Do not be fooled by Providence’s record. Despite a 4-0-1 start to the 2013-14 campaign, and a No. 3 ranking, coach Nate Leaman isn’t celebrating anything.
Despite being the only team in Hockey East without a loss, Leaman said there is plenty of room for improvement, particularly on defense.
“We’re doing OK,’’ said Leaman. “By no means has it been pretty. I think we have a lot to work on. I like our skating ability, I like our depth overall as a group. We have a lot of really good players. I feel like we can play a lot of different guys in a lot of different roles this year.’’
One mainstay is sophomore goaltender Jon Gillies, who goes into the weekend with a 3-0-1 record, a 1.71 goals-against average, and a .950 save percentage.
“He’s our go-to player,’’ said Leaman. “There’s no doubt about that. He’s been excellent up to this point. Jon has been outstanding. His numbers don’t lie.’’
But the play in front of him hasn’t always been up to par.
“I think we have a lot to work on defensively,’’ said Leaman. “The Miami series [last weekend] definitely showed us that we have a lot to improve on, I can tell you that.
“I’m not a big believer in polls, I’m just happy we were tested against a great team like Miami. It showed us all the areas we really need to work on.’’
Next up for the Friars is a home-and-home series against Boston University (3-3-0). Friday will be Providence’s first game on the road.
“I think playing BU this weekend is going to be a great challenge,’’ said Leaman. “They’ve had a really tough schedule so far, playing three Big Ten teams and two of them on the road. We haven’t been on the road yet. We’re expecting a very tough game on Friday night.’’
Offense certainly hasn’t been an issue. In five games, the Friars have generated 25 goals, an average of five per outing. They have allowed 11, an average of 2.2.
Up front, junior forward Ross Mauermann leads the way with 8 points, 4 of them goals.
“He’s a tremendous leader, he’s a tremendous worker,’’ said Leaman. “You look at the experience he gained his first two years as a No. 1 or No. 2 centerman. What you’re seeing is just the development in Ross.
“All the experiences he’s had, he feels a lot more comfortable in those situations now and he’s kind of excelling in those situations now. We forced him into those situations his first two years. He gets the most out of his game.’’
One of the top prospects this year is freshman Anthony Florentino, a 6-foot-2-inch, 210-pound defenseman from West Roxbury.
Florentino, who was drafted in the fifth round by the Buffalo Sabres over the summer, sat out the first game but has been in the lineup for the last four.
“He’s shown he can be a player who can do it all,’’ said Leaman. “He’s a good skater, he’s strong, he can be very tough to play against with his size and his mobility. He’s got a real good stick and a real good one-timer.
“I think he can develop into a No. 1 or No. 2 defenseman. But equally important, he played at the prep school level last year [South Kent] and making the jump from that level to Hockey East is really tough.
“I think right now with him it’s just a matter of trying to improve every day because there’s a lot that he’s learning right now.’’
One of the more exciting aspects of the Friars’ program is the substantial renovation of Schneider Arena.
“I’ve got a big smile on my face coming to work every day,’’ said Leaman. “In all honesty, it really motivates you. It motivates you, coming to a facility like this each day. It’s really added a lot of energy to our program and our staff.’’
Bentley (1-5) has gotten off to a tough start, but the Falcons close out an eight-game road trip to start the season with games at Merrimack (2-3-0) Friday and winless Army (0-2-0) Saturday. After a game at home against American International Nov. 8, the Falcons will play three more on the road. On Friday, Bentley will face the Warriors for the first time since the 1984-85 season and on the fifth time ever. Merrimack has won the previous four meetings . . . Merrimack senior forward Mike Collins reached 100 career points in 114 games with two goals and an assist against Army last Saturday . . . No. 2 Notre Dame (5-1-0) will play its first game against a fellow Hockey East opponent Friday night, the first of two at Vermont (1-1-1). The Fighting Irish have outscored opponents, 21-11, in their first six games.
Back on track
No. 14 UMass-Lowell (3-3-0) rebounded from a 1-3-0 start with back-to-back victories at Michigan and Michigan State. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck goes into the weekend against New Hampshire (1-3-1) with a 2-2-0 record with a 1.78 GAA and .939 save percentage . . . Harvard is playing in the same rink this season but it has a new name — The Bright-Landry Hockey Center — thanks to a gift from C. Kevin Landry (Class of 1966). The Crimson (1-0-1) start a four-game home stand with Rensselaer Friday and Union Saturday. Friday will mark the 90th meeting between Harvard and the Engineers, with the Crimson holding an edge at 47-36-6.