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NCAA East Regional: The Army family tradition at Providence

Providence College takes on Quinnipiac in the East Regional semifinals at 5:30 ET Friday on ESPNU.

Derek Army (19) sets up shop in front of Maine goaltender Dan Sullivan in the Hockey East Quarterfinals.
Derek Army (19) sets up shop in front of Maine goaltender Dan Sullivan in the Hockey East Quarterfinals.
Matt Dewkett

BRIDGEPORT, CONN. -- His grandfather Tom was the captain of the 1952-53 Providence College hockey team. His father Tim was a former All-American and head coach of the Friars. Now, Derek Army can add NCAA Tournament to his growing Providence College hockey resume.

Derek, the third generation of the Army family to play hockey at Providence, has endured a lot during his collegiate career and persevered through it all.

A coaching change is hard on any college athlete, but just imagine how difficult it is when it's your father who was ousted. That was the case for the Army's following Derek's freshman season when Tim was removed from his position.

"It was a different situation, but I've been around hockey all my life. I've seen coaches lose their jobs, but I've been around teams and situations where guys have to go through it.

Instead of taking his ball and going home, Army took the high road and offered his father's replacement, Nate Leaman, that he would do anything the new coach needed to help the team win.

"All I wanted to do was help coach Leaman as best I could. I consider myself a team guy. I talked to him. I talked to him and asked him what I could do to help him, what could we do as a class and as a team," said Army.

Army and his class have done a terrific job of being a leading part in the turnaround of the Providence College hockey program. Including Derek's freshman season, the Friars had missed the Hockey East playoffs in three consecutive seasons.

Fast forward to Army's senior season and Providence has advanced to the Hockey East semifinals at the TD Garden in three consecutive seasons. This season has culminated in the program's first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2001.

"It's something special. From day one when I put the jersey on it was special. It was something I looked forward to all my life. I take a lot of pride in that. To be able to be a part of getting PC back to the NCAA Tournament is very special," said Army.

Derek Army will become the second member of the Army family to suit up in the NCAA Tournament when the Friars hit the ice Friday afternoon against Quinnipiac in the East Regional at the Webster Bank Arena. His father Tim was a part of Friars teams that made the NCAA Frozen Four (before it was called that] in 1983 and 1985.

Army, who plays right wing on a line with center Noel Acciari and left wing Brandon Tanev, will look to continue his line's recent success with strong forechecking and creating opportunities through hard work. The line benefits from familiarity and chemistry.

"Tanev and I played a lot together last year and we've played a lot with Noel this year. Noel and I have grown up together, playing hockey at the select festivals, so I've known Noel since I was 13. I feel like I've known Tanev for a while, " said Army.

"We have good chemistry, all three of us. We know where we are out on the ice. We talk a lot. That's been our strength is being close and it's what drives us. We have a certain chemistry and bond," added Army, whose line has accounted for eight goals over the past seven games.

No matter how his line fares against Quinnipiac, finishing his collegiate career in the NCAA Tournament will be special for Army, whose sporting lineage at Providence goes beyond just his father and grandfather. His mother Sue ran cross country and track at PC.

Along with the Bennett family, whose youngest hockey-playing member Mac signed with the Montreal Canadiens out of Michigan this week, the Army family is one of the first families of hockey in Rhode Island. His uncles Tom, Jr. and Bill played joined his father as star hockey players at East Providence before moving on to Wesleyan and Boston College, respectively.

His great-grandfather was the long-time athletic trainer for the Rhode Island Reds, the top minor league hockey team in the Ocean State, preceding the Providence Bruins.

No matter what happens Friday against Quinnipiac, Derek Army will have added to the family legacy at Providence and the hockey history of his family in the state they call home. Most importantly, he did it with class, despite obstacles many would find unimaginable.


Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.