Ask anyone; the person next to you,
your resident hockey expert on speed dial, anyone.
Have them tell you who is sitting high atop the Hockey
East standings a month into the season. Maybe you’ll
hear about the hot starts of Maine and Vermont or
even the regulars like Boston College, New Hampshire
or Boston University. Going out on a limb? Lowell
might get tossed around, too.
But Providence? No, you probably won’t
hear too much about the Friars. After a seventh-place
finish in the league last year, only scoring 16 points
in the standings and in the midst of a coaching change,
Providence wasn’t expected to pose much of a
threat to anyone in the league this year, maybe not
But wait. There the Friars are, on top
of the Hockey East world, out-shining everyone with
a 5-1-0 league start, sitting on a four-point cushion
heading into the weekend and fresh off a series sweep
of the Massachusetts Minutemen.
So it turns out that this “sub-par
team” is third in the league in scoring and
defense, fourth in the power play and fifth in the
penalty kill. This new coach is Tim Army, a member
of a proud hockey tradition in Rhode Island’s
His father Tom was part of a group that
got PC reinstated into the Division I hockey world
back in the 1950s and served as the team’s first
ever captain. It would be a sign of things to come.
Tim Army played for former coach Lou Lamoriello –
who the Hockey East championship trophy is named after
– during the Hockey East legend’s final
two years on the PC bench. And he was on the Friar
team that won the first Hockey East championship during
the 1984-85 season. And he added to his family’s
Providence legacy by being named team captain during
his senior season.
“You feel that you have a great
deal at stake because the school means so much to
you, and the program means so much to you,”
Army said. “For me, it’s my opportunity
to give something back to the college, so it’s
a great feeling to have the opportunity to build a
program in your vision and to build a program that
is on the national landscape every year.”
So it’s not like losing was much
on his mind. But to play this well this early?
“We’re just trying to play
the best hockey that we can play, and we’re
trying to change the culture and identity of our program
in respect to how we play,” Army said. “We’ve
played some good hockey. I think our kids are becoming
more natural in respect to the things we are trying
to do as a team.”
He entered this past summer giving his
team a clean slate. He didn’t want any preconceived
notions of what his team could or couldn’t do.
Army watched a few tapes of last year’s team
to garner a general idea, but he wanted to see everything
first-hand, in person.
Since then, he has put together more
of an aggressive approach than Providence teams of
the past. He is getting everything out of his players
that he possibly can, maximizing their strengths to
help the team in the best way imaginable.
“We’re tapping into skill
levels of guys who maybe weren’t able to get
as much out of them in previous years,” Army
said. “With a little adjustment to our style
of play, we’re able to get more out of them.”
For instance, Army wanted to use Chase
Watson’s skating ability and vision to set up
the offense, and he is keeping on Torry Gajda to use
his individual talent to get the puck to the net as
often as possible.
The results? Gajda has four goals and
six assists, and Watson has three scores and seven
helpers; they are each tied for fourth in Hockey East
in total points.
With three wins away from home, the
Friars have already equaled their total from last
season, and their five league wins have them just
one shy of what they accomplished a year ago.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
We’re only in November, and PC has only played
six of its 27 league games. It goes without saying
that a fast start doesn’t mean a successful
finish, especially in a conference loaded with talent
like Hockey East.
Although, when you have a coach who
is as rich in school pride as anyone you’ll
meet and a man who has never known anything but success
at the college level, it isn’t too difficult
to see why his team is playing so hard for him.
“I just want to play the best
hockey that we can play,” Army said. “I
told the guys in July that I didn’t want to
have to wait for one, or two, or three or four recruiting
classes. I expected that this team, with good players
on this team, that we were going to change our culture
and identity as a hockey team. I wanted this group
to have as much success that it could possibly have,
and you can only do that by getting better everyday.”
If the Friars keep this thing going,
it will be interesting to see what Army has to say
to his team next July.
AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
Fluke or fortune-telling? –
The third-period debacle against Holy Cross
figured to be a fluke for Massachusetts. Ahead of
the Crusaders 2-1 with under four minutes to play,
the Minutemen surrendered two goals in front of their
home crowd in the matter of 67 seconds and dropped
their home opener, 3-2.
