By Sam Scanlon ’19
October is finally here, and with that, another season has commenced for Friars hockey. Led by captains Kasper Björkqvist ’20, Jacob Bryson ’20, and alternate captain Vinny Desharnais ’19, the Friars are hoping for yet another successful season culminating with their sixth straight trip to the NCAA tournament.
Only the Friars and the Denver Pioneers have appeared in the previous five NCAA tournaments.
The Friars have added a load of offensive weaponry in three talented freshmen forwards. 2018 first round Philadelphia Flyers draft pick, Jay O’Brien ’22, will slide into the first line center role. O’Brien posted 80 points (43 goals, 37 assists) in just 30 games in the 2017-2018 season with Thayer Academy, a prep school in Massachusetts. A quick skater with great playmaking ability, O’Brien will be heavily relied on to provide an offensive spark.
Another skilled freshman addition for the Friars is Rochester, New York product Jack Dugan ’22. Last season, Dugan skated with the Chicago Steel in the United States Hockey League and finished third in the league by scoring 66 points in 54 games. Dugan, a 6’2” 194 lb. power forward, has an excellent shot and the ability to make defenders miss. He will be crucial on the Power Play for the Friars by generating scoring chances.
Tyce Thompson ’22, another forward with a heavy shot, is looking to have a role on the blueline during the Power Play. Arizona Coyotes 2018 fifth round draft pick, Michael Callahan ’22, is an addition to the Friars sound defensive unit in front of goaltender Hayden Hawkey ’19. Along with Desharnais, Callahan provides a lot of size and he will be a solid shut-down defenseman who is not afraid to get into the dirty areas.
The Friars’ junior class, along with captains Bryson and Björkqvist, has a plethora of skill as well. Josh Wilkins ’20 has recorded 62 points through his first two seasons at the College. Wilkins, Björkqvist, and Brandon Duhaime ’20 are all goal-scoring threats, and with the addition of the skilled freshman class, the Friars are going to be able to deposit a substantial amount of goals this season.
Although offense was the story of the offseason, the Friars’ defense has proven to be critical thus far. After the Friars opened up the season with a 3-1 win over American International College (AIC), they traveled to Erie, Pennsylvania to participate in the 2018 Ice Breaker Tournament.
Game 1 was against the University of Miami Ohio Red Hawks. This marked the 7th straight season in which these two teams faced off. Hawkey stopped all 22 shots he faced, as the Friars defense shut out the Red Hawks. Further, the Friars killed off seven penalties in this game. The penalty killing unit has been crucial for the Friars’ success.
Defenseman Spenser Young ’20 lead the charge with two goals in the 4-0 victory, along with a handful of blocked shots. Greg Printz ’21 also picked up his second tally of the year and Vimal Sukumaran ’20 redirected a Desharnais shot from the point. With that overwhelming win, the Friars were slated to face the No. 2 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the tournament championship, a long-awaited rematch from the 2017 NCAA tournament that ended the Friars’ National Championship run.
However, Notre Dame took home the trophy as they defeated the Friars 3-0. Penalties riddled PC again in this tilt, as six Friars made a trip to the penalty box. All three penalties were killed off in the first period, but the Irish converted once in the second and again in the third to put the game out of reach.
Hockey East action will start this Friday at Schneider Arena against the University of Connecticut Huskies. As the Friars compete in one of the most dominant conferences in college hockey, their strong freshman class, as well as the solid returning core, is imperative for success. They will face two powerhouses in Boston College and Boston University three times each this season, giving the Friars a problematic schedule from the start. However, Head Coach Nate Leaman and the Friars have their eyes set on their 6th straight NCAA appearance and a trip to Buffalo, New York for the 2019 Frozen Four.