Third Line's the Charm
Unlikely Trio Leads Providence to Hockey East semifinals
by Jill Saftel/CHN Reporter
PROVIDENCE, R.I. Providence's third line was on fire last Friday night in Game 1 of the Friars' quarterfinal series against New Hampshire.
So much so, in fact, that by Saturday's game freshman Nick Saracino and sophomores Ross Mauermann and Shane Luke weren't the third line anymore, and were listed as second for the remainder of the weekend.
The line produced a combined nine points on the weekend, and its success resulted from two separate drivers. Firstly, Saracino had a breakout weekend against UNH with four goals and an assist as the Friars eliminated UNH in three games.
"He's a good player, Nick's just a really good player," Providence coach Nate Leaman said after Friday's win. "He played in a really good league last year, led his team in scoring in that league, and he wanted the puck. That was the biggest thing, I thought Nick was the guy on our team that wanted the puck most out there. Each time he was out there he did something with it."
Saracino had 20 goals and 73 assists in 99 games with the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders of the USHL, and has 11 goals and 17 points in his first 27 games played as a Friar. But Saracino's success hasn't come without help from his teammates, and the fact that Luke returned for the series after missing six games due to a knee injury he sustained after a hit from Merrimack's Kyle Bigos was the other huge factor in the line's emergence.
"They have better chemistry when he's there," Leaman said Friday. "I think they're three guys that can look for one another. You could tell it was his first game back, but he got stronger as the game went on. He played a good game for us."
Luke had three assists Friday, while Mauermann added one of his own. They join Saracino among PC's top scorers, sitting first and fourth with 24 and 18 points, respectively, while Saracino is tied with Luke.
"Shane and Ross are doing really well," Saracino said. "Shane just came back, and we missed him … me and Ross would always talk about it. We're just happy he's back and playing the way he was."
Saracino's success against UNH isn't anything new. He has 11 goals on the year, nothing crazy, except when you consider that seven of those goals have come against the Wildcats. But the freshman said there isn't anything about the Wildcats' game that allows him to capitalize — if anything, it's the caliber of UNH that helps Saracino's game.
"I don't think it's any way they play, but I think I might elevate my game when we play them," Saracino said. "I don't know, I just somehow find a way."
Turns out Saracino used to find a way against a goaltender not many have been able to beat this season — his own. Gillies and Saracino faced each other in their USHL days, when Gillies played for the Indianapolis Ice.
Now Gillies is on the other end of the ice when Saracino is connecting with his linemates, but the standout freshman netminder remembers what it's like to have his current teammate's shot headed for his own net.
"I played against Nick for the last two years in the USHL, and he's always been lethal," Gillies said. "He's one of the hardest workers on the ice, and, as you saw firsthand this weekend, his release is spot on. He beat my high glove a couple times the last couple years, so it was good to see him break out like that."
Understandably so, one person not thrilled with Saracino's weekend was UNH head coach Dick Umile. After all, Saracino scored the go-ahead game winner in both Friday and Sunday's games, the latter bringing UNH's Hockey East tournament run to an end.
"I've heard that name too often," Umile said of Saracino.
The Friars will be hoping that name is once again heard repeatedly next weekend as they take on Massachusetts-Lowell in the semifinal round of the Hockey East tournament.