PROVIDENCE – As soon as the Providence Friars drew a spot in the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament, many casual observers listed them as the favorites to advance and earn a spot in the upcoming Frozen Four, despite not even making it out of the Hockey East quarterfinals, which were seen live only on FloHockey.
The East Regional, after all, was in Providence.
Ultimately, the Friars did come through. They upset Minnesota State on Saturday, and dominated Cornell on Sunday afternoon, 4-0, giving Hockey East two out of the four teams in Buffalo.
Was it because they played in Rhode Island, though? Not if you ask those who supposedly enjoyed the comforts of “home” for the weekend.
“We don't really consider this a home-ice advantage like teams were saying,” senior forward Scott Conway said.
“I think that even though we had our fans here, which definitely helped, but at the end of the day we’re playing in a different rink, we’re staying in a hotel like everyone else and we’re doing everything that those guys did, so I don’t think there’s really that big of an advantage, but seeing our fans and students there was great.”
Shortly after Conway and the other student-athletes at the post-game press conference got done answering questions about the subject, Friars head coach Nate Leaman was quick to jump in with his own thoughts on the matter.
“They’ve still got to go out and win the game,” Leaman said.
“I think some people seem to make a lot of it. This regional did great attendance-wise, but at the end of the day you got to go out and win the game. You can make all the fuss about all the fluff on the outside, but the game is played on the ice. I give the guys a lot of credit. They had to go out and win a game and they did it twice.
“As far as playing in Providence, that’s the little behind-the-scenes thing that people don’t understand is that when you are playing here, and all your fans are here and your president’s here, there’s a lot more pressure to win. There’s a lot more distractions and I thought we were fortunate to be in the hotel down Warwick, I actually thought that that benefited our team. There will be more distractions, but I like how the guys handled it this weekend.”
“Home-ice advantage” won’t be a concern when the games matter the most, however. The Friars will play Minnesota-Duluth in the opening game of the Frozen Four semifinals on Thursday, April 11, and the focus had already shifted towards looking ahead instead of celebrating a well-deserved regional title.
“These are things you think about as a little kid,” sophomore forward Greg Printz said, “to make the Frozen Four, play college hockey and make it.
“We’re only halfway there, so we can celebrate for a little bit, but we can’t be satisfied, we’ve got to go to Buffalo and keep playing well so we can win a national championship.”