An Early Look at the 2005-2006 Hockey Friars

It is early and next hockey season is a long way off. However this is the time of year you can be optimistic that the incoming freshmen will give the team a lift. It's a time you can at least look at how possibly things will fall Providence's way next year.

That is the purpose of this look. It is an early best case scenario look based on the strengths of the new players and does avoid looking at many of the pratfalls that are out there.

It is now likely there will be a late addition to the Class of '09. At the season ending banquet senior goalie Dave Cacciola announced he had chosen not to use his red shirt season and will not be back. On the surface this is a problem as it leaves only sophomore Tyler Sims with any experience. His experience is somewhat limited as he split much of the season in net with Cacciola. However he is an example of a late recruit who has done well. Sims was not even on the Friar's radar screen until Goepfert left. Even then other older goalies appeared to be the primary targets to replace Goepfert. Sims was going to spend a year with the USHL Cedar Rapid team, then go to college. Instead, when PC came calling, he decided to enter college as a true freshman.

To begin with one should be optimistic since this has been the season PC has been pointing to since the Class of '03 graduated. Originally the thought was that with Bobby Goepfert in net we would have an anchor. However, excluding the loss of Goepfert, this is the team they were looking to bring into this season and it contains another freshman class with potential.

The second reason to be optimistic is that this looks like the 3rd year in a row PC has put together a solid recruiting class. If they do reach their potential this will be the first time PC has strung out 3 solid recruiting classes in a row in at least a dozen years.

Also this is Pooley's contract year. Say what you want but the last time he was up for renewal the team rose to the occasion. PC has already named its captain for next year. He is junior forward Tony Zancanaro. He might be a driving force like Jay Leach and Matt Libby were in PC's last NCAA season. Zancanaro built a reputation as a leader in his days at St Louis in the NAHL. As for Pooley himself, when PC did finally show signs of life last year he also showed some signs of being an active coach. He finally began to voice some displeasure at the constant number of calls that continually went against PC. He also became more of an active motivator on the bench as opposed to showing the stoic face that earned him the nickname "the Undertaker".

Finally PC will fly under the radar screen giving them a chance to surprise many people. First of all the league adds Vermont which made good strides in the ECAC last year and people will be picking them to be the surprise team. Several other Hockey East schools, notably Lowell, will also be pre season darlings. Then they will look at PC's returning class and see the same problems that have existed the past few seasons. Most likely when the coach's poll comes out you will see the Friars picked 8th.

One key for feeling that improvement is possible is that in looking at the new players coming in and realizing how best to get the returning players to improve PC will have to make an effort to play a style of play with more emphasis on an offensive style. The prototype for that style of play is the two time defending champs Denver University. Further in Hockey East that style has successfully translated into titles at UNH.

The clearest sign of a change in style is the players coming in. Brad Cooper, Nick Mazzolini, Pierce Norton and Jon Mori are the new forwards in the fold. All play a style best used by a team that takes the puck to the net. In addition to the forwards coming in the 3 defensemen are all styled as offensive defensemen. They are Austin Miller and Matt Taormina, smallish but playmaking defenders and Cody Wild whose offensive game is just now beginning to bloom.

Goaltending will dictate how successful PC will be. However since there are only a limited number of spots for goaltenders on college rosters and a large number of players vying for those spots even getting a goalie this late should not hurt this position too badly. Sims is now at the age most players enter college, he seemed to gain confidence as the season progressed, and he stood tall in the quarter-finals against Boston University. The backup will most likely be a recruit who has toiled for a couple of seasons in a league like the USHL and is an '84 birthday. However don't be surprised if they look at the same path as they took with Sims. If an '87 who is highly regarded and plans to do a year of junior hockey can be convinced to come to PC now rather then wait an see if he can show enough in juniors to convince the big name schools to grab him. Behind them will be another freshman, Tabor grad Steve Ritter. Ritter is a native of Tenafly NJ. Playing on a 17-9-3 Tabor squad Ritter had a goals against average in the neighborhood of 3.0 and a save percent of 91%. Unlike many third string goalies he is looked upon as someone who will develop and provide strength to this position as he matures.

The biggest change you might see will be in the forward corps. Gone are the role players in Dave Charpentier, Tom Gallagher and Jeff Mason, in their place are Cooper, Norton, Mori, and Mazzolini who have all developed reputations as being able to play offense. Also after a year of seasoning it can be expected the sophomores who also came in with a reputation for offensive firepower step up and deliver

A combination of playing a more open style and maturity should make the 1-2 punch of Colin McDonald and Jon Rheault even more deadly. They are the model that says the freshmen PC does recruit can step right in and contribute. These two will be the core of the top line. Mostly likely they will be joined by another veteran, such as Chase Watson, who spent a great deal of the latter part of last season as the 3rd member of the line.

