Flames prospect Gillies leading Friars to NCAA elite status

“I don’t really like to sit there and take notes,” said the six-foot-five 215-pound netminder the other day, shortly after arriving at the Schneider Arena where the Friars play at Rhode Island. “I kind of have to be solving a problem to be interested.”

Gillies admits he’s analytical and, earning high honours in high school while playing for the Indiana Ice of the USHL for two seasons, this should come as no surprise that the sophomore is a numbers kind of guy.

And when it comes to statistics — specifically, his own — Gillies is interested. What goalie isn’t?

“You know what, my first year in Indiana, my best friend was Casey DeSmith (a goaltender who plays at the University of New Hampshire now),” Gillies explained. “I never really thought about the shot-clock until he pointed it out how you can find out if you’re a .900 save percentage or above (during a game) which is kind of where you want to be as a goalie. Let’s say you let in one goal in 10 shots, you’re at a .900 save percentage. I had never thought about it that way until he showed me.

“Ever since I’ve known that, I subconsciously check it out every now and then.”

That being said, the Calgary Flames’ third rounder from the 2012 NHL draft, tries not to get worked up.

Even though, he’s currently sporting a 4-1-1 record for the 5-1-1 Friars, who recently jumped up to the No. 3 spot in the country — their highest ranking since they were ranked No. 5 in 2001.

And that he’s dominating with a .938 save percentage and a stingy 1.97 goals against average.

“But I’m not too analytical about my stats,” Gillies was saying. “I kind of learned from Day 1 that when you focus on the win, the stats take care of themselves. I just focus on winning the games and letting in less goals than we score.”

And, there you go — problem solved.

After earning the Friars’ starting job last season as a freshman, it’s hard to argue with Gillies’ philosophy considering he captured the rookie of the year award at the Frozen Four tournament and was named to the 2013 CCM All-America second team (East). The attitude had him finish with a 17-12-6 record with a record five-shutouts and posting a .931 save percentage and a 2.08 goals against average.

And his first impressions and experience of college hockey were many things.

“The crowds are kind of fun,” Gillies said. “I know it kind of makes them mad but when they’re chanting my name, I just kind of bob my head and go with the chant, just to get back in their faces a little bit. Being in college is kind of hard because there is a lot of different factors. Same day bus rides and stuff like that. When we’re at home, I like to get to the rink early, I’m not a big napper.

“But the biggest adjustment (of the NCAA) is knowing every player is a threat all the time and realizing how much harder I had to work.”

On top of it, he played with the gold medal-winning U.S. world junior team in Ufa, Russia, and all but has a spot locked up as the team’s starting goalie in Malmo, Sweden.

Which makes a person wonder — what does the 19-year-old have planned for an encore in his sophomore season?

“I just wanted to keep improving on my consistency,” Gillies said. “I want to make sure I’m playing to the best of my abilities and make sure I’m not taking any nights off, any practices off. Just trying to keep up my work ethic ... the ones that make it the furthest are the ones that learn how to work, day in and day out.”

ICE CHIPS: Fellow Providence Friar Mark Jankowski, the Flames’ first-round (21st overall) pick from 2012, has four goals and one assist in seven games this season. He spun some heads with a seriously nice goal in a 3-2 overtime win over Miami University on Oct. 25. With two defencemen to beat, the six-foot-three, 175-pounder toe-dragged past both and scored on his backhand. Worth checking out on YouTube.com. “I wasn’t really thinking about doing it as I was getting the puck,” Jankowski said. “I noticed I was at a really bad angle coming into the goalie so I couldn’t really shoot. I just tried to get into the middle of the ice and that’s what happened.” ... D John Gilmour (seventh round, 198th overall) is also a sophomore on the Friars ... Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau, fourth-round (104th overall) in 2011, is lighting it up again with six goals and five assists in seven games.

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