. Leaman brought in seven freshmen forwards in an effort to replace the outgoing talent, but 21-year-olds Shane Kavanagh and Scott Conway are the most likely to contribute immediately.
Walman remains the class act of a defensive unit that allowed just 1.87 goals per game, tops in Hockey East. Despite losing big pieces John Gilmour and Tom Parisi, the defense remains very experienced with seniors Anthony Florentino, Josh Monk and Kyle McKenzie. Speedy freshman Spenser Young will aim to contribute right away. The unit should remain strong after killing off 84.9 percent of power plays.
The big loss for the Friars, however, is longtime netminder Nick Ellis, who signed an entry level contract with the Edmonton Oilers. Ellis was one of the top goalies in the nation during his junior year, allowing just 1.80 goals per game while posting a .936 save percentage to top Hockey East. Sophomore Hayden Hawkey is the most likely to see starters minutes after performing admirably in five appearances last season. True freshman Kristofer Carlson should push Hawkey for playing time and could eventually snag the starting role.
Bottom Line: The Friars are undergoing a lot of turnover from last year’s squad. Leaman will have his hands full trying to replace the scoring punch that his graduated forwards provided, and neither Hawkey or Carlson will be expected to come close to the production that Ellis provided in goal. Getting Walman back on defense will provide some much needed continuity, and the Friars should go as their defensive unit goes. If they can find reliable scoring, Providence could push for the Hockey East title, but a down year by their standards could see them falling to fourth or fifth in the conference.