January 17

College Connections: Gillies hopes he’s saved the best for Friars

Gold eluded the goalie from South Portland in the world junior hockey championships.

By Steve Craig scraig@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Jon Gillies would have loved to win another gold medal.

Instead he’ll look at his second trip to the world junior hockey championships as another step in his burgeoning career as a top-level goalie.

Gillies, a native of South Portland and sophomore at Providence College, was one of the three returning players from the U.S. squad that won the junior worlds in 2013 in Russia. This time, with Gillies moving from backup to starter, the Americans didn’t reach the medal round, eliminated by Russia in the quarterfinal.

“Obviously the result was different. You hate to lose but in the grand scheme and big picture it was a good learning experience,” Gillies said.

“If you’re going to play this game at a high level, you have to learn to deal with the wins and the losses. It wasn’t a great feeling going home early.”

In Malmo, Sweden, Gillies went 2-2, earning opening-round wins against the Czech Republic (5-1, 23 saves) and Slovakia (6-3, 27 saves). In the final game of the pool play, Gillies’ 21 saves weren’t enough to beat Canada, which won 3-2. That loss proved important because it set up a much tougher quarterfinal against Russia.

Gillies made 20 saves as the Russians won 5-3, capping it with an empty-net goal.

Gillies said earlier this week it’s nice to be back on New England soil and he’s getting readjusted to the pace of Hockey East, which he called a marathon compared to the sprint pace of the world juniors.

“It’s getting back to my (hockey) family in a way and getting back with the boys and getting back to the systems we’re running here,” Gillies said, adding that he’ll try to bring his world juniors “experiences and lessons to my teammates if we ever need them.”

Providence is 13-5-4 overall and ranked No. 6 nationally in the most recent polls, but has struggled of late, going 0-2-1 in 2014 as the offense has been held to two or fewer goals in each game.

Gillies, who is 10-3-3 overall, is 0-2 since returning from Sweden.

His 2.01 goals-against average ranks 11th nationally and his .937 save percentage is third-best.

Earlier this season he ran off three quick shutouts, giving him eight in his short Friars career to set a school record.

“A shutout is a team stat as well. The first half of the season we were really on a roll. The guys made it pretty easy on me every night,” Gillies said. “It was a good run for us and now we have to get back on our horse a little bit.”

A third-round pick of the Calgary Flames in 2012 (75th overall), the 6-foot-5, 215-pound goalie said he’s trying not to think much about his professional future.

He knows any decision will come after the college season is over and the Friars, including senior defenseman Kevin Hart of Cumberland (Greely), have the look of an NCAA team.

“I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. Both my feet are firmly in Providence. Right now I’m a Friar,” Gillies said.

MEN’S BASKETBALL

Southern Maine Community College point guard and captain Jose Nouchanthavong of Westbrook was named the national U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association player of the week after a 26-point, 10-assist, 8-rebound gem in a win against the College of St. Joseph (Vt.). Nouchanthavong leads the Seawolves in scoring (13.8 ppg) with 5.6 assists a game.

Freshman Antencio Martin of Kittery (Traip Academy) is also helping the Seawolves, now 14-4. Martin is averaging 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds coming off the bench.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

Southern Maine Community College is 12-4 after a recent 80-46 win against Eastern Maine Community College that saw senior Danielle McCusker of South Portland (16 points), sophomore Nyalieb Deng of Portland (11 points) and sophomore Maria Veino of Sanford (10 points) each reach double figures. McCusker leads the team with a 15.7 scoring average.

(Continued on page 2)

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