Fluky or not, UMass hasn’t recovered,
as it marked the first of five consecutive losses,
with two more of the devastating third-period variety
in the home-and-home series with Providence this past
With the game on Friday night tied at
2-2 with under five minutes to go, freshman Chris
Davis became the latest victim of a game misconduct
for hitting from behind. With the man-advantage for
the remainder of regulation at home, the Friars scored
a pair of goals in 1:52 to steal a 4-2 decision.
After the Minutemen appeared to reverse
their fortune by scoring two third-period goals of
their own to knot the score at 2-2 in Amherst the
next night, they were snake bitten yet again. Providence's
Cody Wild sent the puck in from beyond the point,
and it somehow made its way past senior goalie Gabe
Winer with only 83 ticks remaining on the scoreboard,
giving the Friars a weekend sweep.
It’s evident to see why the Minutemen
have gotten off to such a rocky start in 2005, with
11 of the 22 goals they have allowed this season coming
in the final frame.
Great Weekend Getaway
(Fri.) and Boston College (Sun.) at Vermont Providence will lug its Hockey
East-leading 10 points up to The Gut this weekend
to square off with Vermont in a matchup between
two of the more surprising teams in the country
at the start of the season. Two days later,
Boston College will soar into Burlington to
cap off the biggest weekend Vermont has seen
in quite some time.
While You’re There:
With roughly 40 hours between games this weekend,
give it the old college try and take a stroll
less than two hours north to Montreal. If the
club scene isn’t your thing, check out
some more quality hockey on Saturday night when
the Canadians host the Maple Leafs. Not feeling
so ambitious? Stay local and check out the sights
at the Church Street Marketplace.
broke out of its early slump in resounding fashion
this weekend, handing UVM its first loss on
the season Friday night, 4-2, before ruining
Maine’s unblemished home mark on Sunday
afternoon by a 2-1 score. Terrier goalie John
Curry earned INCH Player of the Week and Hockey
East Player of the Week honors by turning away
56 of 59 shots on the weekend, including all
19 Black Bear attempts in Sunday’s third
Vermont’s addition to the
league means two teams, not one, will now miss
the Hockey East postseason. Northeastern
(0-3-1 in the league), Merrimack (0-3-0) and
Massachusetts (0-4-0) are anchoring the bottom
of the standings, and if one of these teams
doesn’t heat up at some point, it may
be every bit as unexciting to watch the three
duke it out for the final playoff spot as it
is exciting to watch the top teams vie for the
league crown in March.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Everyone knows that UNH blueliner
Brian Yandle can score at will, and now Craig Switzer
is joining in on the fun. After tallying just one
assist in his first four games this season, he has
caught fire of late, contributing two goals and five
assists over the last four contests. How would you
like to be an opposing goalie with Yandle, Switzer,
Brett Hemingway, Daniel Winnik and Jacob Micflikier
all on the ice at the same time?
• Northeastern freshman
Ryan Ginand made sure his first, second and third
career goals would be memorable ones. He scored his
first one at the 3:56 mark of the second period on
Friday night against UNH, and just 7:44 later, he
had his first career hat trick. The three goals in
under eight minutes marked the first hat trick by
a Hockey East freshman in a league game since Boston
College’s Kris Kolanos did it in March of 2000.
• Eagles’ senior forward
Chris Collins will have to start wearing sunglasses
to the rink – or at least some sort of dark
visor – with the way he has been lighting lamps
lately. In the team’s last six games, Collins
has scored seven goals, two of the shorthanded variety.
• The second time was, in fact,
a charm for BU coach Jack Parker, who finally won
his 300th Hockey East game with the Terriers’
4-2 Friday night celebration over UVM. Parker had
to wait 20 days between victories 299 and 300, as
the only league game in between was a 7-4 loss in
• If the Black Bears had it their
way, they wouldn’t welcome any Boston teams
to Alfond during the first week of November ever again.
Sunday’s home loss to BU marked the first time
Maine had been on the short end of the stick in Orono
in more than a calendar year – 366 days to be
exact – since UM dropped a 3-1 decision to BC
on Nov. 5, 2004.
• A couple scoreless streaks
ended this past weekend. Maine goalie Matt Lundin
allowed his first goal in 161:03 when Jason Lawrence
scored his first career goal in the second period
for BU. UMass ended its drought of 117:35 with a Marvin
Degon tally in the first period against Providence
on Friday night. As only the hockey gods would have
it, Lundin shut the Minutemen out on Oct. 29, making
both of these streaks possible.
variety of sources were utilized in the compilation
of this report.