Potent Providence poised to go deep in Catholic League chase

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Providence has played much of the past seven weeks without a full roster, though it hardly was noticeable.

However, with the return of Pat Francis (meningitis) and Mike Vennetti Jr. (injury), Providence is back at full throttle. That’s not good news for the opposition.

The Celtics have racked up a 32-4-3 record through Tuesday, including a 12-0-1 showing in the Catholic League.

“Obviously, our depth has been our strength,” Providence coach Nick Iaciancio said. “We’re a more seasoned, upperclassmen kind of team.”

Providence also is team that can score in bunches. The Celtics have lit the lamp 246 times and boast seven players with at least 20 goals: Rich Yusa (29), Matt Iaciancio (27), Vennetti (27), Ben Brandau (24), Dan Ricker (23), Andy Guth (20) and Jordan Ernst (20).

“The more we move the puck, the better we’ve been,” coach Iaciancio said. “We’ve had more opportunities to score.”

The top line of Brandau, Guth and Iaciancio has been unstoppable at times.

“They’ve been very consistent,” Iaciancio said.

Yusa, a four-year varsity starter, leads the team in goals, despite coming off an ACL injury last season.

“Yusa has been playing really well,” the elder Iaciancio said. “He’s learned it’s not all about the points. He’s been a leader for us.”

Providence also has benefited from an exceptional goalie tandem of freshman Ryan Iaciancio (11-4-3, 1.69 GAA) who, like Matt Iaciancio, is the coach’s son, and senior Justin Salazar (15-0, 1.70).

“They’ve played really well,” Nick Iaciancio said. “We’ve had a nice rotation going with those two and that should help us in the playoffs.”

Pat O’Sullivan has anchored a defense that includes Ernst, who was shifted from forward.

“Jordan is still learning defense,” Nick Iaciancio said. “He has a cannon of a shot and a mean streak. All the physical attributes are there for him to be successful.”

The regular season success has been fun, but the Celtics are focusing on the big picture: the Kennedy Cup.

“We’ve never finished first in the Catholic League,” Nick Iaciancio said. “That’s a goal, and so is the Kennedy Cup, which we’ve never won. I like the direction we’re headed, not only as a team but as a program. We’re focused on this season.

“This is the group we’ve been waiting for. And so far, they’ve lived up to the expectations. But there’s still a long way to go.”

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