PC Hockey Recruiting and Overview

Anyone who has read any of the articles in which Coach Tim Army has talked about his team is aware that his first goal was to change the culture on the PC hockey squad. Recently I got a chance to talk with the coach about his latest recruits and the discussion highlighted how in his three years here has laid the new foundation and is now in the process of building upon it.

This year Providence graduates a small senior class. Only four seniors will be departing. The obvious result is that the Friars will be bringing in a much smaller recruiting class. All that the coach could talk about were the three players, a defenseman and two forwards who had signed. He never mentioned any goaltenders though the local buzz is that he has a Rhode Island product to be one of his goaltenders next year. Also since I spoke to Coach Army, he found a 3rd forward to complement his corps of forwards.

At the basis of the discussion was how well the past two recruiting classes have been contributing to the recent PC resurgence. Coach Army actually began by pointing out how much his first recruit, Kyle Laughlin, has contributed and now as a junior he is one of the team leaders and team co-captain. He also pointed to the roles the sophomore class has readily taken too, the important minutes Mark Fayne is on the ice, the major contribution on the power play from Jon Cavanagh, and the unsung work of Greg Collins. Further he was extremely pleased with the early returns from the freshmen class. Rhode Islander Austin Mayer has shown a combination of skill and speed which will only improve with time, Kyle MacKinnon has begun to make the adjustment to the quicker college game, and Joe Lavin has teamed nicely with Fayne to give PC a solid defensive pairing.

These players are what the coach called his template for the team and the future success he is building towards. In the past he has talked about his vision of how he wants to see hockey played and its one he's working at bringing to PC. Common words that he has used when talking about his team are fast, quick, and gritty. He has moved the Friars away from the defensive shell style of the recent past and moved it toward a more exciting up and down fast strike style of play.

The incoming class then will fill in the holes. Now he can recruit for specific areas, look to make the team deeper, and be more patient in finding the right player to fit the program. With these three players he thinks he has found players who can skate, have size or grit, have the proper skill level to compete, and are intelligent enough players to show an ability to adapt in a game environment.

Coach Army made one other important note. Now that he has reached the point where he has the team built as he'd like, he is not expecting his new freshmen to be the ones replacing the departed seniors. In other words he is losing one of Hockey East's biggest stars in Jon Rheault. What he fully expects is that sophomores to be like Ben Farrer and Jordan Kremyr will step up their game. In turn it will give his newcomers time to adjust.

The three players he could talk about were defenseman Danny New, and forwards Chad Johnson and Rob Maloney. Also Johnson's older brother Matt is on the roster this year, but is sitting out due to his transfer from Norwich University. He is expected to fill a depth role next year. The coach made no mention of a goalie coming in to replace Tyler Sims. However listed from several web sites and even on his present team's website as having committed to play for Providence is Justin Gates. He is playing for the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs this season. The coach also referenced a desire to bring in a third forward if the right fit could be found. Less then a week after we spoke he found such a fit in Andy Balysky, another prep school player.

Danny New is playing for prep powerhouse Avon Old Farms this season. In the past 18 months he has vastly improved his game gaining the attention of other teams in Hockey East. Northeastern appeared to be the first to go hard for him, but his visit to PC seemed to have sold him on benefits of going to a small school. Hockey wise he is a good fit with present PC defensemen like Fayne, Lavin, and Eric Baier who will be his mentors over the next few seasons. Much of the reason for the increased attention to New is due to his becoming a Hockey East sized defensemen. In that 18 month period he has grown 6 inches and now goes 6'1 and about 190 pounds. The qualities Coach Army most liked about him was that he is an intelligent player and combines range and mobility. Like the other defensemen PC has recently recruited he moves the puck well, has shown a desire to be part of the offense and seems to instinctively know what to do with the puck in all zones.

PC graduates two defensemen this spring so to complete the recruiting class of ‘08 look for the Friars to bring in a second defensemen before the spring signing period.

Rob Maloney is one of the forwards PC is bringing in. He is a Minnesota native who is playing his high school hockey at Eastview High School (which is the second high school in the town of Apple Valley). He brings good size as he is 5'11 and about 190 pounds. The coach described him as a power forward, and as such has a physical edge to his game, is very strong on the puck. Maloney also moves the puck well and has a knack for creating scoring chances. Further like any good goal scorer he can get to the net. (for anyone wanting to follow his progress check this link:
Before his team's December 18th game he had scored 4 goals and 6 assists.

The second forward is Chad Johnson, presently playing for the Tilton School. Physically smaller then Maloney, Coach Army described him as both solidly built and strong. Other words to describe him were dynamic, heady player and a great skater. The coach believes the biggest adjustment to make with him is to refine his game without the puck. While being a good skater is a given, that is one of Johnson's greatest strengths.

