Gillies Making His Mark at Providence
by Joshua Seguin/Staff Writer
When Jon Gillies arrived with his Providence team to UNH earlier in the season, he wasn’t the first Gillies goaltender to set foot onto the UNH ice.
From 1980-85, Jon’s father Bruce was a mainstay at old Snively Arena for UNH, and in his final two seasons he guided the Wildcats as their starter. He posted a 3.97 GAA, a 35-31-6 record, and .894 save percentage.
“It is pretty special for Jon to come back here where his dad played college hockey,” said Providence coach Nate Leaman. “What’s actually fun is that both times we have come up here, someone has given me a story about his dad playing here. His dad seemed like quite the goaltender as well.”
Before Gillies’ arrival at Providence, the Friars had not defeated UNH since the 2007 season and had not won at UNH since 2003. But all that changed as Gillies and his Friars put together a solid performance to pick up the win. It may not have been pretty for Gillies, as he allowed five goals, but it was still special knowing his father had once donned the UNH uniform.
“It is pretty cool,” Gillies said. “Definitely the first game was the one that really got me. He gets pretty excited to come back down here, even when I played when I was younger. It is very special to play here.”
Growing up in South Portland, Maine, Gillies grew up a mere hour away from the UNH campus. Whenever he comes back to the Whittemore Center he is surrounded by family and friends, which adds to the pressure. But the same can be said when he returned to Maine last week to play Maine, about an hour and a half north of where he grew up. In that game Gillies stopped 31 shots and led his team to a tie.
“It was a good experience to play up here,” said Gillies after a 2-2 up in Orono, Maine. “My father gave me some tips from when he played in this building with UNH. It was also nice to stop in my hometown on my way up.”
Adding to the drama, Gillies was teammates with UNH goalie Casey Desmith on the USHL's Indiana Ice during the 2010-11 season. Gillies was Desmith's backup that season.
“Casey and I are best friends,” said Gillies. “We talk almost every day and we are really close. It’s never easy playing against him because you want him to do just as good as you want your team to do. We have to battle through it but I was happy the way we both played tonight.”
Jon will be best known to college hockey fans this season for his appearance as the backup goaltender for Team USA in the World Junior Tournament, but he has also been putting together a phenomenal season in the collegiate ranks. So far he has led his Friars with a 10-8-5 record, with a 2.21 goals against average and .927 save percentage.
“Jon has been a great goaltender for us this season,” said Providence coach Nate Leaman. “This league, this season has seen great goaltending. If you want to compete in this league you need to be good in net. He has been giving us a chance every night.”
Last Sunday night, Gillies made a huge save on UNH’s Kevin Goumas late in the game to hold a 3-2 lead for his Friars. It was one of the best saves anyone's made this season, and temporarily saved the lead, but UNH scored a tying goal about a minute later.
“It is a pretty helpless feeling when you see a guy like Kevin Goumas, a great scorer, with a puck in that position,” said Gillies “I felt even more helpless when he toe dragged it around my toe but I just tried to get my glove back and I did. It was kind of a 'look what I found' save.”
As special as homecomings can be picking up wins and points are ever important. On Wednesday, Providence will face this same UNH team at home. Providence could pick up their first season series against UNH since 1995-96. Gillies would relish that opportunity, but knows that points and wins are more important when it comes to reaching the ultimate team goals.
“Our goal is to get back to the Garden and win the trophy at the end of the year,” said Gillies. “We have this very tough UNH team on Wednesday and after that we are going to keep working hard on picking up wins.”