By Sam Scanlon ’19
One month until the puck drops in Ohio for the Friars’ 2017-2018 season opener against the Miami (OH) Redhawks. Two seasons removed from a National Championship, the once gritty, tough, and rugged Providence Friars have now evolved into a squad full of skillful offensive weapons and elusive skaters. Veteran leadership on defense was the story for the Friars last season, now they must rely on a younger, quicker group of players to get the job done. This year’s roster includes a rather young team bolstered by key returners and upperclassmen, potential breakout players, and a slew of new talent.
Senior captain Brian Pinho ’18 is one of those key returning players. Last year’s Lou Lamoriello award winner as the team’s Most Valuable Player led the Friars in both assists (28) and points (40). His offensive prowess is going to be heavily relied on as the Friars go up against great defenses and goaltenders this year. Erik Foley ’19 had 15 goals last year; good enough for the team lead. He and Josh Wilkins ’20, who had an explosive rookie season last year, are also key offensive players returning in the lineup who will aim to compliment Pinho and generate plenty offensive opportunities.
A veteran goaltender is one of the most coveted pieces to a college hockey lineup. The Friars have exactly that in Hayden Hawkey ’19. As a junior, Hawkey has a full season as a starter under his belt, as well as a year backing up Nick Ellis ’17, who had a record-breaking 2015-2016 season. Hawkey’s experience is extremely beneficial for the success of this team. His confidence and poise will be higher this season, which will prove to be dangerous for opponents.
This year could very well be the year of the Sophomore. Along with Wilkins, Kasper Björkqvist ’20, Brandon Duhaime ’20 and Jacob Bryson ’20 are expected to step into larger roles this season. Björkqvist and Duhaime, 2016 NHL Draft 2nd and 4th round picks respectively, experienced limited offensive roles last season. Known for their goal scoring ability, they should find themselves more comfortable and put together breakout seasons.
Bryson definitely impressed last season, earning himself a 4th round selection in the 2017 NHL Draft, but was unable to get out of the shadow cast by the veteran defensemen. The smooth skating, puck moving defensemen is going to see a huge increase in ice time this season. His playmaking ability is a great accent to the talented offense. However, he also has goal scoring ability with an extremely powerful slap shot.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the new season is welcoming the new faces to Friartown. Four defensemen, three forwards, and a goalie step in to replace the class of 2017 who graduated in the spring. Led by defensemen Ben Mirageas ’21, the 2017 3rd round NHL Draft pick is a talented two-way defenseman who will fill the void left by the departure of Jake Walman. Jake Ryczek ’21, a 2016 7th round draft pick, and Jeff Baum ’21 add to the depth of young, two-way defensemen. The Friars also acquired a 5th year transfer student from Princeton in Tommy Davis ’18. Davis is a great addition to add veteran experience to the young defensive group. Up front, Bailey Conger ’21, Jason O’Neill ’21, and Greg Printz ’21 add some size and skill to an offensive unit that could potentially be a top scoring offense in the country.
The Friars have an exciting year ahead, including a trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland for the Friendship Four Tournament and a visit to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the Three Rivers Classic. Is it October yet?