Saturday, December 31, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: December 31

1993: Andrew McKim, Dmitri Kvartalnov, Fred Knipscheer and Jozef Stumpel each score a multi-goal game en route to a 10-6 triumph over the host Springfield Indians. It marks the first time the P-Bruins have cracked double-digits in the goal column in a single game. Meanwhile, goaltender Scott Bailey repels 33 out of 39 shots faced for his first AHL win.

1996: A 5-2 win at Portland gives the P-Bruins two consecutive victories after they had previously lost six straight and won each of the four prior that skid.

2001: For the second time in 10 days, Andrew Raycroft lays a goose-egg on home ice―this one a 4-0 triumph over the Saint John Flames―to put the P-Bruins in first place in the Eastern Division.

2002: Clutch scorer Matt Herr’s power play conversion snaps a tie and beats the visiting Hartford Wolf Pack, 2-1. The win gives Providence a perfect 4-0-0 performance against their rivals in the month of December.

2004: After dropping the month’s first two games to Manchester, the P-Bruins finish December 2004 with an 8-2-4 record. Their unbeaten streak extends to 12 games with a 3-0 win at Portland.

2005: Tim Thomas stops 49 out of 50 shots to earn a 3-1 win in Hartford.

2007: Sean Curry strikes in overtime to thwart the Springfield Falcons comeback and win a 3-2 decision for the visiting P-Bruins.

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 In Review: Rhode Island Hockey’s Top Stories Of The Year

Convention Center Cup
Already scheduled to start the new season with Boston’s Black and White intrasquad scrimmage at the neighboring Dunkin Donuts Center, the P-Bruins got a bonus when their parent club won its first Stanley Cup since 1972.

With this being the Bruins’ first title since placing its prospects in Providence and the two teams fostering the longest active AHL-NHL alliance, it would have been a crime against nature not to let Rhode Island fans have a turn with the trophy.

Fortunately, what started as a no-guarantees push by Mayor Angel Taveras became a reality in the dusk of the offseason. And on Sept. 8, locals joined Providence captain and Boston Black Ace Trent Whitfield, Bruins’ assistant GM Don Sweeney and Providence-turned-Boston PA announcer Jim Martin to receive the Cup at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

Less than two weeks later, Providence alumni and ring-bearing Boston players Johnny Boychuk, Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid, Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas all returned to The Dunk to skate in the scrimmage.

Quite the storybook culmination to the two New England capitals’ second full decade of puck partnership.

Cavanagh Leaves Too Soon
The calendar began on a tragic note for the state’s compact hockey community when, on Jan. 6, Warwick’s own Tom Cavanagh was found dead in the parking garage at Providence Place Mall. His untimely passing at the age of 28 was ultimately ruled a suicide and the details as to his struggles with mental illness gradually unfolded over the ensuing weeks.

Cavanagh, a former ironman at Toll Gate and Harvard University and journeyman with three AHL New England teams, had been released from the Springfield Falcons two months before his death. His last point was an assist on opening night against the P-Bruins at The Dunk.

A member of a vast, puck-loving clan, Cavanagh’s funeral was attended by the entire Falcons’ team as well as the men’s teams from Harvard and Providence College, alma mater of his younger brother, David, and cousin, John Cavanagh.

Friars Discharge Army
After three years of exponentially evident futility, the PC men’s program finally conceded that not all dream matches come true.

One week removed from missing the Hockey East playoffs for the third time in as many years, East Providence product and former Friars’ captain Tim Army was relieved of his head coaching duties.

Army had initially rolled up an almost respectable record of 41-56-11 over the first half of his tenure, but then saw his alma mater’s run of 24 consecutive conference playoff appearances end. Upon failing to restore the program’s relevance on two mulligans, he gave way to Nate Leaman, who was formally introduced May 3.

So far, Leaman has this year’s Friars sitting fifth in Hockey East with games in hand and above the .500 fence with an 8-7-1 national record. That already matches PC’s win total from 2010-11.

Cassidy Inherits Murray’s Mess
Not unlike the Friars, the P-Bruins have been brooking an unprecedented string of irrelevance. Upon missing the Calder Cup playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in their existence, the Bruins’ top farm club saw GM Peter Chiarelli fork out head coach Rob Murray and elevate assistant Bruce Cassidy.

