2007-08 Providence Season Preview

When Tim Army first returned to his alma mater two seasons ago, the Friars turned out to be the biggest surprise in the league for the first half of the season before faltering in the stretch. Last season was a different story, as the Friars never really got all cylinders firing together on a regular basis. When the skaters played well, the goaltending sometimes was shaky. When the netminders held up their end, the skaters failed to light the lamp sufficiently. Fourteen of the team’s 23 losses were by two goals or less, including one-goal losses to BU, BC, UNH, and Vermont — the latter three all on the road.

All of which is to say that no one should look to Army to abandon his go-getter brand of offensive hockey.

“We’re excited about our team,” Army said. “For two years we’ve made some progress; I don’t think our record was necessarily reflective of the way we played last year. But I think we’ve solidified things over the last two years, and now we have our second recruiting class in, so we’ll have 16 freshmen and sophomores playing. We’ll be young.

“Obviously, the league is highly competitive, and you’re going to be challenged every night. But when you look at our team, we’ve improved in the areas of speed, overall skill, and hockey sense. We’ve gotten bigger, I think grittier, a little edgier. We want to play with discipline, but we want to play a little edgier. I think the group of freshmen coming in will further enhance those elements, and we’ll continue to play the type of game that we’ve tried to play — a puck-pursuit, puck-possession, attacking type of game.”

Several players will be critical factors in determining whether the Friars can get back in the black on the ledger of wins and losses. “Goaltending will be important; Tyler Sims and Ryan Simpson are two key guys. Key guys for us up front are Jon Rheault and Nick Mazzolini, and on the back end you look at Cody Wild, Mark Fayne, a freshman named Joey Lavin. Those are some key names, but we look to everyone to continue to improve and develop and contribute.”

Army also can think of some likely suspects in terms of breakout seasons as well. “I think Greg Collins and John Cavanaugh had good seasons last year [as freshmen], but I think that they’re capable of building on that. I think Chris Eppich was a freshman who struggled a bit last year but who has a high skill element. He’s another of the sophomores who might start to leap forward. Pierce Norton also has showed signs of developing; he’s another guy who could do real good things for us.”



But the substantial influx of freshmen-nine of them-might have the biggest long-term impact on the program. The biggest coup is the aforementioned Lavin, a recruit from the U.S. Under-18 Team. “Extremely mobile,” Army said of the freshman. “Six-two, very rangy, very intelligent player. We’re very active with our defensemen; I think you’ll see a great deal of offensive activity from Joey.”

Given the youth movement in the program, though, several other freshmen will be counted on to step in and play. “Paul Golden’s a walk-on freshman from Thayer Academy, but he’s got some talent. Paul’s one of those guys who will add depth and develop over time. The other guys: Eric Baier, six-foot two, another mobile defenseman who played for the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs, and then up front Kyle MacKinnon from Walnut, California, played for Langley up in the British Columbia Hockey League and put up big numbers. I think he’ll have an immediate impact.”

Army touted quite a few other newcomers for their size, speed, and skill as well. Many of the rookies will see substantial minutes. It remains to be seen whether the combination of Army’s offensive vision and his program’s ability to recruit will reap dividends quickly, but the longer term looks promising … and likely to lead to more entertaining hockey for all who watch the team play.