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Providence Preview

Providence Friars 4-1-0, (Hockey East 0-0-0 T-6th)
vs
Massachusetts Minutemen 3-0-0, (Hockey East 2-0-0 T-1st)

Providence Friars Official Site

Even if Massachusetts did not start the season 3-0-0 I still think most fans would’ve come into this home and home series against Providence thinking that it should be an easy four points.  Well UMass has surpassed their early season expectations and still I think a fan would be foolish to expect the Minutemen to roll over this Providence team starting tonight in Providence. 

Going into the season there were some people that thought that Maine would be led by Gustav Nyquist to some success.  I know a lot of people thought that Joe Cannata plus some additional goal scorers would help Merrimack move up the Hockey East ladder.  However I think very few would’ve thought Providence would have four wins on the season at this point, much less a W against then #7 Notre Dame on their home ice.  But it’s not just about who they’ve beaten so far, but how.  Granted the Bowling Green program isn’t very strong right now but Providence going out to Ohio and outscoring the Falcons 11-3  in a two game sweep is pretty impressive. 

But they’re not just doing it with goalscoring.  Alex Beaudry who made a splash initially after joining the Friars mid-season last year only to fall off as the year closed has been stellar so far with a 1.76 GAA and save percentage of nearly .940.  Offensively Providence has been led by Matt Bergland, this past week’s Hockey East Player of the Week, who has four goals and two assists in five games.  They’ve also gotten quite a boost from freshman forward Aaron Jamnick who is averaging a point a game.  Defensively they’ve been led by Mark Fayne and freshman NHL draft pick Alex Velischeck has given them some good minutes early in the season as well.  If there’s one thing that Providence needs to work on it would be their power play which is only clicking at a rate of 10.5% so far this season.

That is not the case with the Minutemen however as they have a Hockey East best power play conversion of 29.2%.  Considering the endless stretches between extra man goals last year the early success so far this season is amazing.  Unfortunately they’ve been giving up almost 24% on the PK, so that is certainly something to work on.  Defensive work by the forwards needs to improve somewhat anyway.  You certainly have guys like Brett Watson, Eddie Olczyk and T.J. Syner doing a lot but it would be good to see the other guys get back  and defend as well.

Other than that I’m just going to go with the “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” approach.  I would hope that all of the lines stay intact as they really seem to be clicking thus far.  Certainly I would not split up the defensive pairings who have done much better than expected, especially the guys who have taken on bigger roles like Mike Marcou, Dan Kublin, and freshman Mike Donnellan.

As this is the team’s first away game it’ll be interesting to see how they react to the away locale.  The Mullins Center ice is perfect to spread things out and use the team’s superior speed to its advantage.  That’s going to be a lot tougher to do on the smaller ice of Schneider Arena.  If this team is to be succesful the entire season it will require them to adjust their game accordingly to the bandbox rinks like Schneider and Merrimack’s Lawler Arena, places where UMass has struggled quite a bit in recent years.  Friday will certainly be a struggle against a newly motivated team but at the very least I expect UMass to come out flying on Saturday in front of what should be an energized student crowd on Halloween Saturday.  Hopefully they’ll be in for a treat that night instead of a trick.

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Matt Vautour has his preview in the Gazette.  Mentioned is that Mike Lecomte is expected back soon but Chase Langeraap will be out for another two to four weeks.  I hope the fact he isn’t mentioned as injured means that Rocco Carzo was only slightly banged up after the Maine game and is good to go tonight.

Here are the game notes from the Providence side of things.

USCHO not surprisingly spends most of their Hockey East column talking about their favorite teams that are struggling (BU, Northeastern, BC, UVM) versus the teams off to good starts (UMass, Lowell, Providence, Merrimack).  Hey guys, there’s actually ten (10) whole teams in Hockey East.  Not just four or five.

The Republican has a great feature on local product on Kevin Czepiel.  I didn’t realize until mentioned in this story that Czepiel won 5 of 7 faceoffs in his debut last week.  That skill could be key as the season moves along as someone needs to fill the faceoff role Cory Quirk has played the last few years.   Toot says that Kevin will be dressed tonight in Providence.

The Collegian has a preview of the series as well as a focus on the goaltending matchup this weekend.

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The big series this weekend in Hockey East is the rematch of last year’s league championship game between BU and Lowell.  This is a key early season test for the River Hawks to show if they can truly be the team to beat this season.  For BU they’ll have to figure out a way to win without Nick Bonino who will be sidelined for the next month with injury.

Update:  It appears the guys over at The Ice Is Life are fed up with being oppressed by the powers that be in Hockey East.  I don’t blame them.   Good luck to them and their revolution this weekend.

New Hampshire meanwhile travels to Wisconsin for a two game series against the 19th ranked Badgers.

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2 Comments

  1. Ryan

     /  October 31, 2009

    I was on the balls of my feet all game, as you guys were well aware. One of those games where just when I thought one time might have had a strangehold on it, the other team came right back. Good too see Concannon contribute just missing a goal in the 2nd period on a quick play across the net, and setting up the game-winner. Dainton was the number 1 star once again in my view. Overall, I am very pleased, especially with the outcome. One of the rare times I can drive home from Providence with a smile!

    Like

    • Yeah, I wasn’t sure they’d be able to get things together in time to pull it out either. I’m not sure why they looked so disjointed for long portions of the game but at least they recovered to get the win. I just pray we don’t see a letdown tonight at home.

      Like

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