There is a saying in the hockey world that the first half of the season is the boy’s league while the second half is the men’s league. As far as the Providence College Friars are concerned this season, the men’s league has treated them well so far.
The Friars battled inconsistency for a large chunk of the first half of the season. They hit the semester break with 10-7-1 record but were never able to string more than two straight wins together. Fast forward to now and the Friars are playing their best hockey of the year. Prior to Saturday night’s disappointing home loss to Connecticut, the Friars had been unbeaten in their last seven games dating back to late December. Over that period, Providence won the Three Rivers Classic Tournament in Pittsburgh and beat Brown to keep possession of the Mayor’s Cup. Overall, the Friars finished with a 7-3 record against non-league opponents.
Entering this weekend, there are only three teams in the country with more wins than Providence’s 16 (Notre Dame 19, Clarkson and Minnesota State with 18). The Friars are currently tied for fourth place in Hockey East with Boston University but have two games in hand on the Terriers. With eight games remaining in the regular season, all against Hockey East opponents, the Friars are in good position to finish in one of the top four spots in the league, which would give them a first round bye and home ice in the second round.
However, the Friars’ chances to make their fifth straight NCAA appearance are more precarious. Currently, the Friars are 11th in the pairwise, which is used by the NCAA to select its 16 team field. I could spend the rest of this article trying to explain the breakdown, but I don’t have the space or intellect. Providence is the only Hockey East team in the top 12 of the pairwise due mainly to a down year for the league. Hockey East has a combined record of 7-24-2 against the three western leagues (Big 10, WCHA, NCHC), which does not bode well for multiple Hockey East teams playing in late March.
Heading into this weekend’s matchup against Northeastern, keep an eye on each team’s power play. The Huskies come into the weekend with the second best power play in the country at 27.2%. Meanwhile, the Friars have struggled finding consistency with the man advantage. Providence went 0-7 on the power play in Saturday’s loss to Connecticut. In their eight losses this year, the Friars have scored just one power play goal in 31 chances.
Northeastern’s penalty kill is 46th in the country at 79 percent, so maybe the Friars can take advantage of that. Another storyline is the Huskies have the best offense in Hockey East (3.58 goals per game, which is 6th best in the nation) while the Friars come in with the best defense in the league giving up just 2.19 goals per game, which is fifth best in the nation.
Northeastern will host Providence Friday night at historic Matthews Arena in Boston. The teams will then switch venues to Schneider Arena in Providence on Saturday; a game Sonny Watrous and I will be calling on Cox’s YurView.
Northeastern at Providence / Saturday, January 27, 2018 / 7:00PM ET / YurView – Cox Channel 1004