Providence College hasn't won a Lamoriello Trophy since 1996, the coveted piece of hardware given to the winners of the Hockey East Tournament. The trophy, named after former Providence coach and current Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Lou Lamoriello, has been elusive.
Despite winning a national championship a season ago, the Friars didn't even advance to the TD Garden for the Hockey East semifinals. This season Providence, the co-regular season champion, is back and has a good shot of winning for the first time in 20 years.
3 Keys to Victory
1. Setting the tempo
Nate Leaman preaches transition, mobility and an aggressive style from his defensemen up to his forwards. The Friars are at their best when they set the pace, get on pucks quickly and create opportunities to cycle beneath the goal line. Providence has some great forecheckers that can create turnovers and keep Lowell off its game. Even without star sophomore defenseman Jake Walman, the Friars' blue liners are all capable of moving the puck up ice and contributing to possession time.
As good as Lowell is with the lead, Providence is a team that has rarely played from behind this year. The Friars only trailed for an NCAA-low 192:17 on the year.
Everyone knows the names Jankowski, Mingoia, Saracino and Tanev, but it's guys like Kevin Rooney, Steve McParland and Garrett Gamez that can make the difference. Players that create energy, play with a buzz and set the tone for the rest of the team.
2. Play a full 60 minutes
An argument can be made for BC and North Dakota, but there are few teams in the entire country that can compete with Providence when it is playing its best for a complete game. The first game, against UMass Lowell at Schneider Arena, is a perfect example of this.
Providence jumped out to a 3-0 lead after one, and increased the advantage to 4-0 early in the second period. Leaman's squad outshot Lowell, 17-6, in the opening frame. However, PC then took its foot off the pedal and ended up getting outshot, 29-14, over the final two periods.
3. Playoff Experience
The defending NCAA champion has nine seniors and plenty of experience playing in big games over the past few years. Not that UMass Lowell does not, but experience and not folding under pressure could play a big key in Friday's first semifinal.
On that line of thinking, the coaching x's and o's battle between Nate Leaman and Norm Bazin is a fascinating story line. Both have experience in big games and it is undeniable that the two are the best coaches in the game out east at the moment.