So far, that tweak has yet to summon the same results as Friar Puck. Apart from two four-game winning streaks, the Baby Bs are still floundering and quickly buried all encouraging memories of their 12-6-1 play-for-pride homestretch from the end of last season.

Nearing the halfway mark of the 76-game schedule, Providence is second-to-last in the AHL’s Eastern Conference. And unlike the parent club, they are at or near the bottom of the league’s offensive and defensive leaderboard.

Digit Done
In keeping with the inadvertent motif of the year, Brown University and women’s head coach Digit Murphy ended their 22-year alliance after the program’s single-worst season in four-plus decades of existence. The Bears had been on a steady downward spiral since 2005-06, their winning percentage worsening or failing to improve by the year.

After four straight seasons of single digits in the win column and three straight campaigns of 20 or more losses, Murphy gave way to Amy Bourbeau, who was 4-5-5 behind the Brown bench at the time of the December deceleration.

Lacasse Edits Record Books
In one valiant losing effort against Boston College in the Women’s Hockey East semifinals March 5, PC junior goaltender Genevieve Lacasse broke Jana Bugden’s program record of 2,555 career saves. One period later, she broke Northeastern counterpart Florence Schelling’s hours-old record of 44 stops in a single WHEA postseason game.

Now in her senior season, Lacasse eclipsed Bugden in another category Nov. 19 when she blanked Vermont, 3-0, for the 15th shutout of her collegiate career. And she will enter 2012 needing one more victory and at least 13 opportunities to top the Friars’ charts under that heading.

Two Providence Teams Crash Whale Bowl
The two-week Whaler Hockey Fest in neighboring Connecticut this past February featured two of hockey’s best Ocean State-Nutmeg State rivalries, and in both cases, Providence dampened the home party with a victory.

On Sunday, Feb. 13, the PC women’s team edged UConn, 4-3, thus sweeping their three-game season series. Six nights later, in the marquee climax of the Fest, the P-Bruins deleted 2-0 and 4-3 deficits to top the Connecticut Whale in a shootout, 5-4.

The AHL game set a league attendance record with an audience of 21,673 on hand at East Hartford’s Rentschler Field.

Environmental Wake-up Call
After a Feb. 17 game between Johnson and Wales and Curry College at the Rhode Island Sports Center, 28 members of the visiting Curry team were hospitalized with various symptoms that are readily attributed to the rink’s Zamboni fumes. Exposure to nitrogen dioxide required a majority of the players to remain in the hospital for a full two days.

The North Smithfield ice facility responded by acquiring an electric resurfacing machine in the offseason.

A Bear For The Buds
The Brown men’s program splashed a seven-year drought by having its first entrant in the NHL Draft since 2004. Defenseman Dennis Robertson, currently a sophomore with the Bears, was chosen 173rd overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Two other Brown alumni made a slightly bigger splash in The Show as Aaron Volpatti and Harry Zolnierczyk broke in with the Vancouver Canucks and Philadelphia Flyers, respectively.

Mounties Still At The Summit
For the second consecutive season and the third time in the school’s history, Mount Saint Charles Academy garners the state championship in both boys’ and girls’ hockey.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: December 30

1992: Sergei Zholtok’s first North American pro hat trick fuels a 7-1 romp over the New Haven Senators at the Providence Civic Center.

2002: Andre Savage and Carl Corazzini each prolong a four-game point-scoring streak by scoring the P-Bruins goals in a 2-2 knot with Hershey.

2004: Keith Aucoin’s hat trick and four-point night pilots a 4-2 win over the Falcons at the Springfield Civic Center.

2005: Tyler Redenbach and Nate Robinson record two points apiece to help the P-Bruins surmount a 2-1 deficit in the third period en route to a 4-2 win at Portland.

2006: Jonathan Sigalet stands out in a losing cause, assisting on each Providence goal in a 5-4 decision at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

2009: Mikko Lehtonen and Andy Wozniewski are both named to the 2010 PlanetUSA All-Star team.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: December 29

1993: Second-year pro Scott Bailey makes his debut in the Providence net against the Hershey Bears. His 42-save effort, including a foiled penalty shot on Yanick Dupre, helps the P-Bruins to a 3-3 tie at Hersheypark Arena.

1996: Paxton Schafer lays a 30-save goose-egg while Jean-Yves Roy scores a playmaker hat trick in a fight-filled, 5-0 home victory over Fredericton that halts a six-game losing streak.

