Providence gets a fresh start with new coach Leaman

Last year’s national coach of the year, Nate Leaman, built Union into an ECAC Hockey regular season champion and an NCAA tournament team. He’s got his work cut out for him, though, at Providence, which missed the Hockey East playoffs the last two seasons.

“Right now we’re focused on building our program one day at a time into a championship-caliber program,” Leaman says. “I purposely didn’t watch tape. I view it as us having 26 freshmen right now, working hard and starting to understand what it takes to come to the rink every day and compete at the level that we want to compete at.”

That competition extends to the net, where goaltender Alex Beaudry was considered one of the team’s top players despite a pedestrian .902 save percentage.

“Beaudry had a lot of experience last year, but it’s an area that if we’re going to be successful, we need to be more consistent,” Leaman says. “We need to raise our level of play and save percentage. It’s an open battle right now.”

Leaman feels his defensive corps is deep with eight guys that all bring something different to the table, but he can’t feel very good about the talent up front. In fact, he may wax nostalgic for Union’s offensive firepower, which ranked seventh nationally and first on the power play. By comparison, Providence was last in Hockey East in offense and the power play, then graduated most of its top scorers.

“Our program only scored 75 goals last year,” Leaman says. “Fifty of them graduated so we returned only 25. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s probably the lowest in NCAA hockey. We had a power play that was around 10 percent. So scoring is an area that we need to develop.”

About the Friars

2010-11 overall record: 8-18-8

2010-11 HEA record: 4-16-7 (ninth)

2011-12 predicted finish (coaches poll): Tenth

Key losses: Forwards Ian O’Connor, Kyle MacKinnon, Matt Germain and Ben Farrer; defenseman Eric Baier

Players to watch: Goaltender Alex Beaudry; forwards Tim Schaller and Matt Bergland; defensemen Daniel New and Mark Adams

Impact rookie: Barrett Kaib

Why the Friars will finish higher than the coaches poll: Nate Leaman worked wonders at Union. It’ll probably take a few years at Providence, but don’t bet against him.

Why the Friars will finish lower than the coaches poll: Since they were picked to finish last, the Friars can’t finish any lower.