Making its first trip back to the Frozen Four since 1985, Providence College is the lowest remaining seed in the NCAA Hockey Tournament. While the Friars might be underdogs on paper, there are several factors that give Nate Leaman's team a potential leg up against Nebraska-Omaha in Thursday's Frozen Four semifinal (5 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
3 Keys to Victory
- Junior Jon Gillies is a potential difference maker for the Friars. The Calgary Flames prospect is as good a goaltender as there is in Division I when he's on top of his game. He's big, he covers the net front, he squares up to shooters and he eats up or deflects rebounds into the corner. As Leaman said after the team's win in the East Regional Final over Denver, Gillies needs to be the team's best player in order for the Friars to advance.
- It might sound cliche, but a tenacious and aggressive forecheck is usually a major ingredient for success when the Friars are winning. Leaman has talked about it many times after wins and losses. He emphasizes an aggressive forecheck. He wants his teams to set the tone from the beginning of the game. When Providence is using its speed to its advantage, it is able to create turnovers and make it difficult for the opposition to break up ice. Brandon Tanev and Kevin Rooney are two players who aren't likely to play a major role in the offense, but their ability to disrupt Omaha could have quite the impact. PC's leading goal scorers, Noel Acciari and Trevor Mingoia, both are strong forecheckers who use their quickness to make things happen.
- Providence's offensive output has had its ups and downs this season, but the blue line corps has done a nice job pitching into the offense. Offense from the blue line is another point of emphasis for Leaman and his staff. Tom Parisi, Jake Walman and John Gilmour are all very adept at jumping into the offense. The three all skate well, have good puck skills and help in transition. How important is it for Parisi and Walman to get on the score sheet? When Parisi registers a point, Providence is 12-3-0 compared to 12-10-2 when he does not. The Friars are 10-1-1 when Walman finds his way on to the score sheet. When he's held scoreless, PC is just 14-12-1.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.