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Mark Divver: News and views on Friars, P-Bruins and more – Sports – providencejournal.com

Clappers, wristers and rebounds from around the rinks:

— This is a big weekend for Providence College as they play a pair of home games against Miami University of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, the strongest league in college hockey.

PC, which is 11th in the Pairwise, beat Miami, 4-0, in the Ice Breaker Tournament in Erie, Pa., in October. The 9-6-3 RedHawks are 17th in the Pairwise. A pair of wins would solidify the Friars’ Pairwise position.

“We know they are going to be tight games. They’re a Top 20 team in the Pairwise, so it’s important for us. There aren’t a lot of Top 20 Pairwise teams on our schedule, the way our league has done, so they are important games,’’ said PC coach Nate Leaman, referring to Hockey East’s mediocre record in nonconference play.

“We are 1-1-1 against the (NCHC) but none of the games have been at home. We’ve got to take advantage.’’

The 11-4-3 Friars have played just five games at Schneider Arena so far. Ten of their remaining 18 games are at home.

— The Providence Bruins have made the playoffs six seasons in a row, but they’ve got work to do if they are going to make it seven.

Heading into the weekend, the P-Bruins have two games in hand and are five points behind Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which holds the fourth and final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division with 39 points. Springfield has 37 points and Hartford has 34, one point ahead of Providence.

After playing 11 of 14 games on the road in December (they went 5-7-2), Providence will have eight of 11 at home in January. And they have a great opportunity to gain ground on both Springfield and Hartford, with five games against the Thunderbirds and three against the Wolf Pack this month.

“We’re going to have to perform. We’re on the outside looking in. It’s right there in front of us, as far as the teams we are chasing,’’ said coach Jay Leach. “It’s all within our grasp, if we can play better than they do. It’s on us.’’

— What did Rhode Islanders do on New Year’s Day? Lots of them sat back in their recliners and watched the Winter Classic between the Bruins and Blackhawks from iconic Notre Dame Stadium.

According to NBC, TV ratings in Providence were second only to Boston, which had a best-in-the-nation rating of 7.9 and a 17 share. Providence came in with a 6.5 rating and a 14 share. Chicago was third with 5.8 and a 12 share.

— Here’s hoping that 2019 is kinder to Erik Foley than 2018 was. Foley, who passed up his senior year at PC to sign with the St. Louis Blues last spring, hasn’t played a game yet for San Antonio of the AHL.

He has been out since suffering a concussion while playing for the Blues in the Traverse City, Mich., rookie tournament in September. Foley was hit by rugged defenseman Justin Wade, the same player who knocked him out of the East Regional final between Notre Dame and PC in Bridgeport last March.

Nearly four months after getting hurt, Foley isn’t even skating. He and the Blues are being very cautious, as they should be.

— PC beat Brown, 3-1 (with an empty-netter), in the Ledyard Classic at Dartmouth on Saturday. Even though the Friars piled up a 44-14 advantage in shots, Leaman said the Bears are improved over last season.

“I like them. They skate. They work. It’s more of a team,’’ said Leaman. “We were struggling moving our feet. They were winning a lot of the battles and puck races. It’s good that it was a close game because our guys will respect them when we go over there.’’

The annual Mayor’s Cup game between PC and Brown is Tuesday, Jan. 15 at Meehan Auditorium.

— The Bears travel to Pittsburgh this weekend for the Three Rivers Classic. They will play their first-ever game against host Robert Morris University on Friday night, then will face either Union or St. Cloud, the nation’s No. 1 ranked team, on Saturday.

Brown will be without defenseman Tony Stillwell. He left the game against PC after a hard hit from Brandon Duhaime of the Friars.

— Stick taps for freshman defenseman Dennis Cesana of Providence, who had a goal and two assists in Michigan State’s 4-3 loss to Lake Superior in the Great Lakes Invitational on Sunday. Cesana is tied for third in scoring among Big Ten freshman with two goals and 11 points in 18 games.

— A trio of 2004-born freshmen are making a splash in the Rhode Island high school and prep ranks so far this season.

Brady Berard of Hendricken made the all-tournament team at the Mount St. Charles Holiday Classic last week. He has nine goals in nine games.

Austin Tasca of La Salle has six goals and nine points in eight games.

Ryan Buckley is playing a regular shift on defense for St. George’s. At 6-foot-2, he moves the puck with poise.

— One New Year’s resolution I’m going to keep: Get to Schneider Arena to watch PC’s seventh-ranked women’s team. Five-foot-four sophomore Maureen Murphy is a scoring dynamo with 17 goals in 18 games. The Friars are home against Vermont on Saturday and Sunday afternoon at 2.

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