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Providence Friars have chance to defend NCAA crown

By Randy Lucenti on September 01, 2015

The Providence College Friars shocked the NCAA hockey world after upsetting the Boston University Terriers in last year's NCAA championship. (Stew Milne)

The Providence Friars may have been a Cinderella story last season, but they won't be able to claim that designation when the 2015-16 NCAA Division 1 season kicks off in October.

The Friars won their first-ever national title this past April with a shocking 4-3 victory over Boston University in the Frozen Four final despite the fact they were decided underdogs against a stellar Terriers lineup which earlier captured the prestigious Beanpot tournament title with an overtime victory over the Northeastern Huskies.

Boston was led by Hobey Baker Trophy winner and second overall NHL draft pick Jack Eichel, along with goaltender Matt O'Connor from Toronto, who was being wooed by numerous NHL clubs before signing this summer with the Ottawa Senators. He is expected to start his pro career this season with Binghamton of the AHL.

The Terriers also had solid defenseman Brandon Hickey. Unlike Eichel and O'Connor, the Leduc, Alta. native, who is the lone NCAA hopeful hoping to crack the Team Canada lineup for this year's World Junior Hockey Championships, will be back with the Terriers for another crack at the Friars.

Fellow returning Canadian forward Dillon Lawrence from Toronto and goaltender Connor LaCouvee from Qualicum Beach, B.C, who backed up O’Connor last season, will join him.

Unlike last year when they scored upset wins over Miami, Denver and Nebraska-Omaha, before registering a come-from-behind third period victory over the Terriers, the Friars are considered by many to be the team to beat this season.

With just five graduating seniors from last year, Providence will ice a team of players with experience in winning the big games. The club also boasts six NHL draft picks on its roster including Calgary Flames 2012 first-round selection Mark Jankowski.

The six-foot-three, 186-pound Jankowski, who hails from Dundas, is one of three Ontario forwards (all seniors) on a club which features seven players from north of the border.

The other Canadian forwards being counted on to help the Friars defend their title are Brandon Tanev (6-foot-0, 180 pounds) from Toronto and Steven McParland (5-foot-11, 192 pounds) from Schreiber.

The four Canuck defensemen include: freshman Vincent Desharnais (6-foot-6, 210 pounds) from Laval, Que.; sophomore Jake Walman (6-foot-1, 193 pounds) from Toronto; junior Josh Monk from Langley, B.C.; and senior John Gilmour (6-foot, 180 pounds) from Montreal.

The Friars will gear up for the new season with an exhibition game at home against Simon Fraser University on Oct. 3 and then begin defence of their NCAA title with a pair of road games against Miami of Ohio on Oct. 9 and 10.

Circled on the Friar's calendar is also a home-and-home series with Boston University on Nov. 13 in Providence and Nov. 14 in Boston, site of their biggest win in school history this past spring.

News from around the NCAA

The Friars jumped to the head of the overall team rankings after their big title win. Prior to that, the highest they were ranked was fourth.

Boston University was ranked second, the University of North Dakota dropped from top spot to third, followed by the University of Nebraska-Omaha and the University of Denver.

Arizona State will play four games of its inaugural Division 1 season at the Gila River Arena, home of the NHL's Arizona Coyotes in Glendale.

The Sun Devils will play Arizona's club team on Oct. 7, two games during the four-team Desert Hockey Classic with Connecticut, Yale and Michigan Tech slated for Jan. 8 to 10 and will also play the U.S. Under-18 National Team on Feb. 28.

The Sun Devils will feature six Canadian players on their roster including forwards Liam Norris from Calgary, Dylan Hollman from Red Deer, Wade Murphy from Victoria, David Norris from Calgary, Matt Kennedy from Mount Pearl along with defenseman Nicholas Gushe from West Vancouver.

According to the NCAA website, teams have commitments to attend from 504 players, including a strong Canadian contingent, who would enter the league from the 2016-17 season through to the 2018-19 campaign.

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By Randy Lucenti| September 01, 2015
Categories:  College
Keywords:  NCAA

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