By Phil Stacey
---- — Great news apparently travels fast — faster than ever, it seems.
Just 20 minutes after making the decision to accept a hockey scholarship to Providence College, Brian Pinho was more than happy to share his thoughts on why he’s decided to become a Friar.
“I just really wanted to play Hockey East. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid,” said the St. John’s Prep senior captain. “It’s a great school with a great business program and a hockey team that’s on the way up. It’s everything I wanted.”
The 17-year-old from North Andover, who centers the top line for the Eagles, will likely play junior hockey after graduating from the Prep before matriculating to Providence in the fall of 2014. A strong senior season of high school hockey, however, could expediate his heading to Rhode Island.
The Salem News and Catholic Conference all-star who was second on the Eagles last winter with 18 goals and 44 points. A smooth skating playmaker, Pinho was courted by dozens of schools for his hockey prowess, and had narrowed his list of suitors down to 10: Northeastern, Boston College, UMass Lowell, Merrimack, Brown, Harvard, Yale, Holy Cross, Union and Providence.
Last weekend, the 6-foot, 175-pounder made his official visit to Providence and ended up leaving the school more impressed than ever.
“I loved it,” he said. “The guys were great; there was a lot of camaraderie and great character. I knew some of their senior players from watching them but didn’t know any of the players personally, but they made me feel like I was already part of the team. They’re really good guys.
“The coaches were great, too. Coach (Nate) Leaman (the Friars’ head coach) was awesome; he’s been great to me for a few months now. I was actually just talking to my family advisor telling him I was choosing Providence, and two minutes later Coach Leaman called to congratulate me.”
St. John’s Prep head coach Kristian Hanson, who has now seen three of his players commit to play at Division 1 schools in the last three seasons (including Colin Blackwell, currently a sophomore at Harvard, and Boston University freshman Sam Kurker), feels the Friars will be a perfect fit for Pinho.
“It’s great for Brian that he’ll be playing for Coach Leaman,” said Hanson. “Coach did a great job building up the program at Union before coming to Providence (last season), and I’m confident he’ll build Providence back up, too.
“I spoke to a number of college coaches about Brian, and they always asked how he compared to Colin and Sam. It’s difficult because he’s kind of a mix of the two; a great playmaker who can also score, strong in all three areas of the ice, someone who can kill penalties but is also great on the power play. He’s very versatile, not to mention outstanding academically.”
Providence, which finished 14-20-4 last season (including 10-14-3 in Hockey East play), is in the process of redoing their home rink, Schneider Arena. Pinho said that a new player’s lounge, new gymnasium and a shooter’s area will all be added to modernize the hockey facility.
Another local player, defenseman Mark Adams of Boxford, plays for the Friars as well.
“I definitely wanted to make my decision before (the St. John’s Prep) hockey season started. It was a stressful process and tough to make a decision; there were so many good options for me,” said Pinho, who could very well get selected in next June’s NHL Entry Draft as well. “But I’m very happy with my choice; it feels good knowing I’m going to Providence.
“Now I’m focused on helping St. John’s win the Super 8 championship this winter and having a great senior season with my friends. We’ve got a strong team, and I’m really excited for the season to start in a few months.”