Providence College is a young hockey team. Freshmen play key roles although most are just 19 years old. Veterans looked to for scoring and leadership include Erik Foley, Brian Lemoss (19-year-old sophomores) and Jake Walman (a 20-year-old junior.)
“We are young team still trying to find our way,” coach Nate Lehman said after his team beat No. 12 Vermont, 4-1, at Schneider Arena on Saturday night, splitting the weekend series with the visiting Catamounts (15-7-2, 7-4-1 Hockey East).
For those that hadn’t seen Providence play in a while, the first period against 12th ranked UVM showed why Leaman’s team was 10th in the Hockey East standings, unranked in national polls and looking for only its second win in league play.
Vermont, bigger, stronger and more disciplined than Providence seemed to be, controlled play for much of the first 20 minutes with efficient forechecking and disciplined play in all three zones. One might have thought that it was only a matter of time before UVM began putting the puck behind Providence goalie Hayden Hawkey. But it didn’t happen, and the score remained 0-0 at the end of one.
The second period almost seemed like the teams had swapped jersey at the intermission. Mario Puskarich scored from the top of the circle to put UVM on the board first, but Providence was taking the play to UVM. Freshman goaltender Stefanos Lekkas was severely tested by Providence shooters and one could see why he already has been Hockey East’s defensive player of the week twice, rookie of the week once and goaltender of the month twice.
The 5-foot-9 Lekkas is very athletic, with a great glove hand, and he doesn’t give up many rebounds. But, nobody is perfect and Providence freshman Josh Wilkins found a gap in the UVM defense and beat Lekkas cleanly from the top of the slot for the Friars’ first goal at 13:42.
The second, the third and the fourth goals (Scott Conway, Vimal Sukumaran and Brian Pinho) all came in the third period, but by then Providence had completely turned the tables on UVM.
“We were not taking care of details by then,” UVM coach Kevin Sneddon said. “We have to be a lot smarter.
“But even last night (a 4-3 UVM win) they were outplaying us by the third period. It’s not that we weren’t giving our best effort, but perhaps they have more hunger, more to work for than we do. Providence is working hard to win these Hockey East games if they are to get to the postseason.”
Leaman said that for his team to get to the Hockey East playoffs they would probably have to get their record to .500 before the season ends (they are 2-6-2 after Saturday night.)
“We were a little frustrated with the loss Friday night,” Leaman said, “but we are slowly building confidence in our game. The win at Yale Tuesday night was really good for us because they are a very good team. We are building confidence.
“For us, the key is getting more scoring. So far we have been doing it by committee, but now we have Erik Foley back from the World Juniors and then an illness. We have Josh Wilkins, we have Lemos, we have Conway, we have Walman.
“If from here we can score three goals a game, I think we can turn things around. After all, we may be at the bottom in Hockey East, but we have showed how good we can be by our record outside the league (8-2-2 for a 10-8-4 overall mark).”
Hockey East roundup
At Merrimack 4, No. 13 Notre Dame 2
Merrimack earned a weekend split with the Irish at North Andover, Mass. Jordan Gross opened the scoring for the Irish at 6:18 of the first, but Merrimack came back with late first-period goals from Chris LeBlanc (power play) and Matthieu Tibet, and a second period score from Jace Hennig. Andrew Oglevie kept Notre Dame in the game with a goal at 3:14 of the third, but Tyler Irvine iced the Merrimack victory with an empty-netter at 19:56.
New Hampshire 2, at Northeastern 2
The Wildcats and the Huskies scored a goal apiece in each of the first two periods, but neither team could find another one and both teams left Frozen Fenway with the tie. Jeremy Davies and Adam Gaudette scored for Northeastern, with Zach Aston-Reese and Dylan Sikura assisting on both. Ara Nazarian had a goal and an assist for UNH. Daniel Tirone stopped seven Northeastern shots in the third period but didn’t have to make any in overtime. Ryan Ruck blanked UNH with nine saves in the third period and one in the extra period.
Maine 4, at Connecticut 0
The Black Bears got a goal and two assists from Cam Brown as they shut out the Huskies in the early game at Frozen Fenway. Blaine Byron and Rob Michel added a goal and an assist apiece for Maine, and goaltender Rob McGovern made 31 saves for the shutout.