2002: The P-Bruins reclaim first place in their division upon pacing themselves to a 3-2 home win over Manchester.

2006: In a visit to Philadelphia, the P-Bruins bend Phantoms goaltender Martin Houle with 34 regulation shots and seven overtime stabs, then break him in the shootout. Kris Versteeg and David Krejci combine for three shootout conversions to finalize a 4-3 win at the Spectrum.

2007: The P-Bruins delete 2-0 and 3-2 deficits en route to their third road win in as many nights and as many cities. In the shootout, all four Providence skaters beat Portland goaltender Gerald Coleman while Tuukka Rask stops two of his three challengers to cement a 4-3 victory at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

2009: For the second time in 11 nights, the P-Bruins reap a 3-2 overtime victory out of Springfield’s MassMutual Center. Mikko Lehtonen and Trent Whitfield each scrape out two assists, including a collaborating to set up Andy Wozniewski’s power-play strike at 2:18 of the bonus round.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: December 28

2002: Andrew Raycroft bolsters a 4-3 win at Portland with 31 saves, giving the P-Bruin seven wins in a span of eight tries.

2003: Andre Savage pilots the offensive cause with a goal and an assist while Tim Thomas stops 47 out of 50 shots-faced to tie the Lowell Lock Monsters, 2-2, at Tsongas Arena.

2007: David Krejci opens the scoring, then has his second straight night of two assists while Pascal Pelletier has his second straight multipoint outing as part of a 4-2 road win over Bridgeport.

Monday, December 26, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: December 26

1996: In his fourth season with the P-Bruins, former U.S. Olympic captain Peter Laviolette is chosen to assume the same leadership role with the AHL’s World All-Stars.

1999: Calder Cup hero Marquis Mathieu returns from offseason surgery, but his first game in the P-Bruins title defense is marred by a 5-1 loss to Lowell.

2000: Peter Ferraro and Eric Nickulas insert two unanswered goals within the first half of the third period, ultimately turning a 3-1 deficit into a 3-3 home tie with the Portland Pirates.

2003: Peter Hamerlik repels all 14 first-period shots while Carl Corazzini sets up Ivan Huml’s icebreaker at 19:47 of the opening frame. After the Manchester Monarchs fill the two-goal pothole singlehandedly dug by Huml, Corazzini restores the P-Bruins lead for good en route to a 3-2 win at The Dunk.

2004: The P-Bruins extend their home winning streak to five games and their overall unbeaten streak to nine with a 3-2 win over the Lowell Lock Monsters.

2005: Ben Guite assists on both regulation goals and Nate Robinson inserts the lone shootout strike on either side in a 3-2 home win over Lowell.

2008: Martins Karsums has a hand in both regulation goals, then scores the shootout winner to top the Worcester Sharks, 3-2, at DCU Center. Tuukka Rask stops 46 out of 48 shots in the first 65 minutes, then repels four out of five in the shootout for the win.

Friday, December 23, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: December 23

1994: Trailing, 2-0, at the first intermission, the P-Bruins perk up late in the third period to tie the Portland Pirates, 2-2, courtesy of Fred Knipscheer and Sergei Zholtok.

1998: A multipoint performance by Randy Robitaille highlights a 4-1 win over the Springfield Falcons. That win would be the first of 11 straight for the P-Bruins.

2000: Jeremy Brown scores a shorthanded equalizer for a 2-2 tie with the Hamilton Bulldogs at the Copps Coliseum.

2006: Nate DiCasmirro scores two goals and Matt Lashoff two assists to beat Hartford, 3-1, and halt a four-game losing streak.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: December 21

1996: The Carolina Monarchs sweep a back-to-back series with a 5-2 win in what will prove to be the Baby Bs’ final visit to the Greensboro Coliseum.

2001: Andrew Raycroft blanks the Philadelphia Phantoms, 2-0, to pole-vault the P-Bruins into first place in the Eastern Division.

2005: A 2-1-3 night for Nate Robinson plus two assists apiece via Pascal Pelletier and Ben Walter paces Providence to a 4-1 home win over Manchester.

2007: For the second time in a span of seven days, the P-Bruins brand the Lowell Devils with a 6-1 knockout, giving them their second five-game winning streak in a span of 11 ventures.

