UMass To Scrimmage On Saturday; Hockey East Preview: #5 Providence Friars

As I tweeted over the weekend, UMass will in fact hold their maroon and white scrimmage this coming Saturday at 4pm at the practice rink. The event is free but they will be accepting donations for the Massachusetts Soldiers Legacy Fund, the charity started by former Minuteman Peter Trovato to benefit the children of Bay State soldiers lost overseas. I do plan on being in attendance and will share my observations with a post on Sunday. With that, back to the previews.

Hockey East Preview: #5 Providence Friars

2011-12 Storyline: In his first season at the helm, Nate Leaman leads the Friars back to the Garden for the first time since 2001

2012-13 Storyline: Leaman got it done on the ice last season, but his work on the recruiting trail will payoff for Providence this coming year

Player To Watch: Tim Schaller F (14-7-21)

Player Missed Most: Alex Beaudry G (13-19-4, 3.04, .896)

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Mark Jankowski F

Random Fact: Freshman Mark Jankowski is the 3rd Friar to be picked in the 1st Round of the NHL Draft. The others were Joey Hulbig and Tom Fitzgerald.

Beer The Triangle Favorite Local Brew: Apparently there’s Revival Brewing out of Providence that I must try. Which is good because I’m not overly impressed with the rest of the beer that comes out of the state.

Team Outlook:

Most college hockey fans were pretty impressed when Providence landed Nate Leaman during their offseason coaching search last spring and knew that it was probably only a matter of time until he’d have the Friars succeeding in Hockey East. I bet few though thought he’d bring them to the conference semi-finals in his very first year. But after knocking off second seeded Lowell, that’s exactly what happened. This season Leaman will try to follow-up on that success immediately thanks to a strong recruiting class.

The Friars return their top four goal scorers from a year ago, led by senior Tim Schaller and junior Derek Army. Schaller seemed to be the key for the team a year ago. Hindered by injury, the Friars were 12-11-3 when he suited up and just 2-9-1 with him out of the lineup. He still managed to scored 14 goals in the 26 games he dressed. Army, surprisingly, flourished without his father as coach, putting up double digits in goals and assists. Added to the mix at forward will be Mark Jankowski who the Calgary Flames chose in the first round of this past June’s draft.

The Friars return most of their key defensemen, including senior Alex Velischek who had a solid season returning to Providence after a year in the USHL. He’ll be aided by senior Myles Harvey and junior Steven Shamanski. It’ll be interesting to see if Buffalo pick Mark Adams will be able to get on the ice more this season after only playing in 19 games last year.

The big question mark will be in net where the team graduated long term starter Alex Beaudry and his backup Justin Gates. However Leaman got a potential answer for his goaltender situation when Jon Gillies decided to back out of his commitment to Northeastern in late March. The Huskies loss is the Friars gain as Gillies, one of the top goaltenders in the USHL and a 3rd round NHL Draft pick, is seen as one of the top freshmen in the league.

They’ll Finish Lower Because: Gillies takes longer than expected to transition to college play and Jankowski’s lack of high level junior experience slows his development

They’ll Finish Higher Because: A healthy Schaller becomes one of the top goal scorers in the league

Fear The Triangle Fearless Hockey East Predictions
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2. ??
3. ??
4. ??
5. Providence Friars
6. Maine Black Bears
7. Massachusetts Minutemen (preview upcoming)
8. Merrimack Warriors
9. Northeastern Huskies
10. Vermont Catamounts

UMass received votes in the pre-season USCHO poll, ending up as the de facto 28th team in the country. That puts them ahead of Northeastern and Providence among Hockey East teams receiving votes. To the surprise of no one Boston College gets the top slot in the poll. Lowell is picked 7th while Boston University was chosen 13th and Maine came in at 15th. Merrimack and New Hampshire also received votes.

New England Hockey Journal highlights UMass as one of five teams in the conference facing questions in net.

Beanpot Forum picks UMass to finish 6th.

Husky Hockey News has the Minutemen finishing 9th.

Here is the USHL’s press release on Dennis Kravchenko’s commitment to Massachusetts.

This Worcester Telegram story on UMass PA announcer Matt “Matty G” Goldstein is worthy of a Noise Meter.