PROVIDENCE, RI -- While netminder Jon Gillies has always known Providence College Friars head coach Nate Leaman had faith in his abilities, the perfect example of that confidence came earlier this month after a game against the Vermount Catamounts.
"I had a little bit of a hiccup up in Vermont a couple weekends ago," Gillies told CalgaryFlames.com. "I let in some pretty bad goals. But all through the next week, he told me I was back in on Friday.
"He's helped me every step of the way ... he's just been great, very supportive."
For Leaman, that sureness has been gleaned not only from Gillies play during games but his compete level during practice.
"His first month, before we were playing games, he did struggle. He was struggling making the adjustment to this level in practice. I think he was frustrated but he has really learned to battle in practice.
"His battle level in practice, his compete level in practice and his work habits in practice have been really good. Because he's worked so hard, he's worked through the transition ... he's doing an excellent job (in games.)"
Through his first 12 outings at Providence College, Gillies has gone 6-5-1 while posting a 1.87 GAA and a .932 save percentage. He has made 300 stops during his 705:20 of play, which is second in Hockey East in saves made. Only New Hampshire sophomore Casey DeSmith has made more saves (322) than Gillies at this point in the season.
He has also captured several Hockey East titles this year. He has been named the Co-Defensive Player Of The Week once, the Rookie Of The Week on two occasions and the Co-Rookie Of The Month in October.
"It's gone pretty well," the 18 year-old said of his start to the season. "My main goal going into every game is to give my team a chance to win and make sure that if we have a breakdown, I have their back.
"I want to prove to everyone that I can play at this level."
According to Leaman, some of Gillies' greatest strengths are his mental acuity and calm demeanor. The Friars bench boss feels those traits have played a big role in the netminder's success.
"His poise as a goaltender, of not getting rattled, has been impressive. He's made a lot of big saves at the right times. That more denotes to the mental side of the game. Being able to be focused and being poised. I've been very impressed with that."
Another aspect playing into Gillies' strong start is the combination of his size and athleticism. He is 6-foot-5 and uses his frame to its full advantage. Not only does he play his angles well, taking up a large portion of the net with his size, but he's also extremely quick.
"He's so athletic for his size," Leaman commented. "I think he has a lot of qualities that have made him a very good player at this level right now."
Gillies spent the 2011-12 season with the Indiana Ice (USHL), posting a 31-11-9 record with a 2.77 GAA and a .915 save percentage. He lead the league in wins (31), games played (53) and saves made (1478) last year.
His strong play in the 2011-12 campaign has helped make the transition to the NCAA go smoothly for the the South Portland, ME product.
"It's basically like playing against the top two lines of every USHL team ... the skill level, that's the biggest change here."
The Flames selected Gillies in the 3rd round (75th overall) at the 2012 NHL Draft. He was ranked 6th in the NHL Central Scouting Service's final 2012 goaltender rankings.