It only took one game for Spenser Young to experience his welcome-to-college-hockey moment last year.
Young, who grew up in Brentwood, set up the game-winning goal — a shorthanded strike by Brian Pinho — as Providence College opened its season with a wildly entertaining 4-3 win over Miami.
"I have a couple friends on their team," said Young. "We met up afterward and were like, 'Wow. The speed is that different.'"
By the time his freshman season was done, 23 games later — he'd miss 15 games with injuries — he'd not only solidified his role as a key contributor on an NCAA tournament team, he'd also established himself as one of the team's defensive leaders moving forward.
"We're really excited about him," said Providence coach Nate Leaman last week. "He's been terrific in the preseason so far.
"He had a really good second half of the season last year. He's a dynamic player. He's got dynamic feet, a good offensive knack and he's willing to battle defensively. That's why he's successful, despite his size."
The 5-10 Young, who played two seasons at Phillips Exeter Academy before departing for junior hockey in the USHL, is expected to be a leader on a young defense that graduated three regulars and lost another one when Jake Walman signed with the St. Louis Blues.
That leaves Young, junior Vinny Desharnais and sophomore Jacob Bryson as the proven blueliners, though pro prospect Ben Mirageas is expected to settle in immediately.
"We're going to lean on (Young) and Vinny Desharnais and Jacob Bryson early this year," said Leaman.
Young finished his freshman year with two goals and 10 assists, a plus-5 rating and 22 blocked shots. An offensive player with a smooth skating stride, he'll look to boost that production this year.
"Definitely, last year it was nerve-racking coming in," said Young. "We had a lot of senior guys, especially defensemen, that I got to watch and learn from."
"We had a conversation with him the first month he got here just saying, 'Hey, your feet are a gift. But you have to learn how to use that gift,'" said Leaman. "We want him to go north with pucks quickly and I think he started to learn how to do that with his game."
His second half of the season was stronger than his first, Leaman noted.
"A, he stayed off his backhand," he said. "At times he'd come through the neutral zone and want to be on his backhand, and that's just a recipe for disaster for defensemen."
Despite some new faces on defense, it's a highly-regarded Friars team (ranked No. 11 nationally and picked for third in the Hockey East preseason poll) that will open its season with two games at Miami this weekend. The first eight games also include a road trip to St. Lawrence and Clarkson, and two against both No. 2 Boston University and No. 13 Boston College.
"It's definitely going to test us right away to see where we're at," said Young.
Young arrived at Providence 17 months after the team won the NCAA championship in 2015, but he'd been committed since the summer of 2013, when he was 16 years old.
"They reached out when I was still at Phillips Exeter," he said. "I took a visit and I just loved the coaching staff, loved the school. Every other visit I went on, it just didn't feel the same."
UNH had been on his radar, too, in part because of his relationship with then-associate coach Scott Borek. Borek ended up leaving UNH to take a similar position at Providence in the summer of 2015.
"I've known Coach Borek for a long time from playing with his sons," said Young. "We were in contact and it just worked out that he's here now."
The puck about to drop on his second college season, Young likes where he's at, too. After two years at Phillips Exeter and two more in the USHL, with some U.S. National Camp experience thrown in, he's ready to start making a bigger mark at Providence.
"I love it," he said. "There's been a lot of hard decisions, going from public school to prep school to juniors, but I wouldn't change any of it."
This article is written by Mike Zhe from Portsmouth Herald, N.H. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.