Another sign the team might be more aggressive on offense is the naming of Tony Zancanaro as captain. He is in constant motion while on the ice and at his best when he can make things happen. To get the most out of him Providence will most likely need to employ a more aggressive forecheck. If he anchors the second line he will most likely be partnered with more natural goal scorers. For instance last year's surprise, Jamie Carroll, who also plays a very aggressive game, but at the same time, is a proven goal scorer. Another possibility is one of the freshmen, most likely Brad Cooper, whose play has been described as electric. He was the Texas Tornado's leading scorer. In 56 games he had 28 goals and 60 assists.

To fill out the remaining two lines PC returns 6 veterans as well as the remaining 3 freshmen. Bill McCreary, a junior, has displayed the most skills in his time at PC. However, another player who would greatly benefit from a more offensive style of play would be senior Torrey Gjada. The power play seems to be strengthened a great deal when Nate Meyers is used. His presence has often seemed to make things happen. This will also be the year to see how real the promise players such as Bryan Horan, Dylan Cox, and Vince Goulet have. Cox and Goulet in particular will be looked upon to step up their games to give the freshmen a chance to acclimate themselves to the college game. Both of these players came in with reputations as offensive threats. Cox was a prep star like Mori and Norton were and Goulet a member of the Tornados like Cooper and Mazzolini.

Nick Mazzolini is the largest of the Friar recruits at 6'2 and 205 lbs. His season was limited to 39 games due to injury, but he still had time to put up 24 goals and 28 assists good for 4th on the Tornados in scoring. Pierce Norton like Mazzolini goes about 6'2 but has not finished filling out. He goes about 185 lbs at this time. From a first hand report I heard he has a quick and explosive shot which you can not teach. He played the past season for former Friar Larry Rooney at Thayer Academy. On his line was '06 recruit Greg Collins. As a team Thayer went 22-7-1, and Norton provided them with 30 goals and 20 assists. That placed him 3rd on the team in scoring. Jon Mori is from Westport Connecticut and played prep hockey in Connecticut at Avon Old Farms. He too was 3rd on his team in scoring netting 15 goals and 26 assists. Avon finished a strong 25-2 and Mori was one of the team's captains.

In past years PC defenders have not provided the transition out of the defensive zone into the offensive zone. Last year with the departure of the previous season's seniors and with the dismissal of another defenseman PC had a far less physical defensive corps then in past years. Thus often times last year the defense was neither the strong physical element to the team as on past teams, nor an offensive spark. With the new players coming in it is likely to be a shift to quickly moving the puck back to offense when they stop the opposition's offensive thrusts. PC has 6 veteran defenders, 3 of whom will only be sophomores, and is bringing in 3 freshmen. The veteran of group will be senior James Pemberton. The only other regular with more then 1 season of experience is another ex-Tornado, Dinos Stamoulis. In a lot of ways the two freshmen out of the NAHL (Matt Taormina and Austin Miller) come with similar backgrounds to Stamoulis. Stamoulis had been a heralded player in the NAHL, but has enjoyed limited success at PC. Again going with a more offensive style of play might be just the change needed to get his game back on course. The other returning key on defense will be still another ex-Tornado, Trevor Ludwig. He has both size and offensive skills. Most likely early in the season the two veterans of the NAHL (Taormina and Miller) will see more playing time as they are more mature freshmen. Both however are about 5'10 and about 170 lbs. Taormina comes to PC from the Texarkana team in the NAHL where as a defenseman he was 4th on his team in scoring. He notched 14 goals and 30 assists in 52 games. Miller in his 52 games had 7 goals and 37 assists which placed him 5th on his team in scoring. He also has a chippy side to his game, spending 137 minutes in the penalty box. The 6th spot on defense will most likely be between Mark Bastarche, a sophomore, and RI product by way of the Junior Bruins, Cody Wild. Bastarche is another of the defensemen in the 5'10 170 mold with offensive skills. Wild is a true freshman who is larger at 6 foot 2 and is filling out to the 200 lbs area. He finished the past season as the Bruins' 3rd leading scorer with 16 goals and 36 points. He also seems to play a very disciplined game with only 44 minutes of penalties. If like Rheault and McDonald he can make the jump from the EJHL to being a regular in Division 1 hockey as a true freshman it will be a tremendous boost to Providence's chances.

In the latter part of summer before the pre-season coach's poll is taken I will try to take a realistic look at where the Friar's will fit into Hockey East for the 2005-06 season.

One side note: the Texas Tornados are playing the Soo Indians in the final round robin game of the Nationals on April 29. If they win they advance to the finals against the Fargo-Moorhead Jets, who defeated them in the first game of the round robin. The finals will be Saturday.

Scout Friars Top Stories