PROVIDENCE – After being swept by UMass last weekend in a pair of one-goal losses, Providence College took care of business this weekend by sweeping Merrimack, 7-2 and 7-5.
“Sweeps are really tough in Hockey East. We knew that they were going to be a lot better tonight than last night. It’s good to get four points and you move on. It’s great to score some goals,’’ said Friar coach Nate Leaman.
Here are five quick hits from Saturday night.
There was a great scene after the game when every last PC player lined up to shake hands and hug Merrimack coach Scott Borek, PC’s associate head coach from 2015 to 2018.
The gesture was greatly appreciated by Borek.
“That’s what Providence is. It’s the culture of the school. It’s the culture of the program. Obviously I’ve been through a lot with a lot of those guys, who’ve known me through some really difficult times,’’ said Borek, referring to the death of his son Gordie in a car accident in 2016.
“I didn’t expect that, and it was really special.’’
Jack Dugan had another great weekend, with 1-1-2 on Friday and 1-2-3 on Saturday. He made a gorgeous pass to Kasper Bjorkqvist for a goal on Saturday.
Dugan is tied with Cale Makar of UMass for the scoring lead in Hockey East with 5-9-14 in 11 games.
“He made some great plays this weekend. You feel like when you need someone to make a play, he’s going out there and he’s doing it. It’s really a great sign for a freshman,’’ said Leaman.
“He hasn’t just scored, he’s scored big at every level. I didn’t realize how strong he is with the puck. That’s something he’s really been doing a good job of. He was a little off on the power play tonight, but we’ll work on that this week.’’
PC’s Vimal Sukumaran is one of the hardest players to play against in all of college hockey.
He’s not especially big at 5-foot-10 and 193 pounds, but he is relentlessly physical and has been known to use his stick for more than just handling the puck. He gets under the skin of opposing players.
“He’s into the game no matter what, that’s for sure,’’ said Leaman. “He scored a great goal last night and then tonight he was a little bit grittier and I think he was smarter tonight. That line with (Greg) Printz and (Jason) O’Neill, can give us secondary scoring. V had 10 goals as a sophomore. We look for those three to go out and be heavy, make good decisions and chip in.’’
Sukumaran plays on the edge and sometimes over it. He took a dumb penalty early in the game at Amherst last week and the Minutemen quickly put the Friars in a hole.
Leaman noted that it’s better to try to rein in a player than to have to light a fire under him.
“He generally knows when to make good decisions. He was getting hammered at the net front in the third period with a couple of cross checks from behind. I thought he showed excellent discipline at a time of the game when you need to show discipline. He’s a work in progress, but we’ll take him all day long,’’ Leaman said.
“(Former Friar Brandon) Tanev could score a goal or he could run a guy. He was always part of the game. That’s how Suk is. You’re just making sure that what he does impacts your team in a positive way. He’s done a good job of that.’’
LET THEM PLAY
The refereeing on Saturday night was an abomination. Peter Schlittenhardt and Terrence Murphy were way too involved for my taste. It was not a particularly contentious or physical game, but Schlittenhardt in particular felt the need to put his arm up way more than I believe was necessary.
“I can’t comment on the officiating because I’ll get in trouble, but he got very involved in the game,’’ Merrimack coach Scott Borek said.
The refs handed out 15 minors – including five for slashing and four for cross-checking – plus two 10-minute misconducts. It wasn’t that kind of game. Let the players play.
ON TO DENVER
Next up for the Friars is a trip to No. 7 Denver for a two-game series next weekend that could be one of the highlights of the season.
“It’s going to be fast hockey and great hockey. These are the weekends you really look forward to. Just praying like crazy we get all of our equipment out there (traveling on the day before Thanksgiving). Those are the things that keep a coach awake at night. Those and giving up shorthanded goals,’’ Leaman said after his team gave one and another just as a penalty ended on Saturday night.