2008: Mikko Lehtonen scores the game-winner, Wacey Rabbit has a hand in both doses of insurance and Tuukka Rask stops all 23 shots to shut out Springfield, 3-0, at The Dunk.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: December 20

2000: Initially trailing 1-0 and later 2-1, the P-Bruins hush the Hartford Civic Center with a 4-2 win, finalized by Jon Coleman’s go-ahead goal and Hartford native Marquis Mathieu’s empty-netter.

2002: A hat trick via Kris Vernarsky and two goals by Lee Goren help to throttle the visiting Lowell Lock Monsters, 6-2, at The Dunk.

2003: Trailing 3-0 and later 4-2, the P-Bruins extract a 4-4 tie out of the Cumberland County Civic Center with Kevin Dallman’s equalizer coming on Portland’s five-minute penalty kill within the final three minutes of regulation.

Monday, December 19, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: December 19

1997: With two goals and an assist via Landon Wilson, the P-Bruins top Portland, 5-2, at the Providence Civic Center.

2008: The P-Bruins win their first-ever confrontation with the Toronto Marlies, claiming a 4-3 shootout decision at The Dunk. Martin St. Pierre scores a goal and an assist in regulation, then converts on both of his shootout tries, including a sixth-round strike that eventually wins it.

2009: Mikko Lehtonen draws a 2-2 knot with 2:29 left in regulation and Zach Hamill scores 62 seconds into overtime to beat the host Springfield Falcons.

2010: Max Sauve draws a 1-1 knot at 4:46 of the second period, then inserts the eventual clincher 74 seconds into the third as the P-Bruins stamp a 3-1 home win over Springfield.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: December 18

1998: Former PC Friar Joe Hulbig’s equalizer and Jeff Daw’s sudden-death strike gives the Hamilton Bulldogs a 3-2 overtime win at the Civic Center, snapping the P-Bruins nine-game home winning streak. However, the Baby Bs’ home unbeaten streak is still technically intact as they cultivate a point through the regulation tie.

2004: Despite conceding the extra point to the Wolf Pack in a shootout at the Hartford Civic Center, the P-Bruins extend their unbeaten streak to eight games (6-0-2).

2010: Kirk MacDonald and Jamie Arniel score 52 seconds apart midway through the third period to sculpt a 2-0 lead, enough for the P-Bruins to subsist through an eventual 2-1 road win over the two-time defending champion Hershey Bears.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins vs. Manchester Monarchs

Opening draw
At 2-8-3 in their last 13 outings, the Providence Bruins have whittled off four of their last seven points at the expense of the Manchester Monarchs. They are technically unbeaten in their last three bouts with Manchester, having conceded two shootouts on the road and won a 1-0 thriller at home Nov. 11.

As it happens, that has been the P-Bruins’ only home victory in six tries (1-4-1) since Halloween.
With Manchester paying its fourth and penultimate visit of the regular season to the Dunkin Donuts Center Friday night, they will vie to renew their lately elusive victory potion to drench an eight-game victory drought (0-6-2).

In their last extramural engagement, and last meeting with the Monarchs, the Bruins cut off a succession of four straight regulation losses and matched a season high with four goals in 60 minutes. Although, Jordan Caron had a hand in two of those goals and has since returned to Boston.

Notable names
Monarchs’ defenseman David Kolomatis has tallied three of his four goals this season in three different encounters with the P-Bruins, the latest being last Saturday up at Verizon Wireless Arena. With his goal Nov. 27 at Bridgeport, Kolomatis has tuned the opposing mesh twice in his last four games overall.

Following a six-game production drought, forward Brandon Kozun is fostering a season-best five-game point-getting streak, tallying two goals and three helpers in that span. That doubles his point total from where it was prior to the streak.

Winger Dwight King has three assists through the first half of the Monarchs-Bruins season series. Center Marc-Andre Cliche has an assist in each of the Monarchs two home dates with Providence so far, but has been held pointless in all three visits to The Dunk.

The Monarchs are 2-for-18 on the power play over their last five games, their only two conversions coming in their last clash with the P-Bruins, when each team went 2-for-6.

If winning percentages are any indication, Manchester is on pace to finish second in the Atlantic Division, but to grab the eighth and final playoff spot on the Eastern Conference leaderboard.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: December 9

1994: On the strength of two goals and two assists via Tim Tookey, along with three-point outings for both Brett Harkins and Sergei Zhotolk, the P-Bruins surmount an initial 2-0 deficit and thrash the Binghamton Rangers, 6-3.

