Over the weekend I was able to see PC against St. Lawrence. The Friars were at times dominating and its talented back-line helped to lead a good performance on special teams. They also got a dominating performance in a tie against Clarkson on Friday night, but just weren’t able to find the back of the net. Mike McMahon talked about last week in his Hockey East random thoughts of about how the advanced numbers they were putting up pointed to how things would improve.
Over the weekend, they certainly did against two of the better teams in the ECAC, if not the two best in that conference this season.
My first thought looking at the PC forward lines on the night was how different the Friars looked. They were tasked with replacing its top three scorers, four of its top five and seven of the top 11. That means at the very least, there were seven new faces within its 12 forwards. Among its 12 in the lineup on Saturday night there was just one senior (fourth lines Conor MacPhee), two juniors, five sophomores and four freshmen. In key spots, it is young guys that need to take charge.
It would have been easy to think that PC would drop a bit this year, but over the weekend it proved just why it is will still be a force to reckoned. It also helps that its coach, is probably the best in college hockey and it has an experience back-line that includes the like of Anthony Florentino and Jake Walman.
There were a ton of new faces, up and down the lineup, but for what it is worth they still have a 60.6% CF on the season, which also hovers around 58% at even strength. Those numbers are second best in the country, to North Dakota and we know how good the Fighting Hawks are this year. SLU and Clarkson are pretty decent corsi teams in the ECAC, the Golden Knights have hovered in the top ten the last few seasons of that category despite struggles in net. Against Clarkson its CF% was around 66% and at 5 on 5 it as 59 percent.
One of the things I realized is how good, its defenders are at moving the puck. Everybody knows how good Walman is, but Florentino is also pretty good. Florentino missed Fridays’ game, but on Saturday he was able to find the back of the net and pick up a pair of assists. The two of them are great on the power play and can certainly move the puck. It was clear the defensive end, especially on the offensive side of the puck, will be a strong point for the Friars. With all the losses this season it will probably have to be. Of course having these good puck movers from the blue-line certainly helps the power play and penalty kill. They were a +3 on special teams against SLu on Saturday, for an example.
On the weekend, PC scored 9 times and had a clear advantage in shot power and accuracy against SLU. It was able to find holes against Kyle Hayton that few teams have been able to do the last three seasons. Nate Leaman was most pleased with how is team was able to find the back of the net this weekend, whereas it struggled in recent weekends like against Holy Cross the week before.
There will probably be some growing pains early, but I would expect to see Providence near the top to stay. They have some talented shooters and a real talented back-line that will probably keep them in games. The only question mark I saw was in net, but Hayden Hawkey is plenty talented enough as a Canadiens draft pick to step into that role. The young guys fit with what Leaman likes to do and so far, they are doing a decent job in doing that.