Preview: Miami at Providence
WHO: Miami RedHawks (0-0-0) at No. 10 Providence Friars (0-0-0).
WHERE: Schneider Center, Providence, R.I.
WHEN: Friday–7:05 p.m.; Saturday–7:05 p.m.
PROVIDENCE RADIO: None.
MIAMI RADIO: None.
NOTES: Providence has had the better of Miami in recent years, with its NCAA Tournament-opening victory over the RedHawks in Dunkin Donuts Area up the street from this building in 2015 and a 1-0-1 mark in Oxford last season.
The Friars went on to win the NCAA championship two seasons ago and were eliminated by Minnesota-Duluth in double overtime in the first round of the NCAAs this spring.
Miami did salvage a tie in the series finale vs. PC last season after getting pounded by the Friars, 7-3 in the opener.
Overall, the RedHawks are 4-6-3 vs. Providence and 1-2-1 in this building, with their lone win coming in 1998. Their last visit to Schneider Arena was in 2013 and resulted in a loss and a tie.
The Friars’ top three scorers and four of their top five from 2015-16 are gone, and the top returning threats for PC are defenseman Jake Walman and forward Brian Pinho, both of whom finished with 28 points.
Pinho and Erik Foley are the lone 15-plus points producers back, so offense may not be a strength of this Providence team after multiple seasons of scoring dominance.
But the Friars are bringing in a pair of drafted forwards in Kasper Bjorkqvist, a second round pick of Pittsburgh, and Minnesota fourth rounder Brandon Duhaime.
On defense, in addition to Walman, Buffalo draftee Anthony Florentino and Josh Monk lead the list of returning starters. Monk had two goals and 11 assists and Florentino scored five times and notched seven helpers.
Steven Ruggiero – selected by Anaheim – also returns to the Providence blue line, and sophomore Vincent Desharnais was picked by Edmonton this past season.
In net, last season’s starter, Nick Ellis, turned pro after three seasons with PC, leaving the reins to Montreal draft pick sophomore Brandon Hawkey.
Possessing a fantastic hockey name, Hawkey played just five games in 2015-16 but went 2-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage.
Brandon Leahy is back between the pipes after playing one game last season, and Kris Carlson comes in as a freshman out of the NAHL.
With a huge freshman contingent, this will be a very tough road test for Miami, but long road trips can aid in the bonding process, and the team could be better off down the road because of it.