PROVIDENCE, R.I — A packed crowd occupied Schneider Arena on Tuesday afternoon, with its full focus turned to the video scoreboard that was replaying the final period of last Saturday’s NCAA championship game.
The crowd burst out cheering as the screens showed Providence goaltender Jon Gillies sprawling out across the net for a game-saving stop in the final minute. The cheer was one-upped a few minutes later as the final seconds ticked off the clock and the celebration of the Friars’ first hockey national championship played.
2015 Frozen Four
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As the Friars players were announced, the biggest applause was given to a player that did not lace up his skates throughout the season: Drew Brown, a senior who has been battling a rare and vicious form of bone cancer.
As Providence athletic director Bob Driscoll put it, Brown is “the toughest Friar in the house,” and was the “inspiration” behind the run to the championship.
School president Brian Shanley and Providence mayor Jorge Elorza were among those who spoke during the event.
“On behalf of the city, I am so proud that you are our national champions,” Elorza said.
Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna had a champion to celebrate no matter whether Providence or league foe Boston University won Saturday.
“I was one of the few people in the building Saturday night that was not stressed out,” he said, “because I could not lose.”
In his time at the microphone, Friars coach Nate Leaman praised the team effort that culminated in a 4-3, come-from-behind victory over the Terriers in Boston.
“We had a great team this year,” Leaman said. “The players, our staff, our administration, our alumni, our community, our state — we all came together as a team. That’s the best part of this year’s championship.”
Driscoll gave a lot of the credit to Leaman, who helped transform a program that had been in the depths of Hockey East into a champion in four seasons.
Leaman executed a similar turnaround, albeit over a longer period of time, at Union, which won the 2014 national title.
Leaman “is actually the architect of the last two national championship teams,” Bertagna said.
As Leaman came toward the close of his speech, he gave an immense amount of credit to the Friars faithful, noting their importance in the tough East Regional bracket that Providence escaped not far from home.
“We had 14,000 fans over the two games in Providence, which led all the other regions by about 5,000 fans,” Leaman said.
Leaman made a touching tribute to his co-captain, Ross Mauermann, who is one of the few players to spend his entire four-year career under Leaman’s wing.
“Ross Mauermann came to us four years ago as a walk-on … but he leaves here as a champion and I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Leaman said.
The Friars coach ended his speech with a poke at his captain: “You can always spot him on campus with the red hair,” Leaman said.
With the crowd laughing, Mauermann walked to the stage.
“It’s been an unbelievable ride,” he said. “It’s still kind of setting in for us, but we are national champions.”