Army Rises to Occasion
by Scott McLaughlin/CHN Writer
LOWELL, Mass. One year ago at this time, Derek Army found himself in what can only be described as an awkward situation. Five days after Providence's season ended with an 8-18-8 record and a third straight year of no playoffs, his father, Tim, agreed to step down as the school's hockey coach.
It would've been understandable if Army begrudged the school and chose to follow his father out of Providence. At the very least, you would've expected the decision to stay to require a lot of thought and a lot of healing. Instead, it was a no-brainer.
"I never thought about it," Army said Thursday night. "I just looked at it, and even last year I was treated like one of the guys. From a family aspect, it's different. But as a player, you just have to turn it around. All my friends are on the team, and school's like home to me, so I didn't think about leaving at all."
After his performance this season and his performance Thursday night, Providence couldn't be happier that Army stayed. He scored a pair of goals in the Friars' 5-3 upset win over Massachusetts-Lowell in Game 1 of their Hockey East quarterfinal series. He was an offensive catalyst all night and wound up with a game-high eight shots on goal.
Army, who is second on the team with 10 goals, tied the game at 1-1 early in the second when he took a pass at the top of the left circle and fired a slap shot through a Shane Luke screen and inside the right post for a power-play goal. He then gave Providence a 3-2 lead later in the second when he came in as the trailer on a 3-on-2 and snapped a shot over goalie Doug Carr's glove.
Not only were the two goals huge because it was a playoff game — the first for anyone on the Friars roster — but they also snapped a long drought for Army. He hadn't scored since Jan. 15 and had registered just three points in his previous 14 games.
"Yeah, it felt good," Army said. "I was looking at it positively going into the playoffs. You have a lot of guys in the NHL who struggle at the end of the year, then they get a chance to turn it around in the playoffs. It's a new season, so I went in with a positive outlook, just 'I gotta do whatever I can to help the team win.'"
That positive outlook also played a big role in Army's transition from last season to this season, from his father to new coach Nate Leaman. The first day Leaman was on campus last May, Army met with him in his office and told him he was just one of the guys, and that's how he wanted to be treated.
"It started the first day that I was on the job," Leaman said. "The credit goes to Derek all the way. He's been a very coachable kid. It's been easy for us."
While Army never considered transferring, he said it was tough to see his father have to leave the school where he stands as the sixth-leading scorer in program history. He said his father, who is now a video coach for the Colorado Avalanche, was nothing but supportive of his decision to stay, though.
"I wished that maybe I had done more to help him out," Army said, "but he was like, 'This is your chance. You're one of the guys, too, so you gotta go out and show everyone what you can do.'"
On Thursday night, Army did just that. Now his team is one win away from reaching the conference semifinals for the first time since 2001.