This Week in Hockey East: With slow start in past, Providence improving as ‘players know the standard’

Providence captain Michael Callahan leads all Friars blueliners with three points through the first five games of the season (photo: Stew Milne).

The start of a COVID-delayed, delay-riddled season for Providence was far from ideal.

The Friars lost their first two contests by a combined 12-0 against Spencer Knight’s Boston College, and it would have been easy to assume the Friars were in trouble, especially as head coach Nate Leaman headed to Edmonton to coach the U.S. team at the World Junior Championship.

Instead, the Friars rallied.

“Our standard is very high,” said assistant coach Ron Rolston, currently filling Leaman’s role. “We have very high expectations. Coach Leaman has put that stamp on the program. So the players understand that, so whoever’s in charge back here, the players know the standard.”

After being swept by the Eagles, Providence took down UMass Lowell the next week, then took four of six points — they had a Saturday matinee shootout loss — against Northeastern, including a 5-0 thrashing of their own that sure looked like a cathartic release given the way their season started.

Some of that can be attested to their stars being stars as Tyce Thompson and Greg Printz each have multiple goals.

There’s also seven other goal scorers as the Friars are on a run of 12 goals in three games, and that speaks to the mindset of the entire program.

“Matt Koopman (goal, assist) has been terrific for us,” said Rolston. “He stepped up to play with Parker Ford and Greg Printz and he gives them a lot of energy, and he scored. He scored against Northeastern, and those players have really been plugged into those spots. They’ve really taken advantage of these opportunities.”

Two Providence players — Brett Berard and Patrick Moynihan — joined Leaman in Edmonton, leaving the Friars shorthanded and with even more opportunities to step up.

For those still with the team, some things have changed, too; sophomore goaltender Jaxson Stauber has changed the Friars’ fortunes since he was deemed eligible again before the Lowell game, and has given them a shot in the arm.

“That was really his first start at Lowell, and it’s on the road,” said Rolston. “He didn’t have a lot of work there, I think he had 12 saves on 14 shots, but he played well…. Then a high flying offensive team in Northeastern, and I think in both of those games, Jackson did a terrific shot to help us win both of those games, and that’s part of him building in his confidence coming in as a transfer.”

Every team has some losses this time of year with the World Juniors, so Providence isn’t in too unique a spot, aside from Leaman being away. In a situation when it would have been easy to crumble down with excuses, though, the Friars have solidified an identity, and that’s not something every team is capable of.

They’ve answered the challenge nicely in the past three games, but the adversity is far from over. The Friars won’t play their scheduled game with New Hampshire this week as they continue to seek consistency in their schedule, a hurdle every team faces this season.

It seems, at least, the Friars are equipped to handled things as they come.

“The group here is able to move forward week to week and get better,” said Rolston. “That first series we had chances to score on Knight but he’s the best goaltender in the country. I think our power play got going a little bit here, and our best players feel good about themselves.”

Transfer updates

A few teams added some transfers this week, and a few will be able to jump right in off the bat.

Boston College added defenseman Jack St. Ivany, formerly of Yale, and he’ll be one of the ones able to start right away. St. Ivany was a fourth round pick to the Flyers in 2018, and had a goal with 15 assists in his sophomore season. The junior entered the transfer portal after the Bulldogs canceled their season.

Tristan Mullin, formerly of Cornell, jumped to Vermont and will also be ready to play this season.

UMass also added some Ivy League defectors, with Cam Donaldson of Cornell and Matt Baker of Dartmouth, though neither will play until next season. Both seniors are forwards.

More cancellations

Providence’s game with the Wildcats this weekend is off, and instead they’ll play their road game at Connecticut on Monday as of now.

The UMass series with UMass Lowell scheduled for this weekend is also cancelled. No makeup dates have been announced, though several teams are expected to have revised schedules for January and beyond given all the game cancellations.

Northeastern and Vermont are still slated for for two games in Burlington on Friday and Saturday.