PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The biggest challenge facing the Providence players as they recently finished an energetic practice at Schneider Arena was simply containing their euphoria after earning their first Frozen Four berth in 30 years.
PC (24-13-2) takes on Omaha (20-12-6) in the national semifinals on Thursday at the Garden. The Friars’ 24 wins are the most program victories since another Frozen Four entry had 33 in 1982-83.
|2015 DI Men’s Ice Hockey Championship|
|Frozen Four players that are former NHL Draft Picks|
|Saturday, March 28 Day 2 Highlights|
|Friday, March 27 Day 1 Highlights|
|Bracket: Interactive | Printable|
“Well, it took me two days to answer all my emails and text messages,” said PC’s Nate Leaman, one of just 16 coaches to lead two different teams (Union (N.Y.) and PC) to the NCAA tournament.
“There’s a lot of people around the program right now who are just as excited as the guys. But, like we told the guys, every time that a person pats you on the back just remember that there are two games left. The job isn’t done. It’s a business trip.”
Leaman said his main task leading to the bus ride to Boston is to refocus his skaters.
“Right now, we’re just getting rest and getting back to the compete level. The key thing is to get all the distractions, like tickets and stuff, out of the way, and we can really zone in,” he said.
There is little doubt that the Friars’ chances hinge on the talent of 6-foot-5 junior goalkeeper Jon Gillies, who boasts a 2.01 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. He’s one of four PC players named to the NCAA All-East Regional squad after outgunning Miami, 7-5, in a wild shootout and then stifling Denver’s offense, 4-1.
“You just want to make sure that you’re doing the right thing away from the ice, getting your rest,” Gillies said. “It’s a fun time of the year. It brings a lot of added excitement coming to the rink each day. There are only four teams left. We want to keep our energy level up. We want to compete for a national championship.”
Friars co-captain Ross Mauermann (52 goals, 58 assists in 154 career games) agreed.
“This time of year, when you’re still playing and a lot of teams aren’t, is exciting,” said the 5-foot-9 spark plug. “But, Nebraska-Omaha has skilled forwards like Miami so we have to try and close time and space on them. It’s a new challenge ahead of us.”
No Friar owns more of a Frozen Four connection than junior forward Kevin Rooney of Canton. An uncle, Steve Rooney, scored the game-winning goal to beat Boston College in double overtime in the very first Hockey East title game, which propelled Providence into the 1985 NCAA tournament. Cousin Joe Rooney appeared in two NCAA title games for BC against Wisconsin in 2006 and against Michigan State in 2007.
“I definitely think the Friar family is tight. Last year, we had the 1964 team come back. We had their emblem on our jerseys to represent the 50th anniversary of their Frozen Four, and those guys just talked about how much of a great time it was when they played in it. I think we’re just grateful that we have such a good family and such a great alumni that come back,” said Rooney said, who cemented PC’s Frozen Four trip by finding the empty net against Denver at 19:07 of the third.
“Yeah, it felt pretty good. Once we got the third goal, we weren’t really sure because the night before [Miami] was coming back with the goalie pulled. Once we got the fourth one, it was a pretty good feeling. But, as I was skating up the ice there, I think the net was getting a little smaller.”
This article was written by John Connolly from Boston Herald and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.