Coach Army also defined Johnson by calling him a great distributor. This past weekend at the Phillips Exeter Tournament Johnson was credited with 7 assists as Tilton won the championship. He also contributed a goal of his own. The previous week against perennial power St. Sebastian's he lead the way to a 6-4 win by scoring a pair of goals and dishing off for another score. (the Tilton site has highlights of games played on their schedule here:
http://www.tiltonschool.org/podium/default.aspx?t=43438 , pick varsity ice hockey, then click on schedule).

This week they added a commitment from Andy Balysky, who is in his third year at the Taft School. In four games so far he has scored a pair of goals and picked up an assist. (follow him here:
http://www.taftschool.org/sports/loadinfo.asp?sport=hockey_b&code=1 )

Balysky is 5'9 185 and out of New Jersey. In his previous seasons with Taft he had 10-16-26 and 12-12-24 lines. Again when you read information about him you find that he fits the fast and gritty mold PC is building their team with. He also is known as an intelligent player who plays strong two way hockey. He also has seemed to come up big in important games such as a goal in the prep championship game his sophomore season.

Justin Gates is the goalie recruit not mentioned by the coach. Last season he played with Lawrence Academy. He is a big goalie at 6'1 185 pounds and from reports is very athletic and is very solid at cutting down opponents scoring chances. Gates is a patient goalie who is excellent at squaring up, giving the opponent as little of the net to shoot at as possible. He is the local player, hailing from Cranston RI, in this year's recruiting class. Presently Gates is playing with the Jr. Monarchs. Stepping up from prep school he got off to a slow start, however in recent weeks he has picked up his play, raising his record to 7-4-1, lowering his goals against average to 2.30 and his save percent has risen to .925. (his stats can be followed at :
http://www.easternjunior.com/teamplayerstats.php?teamid=25022&seasonid=2035 )

The only discussion about goaltending was that Coach Army mentioned that he needs to monitor closely the situation with Ryan Simpson. Simpson has suffered through a series of injuries since going down in November of ‘06 that have kept him out of the lineup since. The expectation is that come January he should be ready to step back into action. However if he is unable to it will leave the Friars in a precarious position only having an untested freshmen and a third string goalie available. If there are warning signs that the worst case scenario might happen Coach Army said he would have to seriously consider seeking out another net minder.

At this point colleges are already getting commitments for their ‘09 recruiting class. Providence's goal to replace its present junior class is to find two defensemen and four forwards. The coach again said while he believes replacing this class will allow him to upgrade on the team's present talent. It will not be the incoming class which will be counted on to replace them. At this point he mentioned the solid work in practice of one of his depth players, freshmen Paul Golden, who has yet to play. He also pointed to the maturation process that should allow a player like Austin Mayer and Ben Farrer to raise their play while what will be a fairly large class makes the adjustment to playing at the college level. Its unfair to expect that they can do it and from the program's perspective it causes too much inconsistency in play when you must rely heavily on freshmen.

In the end Coach Army pointed out part of his template is to have a proper transition. He gave an example from his own career. Arriving at PC he spent two years as the third line center. While he'd have loved to get more big minutes this was his time to learn from those who had gone through the experience already. Junior year he was the number 2 center and finally senior year he shouldered the load as the top gun on offense. Helping this process along he said that Coach Lamoriello carefully set it up so that veteran players would be in position to help the younger players along. In Army's case his locker was next to Gates Orlando's, so he could pick things up from watching Orlando.

How that type of situation is handled seems to fit very much into what Coach Army meant this past summer when he told me he wanted the upper classmen to work with the young players and bring them along as opposed to the situation which had developed where many of the upperclassmen had come to feel a sense of entitlement to the rewards just for being on the team for two or three years.

The last topic of discussion was talking about upgrading as he becomes more entrenched. First the coach emphasized that he did not want to keep changing his vision as he went down the road nor to keep trying to find a new solution that would bring success. Instead he has his game plan for success and wants to only have to fine tune over the years. He says you know you are on the right track when you battle the top teams for good recruits. Over time you will find that in recruiting you will win your share of recruiting battles when you stick with your basic principles.

Ultimately his goal is to create a staying power. That means that you have established an identity and off that power you are positioned to get the proper pieces to maintain a high level of success

Changing gears a moment, the Minnesota high school web site is pretty good at maintaining their results. As in the case of Rob Maloney, they have an equally good tracking of the states girl's hockey. You can follow the PC women's team's top recruit, Kate Bacon here:

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