By Cam Smith ’21
Providence College Men’s Hockey Coach Nate Leaman was one of 10 coaches to be nominated for the Spencer Penrose Award, given to the top coach in NCAA Division I ice hockey. Nominees consisted of coaches selected as winners of the Coach of the Year award for their respective conferences, as well as the four coaches who led their teams to the tournament semifinals.
Leaman earned his nomination by taking the Friars to the Frozen Four after the squad snuck into the playoffs. The fourth seed in the East region of the bracket, PC clinched their trip to Buffalo by dazzling the hometown crowd inside the Dunkin’ Donuts Center during two upset victories.
In the NCAA East Regional Semifinal, the Friars came back from a 3-0 deficit to stun top-seeded Minnesota State University. The team caught fire after going down early, hammering home six unanswered goals to pull out the 6-3 victory. Facing Cornell University the following day in the East Regional final proved to be a far less stressful task. The Friars blanked the third-seeded Big Red en route to a 4-0 win, punching their ticket to the Frozen Four and securing their coach a spot in the Spencer Penrose Award conversation.
Leaman is no stranger to being nominated for the prestigious award, as he has now been named a finalist on five separate occasions. Twice (2010, 2011) it was as head coach of Union College, a program he found success with prior to taking the job at PC in April of 2011. He won the award in 2011 with the Dutchmen after leading them to their first NCAA Division I tournament appearance in program history.
Following the game against Cornell, Leaman showed little interest in his own personal accomplishments, instead focusing on what the win meant to a team who had been through a lot over the past year. “I’m happy for the players. I think the guys have been waiting to get back to this point all year long,” he said, referring to last year’s loss in the East Regional final to the University of Notre Dame. “I think there was a lot of ache in our team from losing last year in this game the way we did, with a minute left.’’
Unfortunately, the one-time Penrose Award recipient will have to wait a little longer to win his second, as on Tuesday April 9th the American Hockey Coaches Association announced Greg Carvel of the University of Massachusetts as the 2019 winner. Carvel has led UMass to its first Frozen Four appearance in school history, smashing school records along the way.
One can only assume that Leaman did not bat an eye as the award was announced, for the coach and his players are zeroed in on their ultimate goal: a second national championship in the past five years. Leaman and PC face off against the defending champions from the University of Minnesota Duluth on April 11 in Buffalo with a trip to the title game on the line.