They’re no secret in Hockey East circles any longer, but Providence College forwards Devin Rask and Peter Fregoe may still have a little catching up to do in terms of national recognition. That may happen soon with the duo leading the offense for the NCAA-bound Friars.
The two second-year players have teamed with either Jon DiSalvatore or, more recently, Cody Loughlean to form one of the most formidable trios in the East. With the stakes high on this evening — a loss and the season was over — the two 5-9 fireplugs both scored goals to lead Providence to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1996.
“They work really, really hard,” says co-captain Matt Libby. “They’re definitely not the biggest line in the league, but they work hard, they’re really smart hockey players and they’ve been doing it all year for us. You’ve got to give them all the credit in the world.
“Rasko, especially, is one of the best forwards that we have in the league and in the nation.”
Jay Leach, PC’s other co-captain, goes even further with his praise of Rask.
“Rask is the type of player that every coach dreams of,” he says. “I’ve never seen a kid who has that much skill and can score 52 points and go down and dive for shots. He’s just got incredible hunger.
“They’re a great line that works real hard down low. They have a sense of where each other is. It’s real exciting to watch.”
When Fregoe joined the Friars last year, expectations were high. He came from the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers where he was league MVP after scoring 46 goals and assisting on 57 others for 103 points. He finished his inaugural season with a 14-15–29 scoring line and was selected to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team.
Rask came in with less fanfare. He’d been named a second-team all-star in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, but made only modest contributions for the Friars over the first half of last season.
“The big part was that I wasn’t playing a lot,” he says. “I was on the fourth line and the third line. The thing that helped me out is that we had a player quit in December. Coach gave me the opportunity right after that.
“His confidence in me showed in the last two months finishing off the season. I realized I could step up and play with everyone rather than just check.”
The line of Rask, Fregoe and DiSalvatore became a force.
“[Last] February, he, Fregoe and DiSalvatore were the best line in the bloody league,” says PC coach Paul Pooley. “They were unstoppable.
“That confidence gave Devin the desire this year to come in and get off to a great start because he knew what he could do.”
Rask got off to a great start and never looked back. He entered this weekend with a 22-28–50 scoring line, having scored on a remarkable 24.4 percent of his shots. A year after floundering on the lower lines well into December, he earned a berth on the All-Hockey East First Team.
Rask admits that even though he entered the season with a lot of confidence, the results and awards have caught him a bit off guard.
“As far as myself, I’ve surprised myself a little bit this year,” he says with a laugh. “But hopefully I’ll just keep going like this.
“You have to give credit to everyone on your team and your coaches around you. Without them, you’re not going to be there. I want to especially give credit to my linemates: Fregoe has been there all year and Cody Loughlean and Jon DiSalvatore.”
The chemistry has been particularly effective with Fregoe.
“We’ve been roommates the last year and pretty good buds off ice so I think that helps out,” says Rask. “We’ve played together for a long time, [including] the whole year this season. We know where each other is on the ice. We don’t get upset with each other when someone makes a mistake.”
Spotting his “good bud” standing nearby, Rask grins and says, “If Fregoe screws up, he knows it’s okay.”
They both laugh, but Fregoe declines to retaliate when asked what happens when Rask screws up.
“It doesn’t happen a lot with Devin,” says Fregoe. “He’s a great player. When he has the puck, I just try to get open and create some space for him, because it’s hard for any defender to guard him, he spins so quick. He’s just a great player who is great to play with. He makes me better just playing with him.”
Fregoe was named an All-Hockey East Honorable Mention for his 15 goals, 20 assists and 35 points. He got off to a slower start than Rask this season, but has been a force down the stretch, as has the entire unit.
“What I’ve noticed in Peter Fregoe the last couple weeks is that he gets that look in his eye and he’s not going to be denied,” says Pooley. “[Tonight] when we started coming, he wanted to be out there and he was ready to play if he had to play 40 minutes for the last two periods.”
Rask and Fregoe are highly skilled, but perhaps their greatest talent is their work ethic.
“We work hard,” says Fregoe. “That’s what we key on in this team. We just outwork every team and by the third period wear them down.
“We work it low. That’s our main thing, cycling the puck and getting shots and rebounds.”
The tenacity in their game on the ice is echoed by Rask’s words off the ice.
“I want to win,” he says. “I’ve played a lot of hockey in my career and I have yet to wear a ring on my finger for a championship. I’ve been to a few finals, [but I haven’t won there].
“That’s all I want. Now we have a chance for it [against BC]. I’ll do anything to get that ring.”