The 2023–2024 hockey season is about to begin with the Providence College men’s team traveling to Ann Arbor, Michigan to take on the preseason ranked No. 5 University of Michigan Wolverines on Oct. 7. The Friars are ranked No. 18 in the nation going into the year, which is promising after only receiving three votes to be in the top 20 poll at the end of last year. Providence was picked to finish sixth in the Hockey East Conference standings this year with Boston University taking the top spot in the conference. After underperforming last season, the team looks to bounce back with a core group of players returning this season, but will also lose star players.
Former student Brett Berard left Providence College following the 2023 school year after three years of attending PC to join the New York Rangers organization and play for their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack. Berard totaled 33 goals and 39 assists for 72 points across 91 games. He was second in points last year for the Friars and led the team in penalty minutes with 35 minutes in his 36 game season. The team will need someone to step into the scrappy, get under your skin, goal-scoring role that Berard has filled for the past three years. The Friars will also be without Parker Ford ’23, who graduated this past year and will suit up for the Winnipeg Jets organization this upcoming season. Ford was the leading scorer for PC last year, scoring 12 goals and totaling 26 points across his 37 games. The Friars also lose a veteran defenseman on the blue in Max Crozier ’23, who graduated last season after playing 119 games for PC and totaling 71 points in his career. Crozier led the team in blocked shots last year, racking up 61, and totaled 131 over his time at PC.
With the top three leading scorers from last season leaving the Friars, the team looks to the top returners for production in the upcoming season. This includes forwards Riley Duran ’25, Nick Poisson ’24, and Jaroslav Chmelar ’26, who will be the key players this year for the offense’s success. The biggest piece of those three players is Chmelar. He is a six feet and five inches tall, 225 pound workhorse that can protect the puck with his frame and drive to the net as well as anyone in college hockey. The sophomore forward had seven goals and six assists last year in his 33 game freshman season. The Czechian is poised to make an impact on this Friar team that needs someone to step up.
After losing Crozier, the team is still defensively sound with Cam McDonald GS ’23, back for his fifth year on the Providence blueline. The Alaska native has totaled 168 blocked shots in 133 games for PC. Providence also retains three big bodies at the point in Connor Kelley ’24, six foot two, Taige Harding ’25, six foot seven, and Guillaume Richard ’25, six foot two, all three of whom have a high hockey IQ.
Tending the pipes in net is Philip Svedebäck ’26, a fourth round draft pick of the Boston Bruins hailing from Sweden. The sophomore netminder will be the focal point of this year’s team. In his freshman season, Svedebäck was a great goalie, making big time saves even if the numbers do not show the same. He had a 14–11–7 record and posted a decent 2.18 goals against average; both were the third best in the conference. PC allowed the least number of shots to opponents in Hockey East and the sixth least in the entire nation last year. This may be a contributing factor as to why the stats for the goalie are skewed. This year Svedebäck will need to take his game to another level if the Friars want to be successful.
Head coach Nate Lehman returns for his 13th season. For his Friars to be successful in the upcoming season, they must accomplish three things: average three goals a game, have a player crack the top ten scoring list in Hockey East, and have Svedebäck reach a save percentage higher than a .915. These three benchmarks need to be reached if the team has any hopes of making the tournament for the first time since 2019. Head coach Lehman knows what it takes to win as he did in 2015 when the Friars won our school a National Championship, so we can trust in him.
PC needs to average at least three goals a game if they want to have success against teams like Michigan and the No. 4 University of Denver, both of whom are on the Friars’ schedule this season. Both of those schools averaged 4.17 goals per game and 3.75 goals per game respectively and made the tournament. In order to make the tournament this season, the Friars have to reach this benchmark as a bare minimum.
Last season, the Friars did not have a player inside the top 20 in scoring across the conference. In order to be a contending team and make it to the NCAA tournament, they need to have a player they can rely on to score goals constantly. Not having a main source of production will lead to a team that is either too passive on offense or a team that becomes selfish. To combat this issue, one player needs to go on a tear in the early season and establish dominance over the scoring role while the other players accept their role as a second option.
The player that will have the biggest impact on the outcome of the season is Svedebäck. As mentioned before, the goaltender will have to take his game to another level and avoid a “sophomore slump.” This first matchup against a star-studded Michigan team will be a precursor for the rest of the season for the netminder. If Svedebäck can limit a power-punching offense to less than three goals per game over the two games they play in a hostile Yost Arena, then the season will look promising.
The Friars take on the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor, Michigan on Friday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. Providence’s home opener will take place the following week on Friday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m.