Flames’ Providence trio forging special bond
CALGARY, AB -- Jon Gillies weighed the options. A shot at a National title was too good to pass on.
After falling just one game short of the Frozen Four and returning all but three members from a year ago, Providence College has sights on an NCAA championship.
And Gillies wants to be a part of it.
“A lot of it had to do with sitting back and realizing we lose three players next year,” Gillies said of his decision to return for his junior year. “I don’t want to say we overachieved this year because from our standpoint we knew we had the team to win the National championship and we felt short of that. I think in a lot of people’s eyes we overachieved for the team they saw on paper.
“The biggest part of it was the chance, the opportunity to win and the balance of power in college hockey next year. We’re a team that’s losing very minimal, losing two key guys on defence and one on forward, but we have most of our core coming back.
“My class is 12 guys deep. We’re ready to lead the way. It’s an opportunity to win. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The Friars, who fell to the eventual champion Union in the NCAA East Regional Final in March, stand to lose just three off their roster of 29 from the 2013-14 campaign -- defencemen Kevin Hart and Mark Adams and forward Steven Shamanski.
With core intact, blueliner John Gilmour expects the highest of achievements for his teammates.
“Honestly, we’re expecting a National championship,” said Gilmour, who had five goals and 18 points in 39 games as a sophomore in 2012-13. “Anything less is an absolute bust for us.
“As a team I expect us to do a lot better than we did last year. We went pretty far in the NCAA tournament. There’s no excuse. We should go a lot further this year. We don’t lose many guys and we’re all working really hard this summer to get there.”
To get there, though, Providence will lean heavily on their Calgary Flames contingent.
The Flames drafted Gillies (No. 75) and Mark Jankowski (No. 21) in 2012, while Gilmour was added to the fold with the 198th pick in 2013.
As a 19-year-old sophomore, Jankowski finished third in team scoring with 13 goals and 25 points. Gillies, 20, posted a 19-9-5 record with a 2.16 goals against average and .931 save percentage. Gilmour’s offensive numbers led all Providence College defencemen, too.
A championship ring would solidify a bond the trio has forged while playing together at Providence.
But their friendship has flourished in Calgary, too.
“They’re both really good guys,” Jankowski said. “I’ve been hanging out with them a lot here (at development camp) and when I’m at school, I’m hanging out with both those guys a lot. We have a tight-knit team.”
Having both at development camp has helped ease the process for Gilmour, who is in his second orientation stint with the Flames.
“We’re a pretty close bunch and hang out a lot around here, especially this week,” he said. “We’ve been hanging out together. We go through the same experiences. It’s just good that it’s a good group of guys going through these experiences.
"It’s going to help us throughout the year, for sure.”
“Mark and I, we’ve been on it since the beginning,” the 6-foot-6 stopper said. “We’ve grown pretty close throughout and he’s one of my best friends. Gil’s is coming into the picture a year later.
“Off the ice, these guys are two of my really good friends. It’s been a fun ride.”
One that will continue a run to the National title.
“We’re all really excited,” Jankowski said. “We’ve been talking about it a lot. We don’t lose too much. We lose three seniors. We’re all really pumped. We’re excited. We should have a good year if our mentality stays the same.
“We want to go for it all.”