The Providence College men’s ice hockey team came into the season with high expectations. Coming off a third consecutive year of barely missing the NCAA tournament, the Friars entered the season picked to finish No. 4 in the loaded Hockey East Conference, according to the conference coaches’ poll. The Friars also welcomed back the top seven leading goal scorers from last year’s squad, and head coach Nate Leaman signed a contract extension, further emphasizing his commitment to the program. And with a hot start to the season, including a perfect 3−0−0 record in non-exhibition play, all eyes turned to the Friars. Currently sitting ranked No. 15 in the country, the pressure was on for the Friars to produce and hopefully lead a charge back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2018-2019 season.
The Friars started their season off right on Oct. 7, with a decisive 6−1 victory over Sacred Heart University in the season opener. Among the many goal scorers in that game was this week’s “Athlete of the Week,” forward Riley Duran ’25. Duran, a Woburn, MA native, was a 2020 6th round draft selection by the Boston Bruins. Coach Leaman actually spoke to nesn.com before the season to talk about the Bruins prospect. He said, “So, we have high expectations for him. I thought he had a very good world junior tournament. The key is he has to stay to his game. He’s a hard player. The bigger the game, the tighter the game, he shows up more. And that’s what’s exciting to us as a program is that the tougher the game, he makes a bigger impact.” Leaman also mentioned Duran’s growth as a penalty killer in the world juniors tournament and his good freshman season.
Speaking of Duran’s freshman year, he had a total of 10 goals in 38 games. Combined with his nine assists for a total of 19 points, that is a good freshman campaign. But how does his sophomore stack up? In just three games he has already tallied four goals, nearly half of his total from last season in less than a tenth of the games. But what about those goals makes them so valuable, and why is he this week’s “Athlete of the Week?”
Providence played Clarkson University in their second game of the season on Oct. 13, a game in which the Friars won 5−2. Duran scored the final two goals for the Friars in the game, ensuring victory and keeping the Friars undefeated. One goal was a power play goal in the second period and the other was an empty net goal at the end of the third period.
His arguably more impactful performance however would come Oct. 15, on the road against the No. 7 ranked Northeastern University. The game was not only a tough matchup for the Friars but a great opportunity to test themselves against other premier competition and some of the best in the country. Duran would tally yet another goal in this game, opening the scoring in the first period and giving the Friars the lead and momentum. The Friars would go on to win the game 2−1 and move the Friars record to 3−0−0.
This is big for the No. 15 ranked Friars as they look ahead to yet another tough test this week. On Friday and Saturday, Oct. 21-22, they will play an away series at the No. 4 ranked University of Denver. It can be expected that Duran will continue his strong start to the season in Denver, a game in which they will very much need him. The Friars will also likely ask him to step up as a playmaker, a role in which he excelled as a freshman with nine assists. If he can help the Friars past a great Denver team, the sky’s the limit for what this team, and this sophomore forward, can do.