Tim Army describes penalty killing as one of the less glamorous aspects of the game of hockey.

Taking on the role of being a penalty killer means doing some dirty work — blocking shots, eliminating passing lanes and clearing the puck out of the zone. It’s basic tactical defensive play, only you have to do it while your team is shorthanded.

But Army, the sixth-year coach of the Providence men’s hockey team, puts plenty of stock in penalty killing. While there’s an adage in hockey that says a team’s goalie is its most effective penalty killer, there’s something to be said about the players who welcome the responsibility of killing a penalty. Count Kevin Hart, a freshman defenseman for the Friars, among that group.

“There’s definitely a lot of pressure in it,” said Hart, a 2009 Greely graduate. “But Coach gave us a speech about taking pride in it and accepting the role. Plus, it’s an extra opportunity to get some ice time and not just play a role on a team, but contribute, as well.”

Hart has two assists and is a plus-5 in 14 games for the Friars, who open a two-game series at 7 tonight against Maine. The Black Bears, ranked ninth in both national polls, face the Friars in a series that could hinge on special teams — a struggle of late for both schools.

Providence is 10th in Hockey East on the power play (6 for 65, 9.2 percent) and ninth in penalty killing (59 for 76, 77.6 percent). While Maine is third in Hockey East on the power play (16 for 85, 18.8 percent), the Black Bears are eighth in penalty killing (53 for 67, 79.1 percent).

“It’s very important,” Maine Coach Tim Whitehead said of penalty killing. “We’ve had great games in which we’ve shut teams down, and we’ve had games where it’s cost us.”

Several factors, Army explained, help Hart in his role as a penalty killer.

“There’s a lot of good things to his game,” Army said. “But from a defensive standpoint, he’s given us some stability. He’s intelligent, he reads the plays really well, he uses his stick well and he has good hands so he’s not just able to knock down the pucks, he can make a play off the loose pucks.”

In recruiting Hart — who is a childhood friend of Army’s son, Derek, a freshman forward at Providence — Army also targeted the 6-foot-1 defenseman for his consistency on and off the ice, an attribute that has defined Hart at every level of competitive hockey.

“He goes about his business and he’s there every day,” Army said. “He’s consistent. He has a strong personality but he’s someone who is an easy kid to get along with.”

Hart’s freshman year is part of a renaissance of sorts for the Friars.

In the past two seasons, Providence finished 17-44-9, including a 7-22-5 record in 2008-2009, Hart’s senior year at Greely. Providence is 3-0-2 at home this season and enters this weekend tied with the Black Bears for fifth in Hockey East.

“This year’s team, the older guys have better leadership and they’re a lot more committed and paying attention to more of the details of the game,” Hart said. “Plus, we’re playing with more speed and more transition.

“In Hockey East, it’s really competitive. There’s never an easy game. We have a tough schedule coming up, but so far it’s been a lot of fun.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

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