2005: Old friend Keith Aucoin’s playmaker hat trick virtually spells the difference in a 3-2 home loss to the Lowell Lock Monsters.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: December 8

2001: Andrew Raycroft backstops his third win in four nights while Ivan Huml and Eric Manlow both tune the mesh for the second consecutive night in a 3-1 home win over Springfield.

2002: The P-Bruins surmount initial 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to top the Hartford Wolf Pack, 5-2, at The Dunk, snapping a five-game winless skid.

2004: The P-Bruins win their first shootout in three tries to finalize a 5-4 win over Albany at the Pepsi Center.

2006: The P-Bruins extend their point-getting streak to four games upon beating the visiting Portland Pirates, 6-3. Pascal Pelletier and Kris Versteeg pilot the offense with three points apiece while another three skaters (Bobby Allen, Matt Lashoff and T.J. Trevelyan) each notch a goal and an assist.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: December 7

2001: Sean Haggerty notches two assists as part of a three-goal second period that makes all the difference in a 3-0 home win over the Quebec Citadelles. It will prove to be the Citadelles final visit to Providence.

2003: A three-goal sugar rush early in the third period―led by Zdenek Kutlak, Brendan Walsh and Andre Savage―instantly turns a scoreless draw into a 3-0 road win over Lowell.

2007: With two-point nights for Brett Skinner, Martins Karsums and Pascal Pelletier, the P-Bruins win their fifth consecutive game (all at home) by knocking off the Chicago Wolves, 4-3.

2008: Martin St. Pierre assists on three goals, two of which come off the stick of Johnny Boychuk and two of which are collaborations with Martins Karsums, as part of a 5-1 home win over Springfield.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Where Were They Then?

With the Boston Bruins paying their first business trip to Winnipeg since Dec. 31, 1995, now is the time to assess how much has changed in each Bruins’ life and career in the 16-year Jets-free interlude.

Here is a quick note as to where each current Boston player and coach was in the middle of the 1995-96 season and, in at least some cases, a factoid as to where they are on this day.

Tyler Seguin was three years of age going on four in Greater Toronto when the Bruins last visited the old Jets. The franchise’s first visit to the new Jets will also happen to be Seguin’s 100th regular-season game in the NHL.

Jordan Caron was barely old enough to be filed under “Tyke” in Hockey Canada’s age classifications.

Steven Kampfer, depending on his local cutoff date, was either in first or second grade and filed under “Mite” by USA Hockey.

Milan Lucic was old enough to be in second grade. Now he’s on the first line.

Brad Marchand, like Lucic, could not have been anywhere beyond “Grade 2” as they might have phrased it in his native Halifax. Now he is in Year 2 as an established NHL winger.

Tuukka Rask was eight years old in his native Finland. He is now on the verge of his 88th career regular-season start in the NHL.

Benoit Pouliot was an Atom (9-10 age group) player in Ontario.

David Krejci was not yet 10 years old in the Czech Republic and would not resettle in North America for another eight seasons and shortly after the Bruins drafted in the third round in 2004. Since joining the Gatineau Olympiques in the QMJHL, however, he has found steady employment on this side of the Atlantic.

Adam McQuaid was not yet out of elementary school.

Patrice Bergeron was in Grade 5 and in his final year as an Atom. Now he is not too far away from Game No. 500 in his ninth year with the Spoked-Bs.

Nathan Horton, who is Bergeron’s age, has already surpassed 500 career NHL appearances. But two more minor penalties, one more double minor or one more major and he will crack the 500 plateau in the penalty-minute column as well.

Johnny Boychuk was old enough to be in junior high.

Ditto Gregory Campbell and linemate Daniel Paille, who each made their OHL debuts in 2000.

Rich Peverley was old enough to be an eighth grade student. He is now in his eighth year of professional hockey and slated to put in his 300th NHL appearance with his first-ever NHL twirl at the MTS Centre, where he used to visit the Manitoba Moose in his AHL days.

Dennis Seidenberg still needed to wait two more years before joining one of the lower tiers of his native land’s Deutsche Eishockey Liga.

Chris Kelly was still in minor hockey and one year away from stepping into the Junior A ranks in his native Ontario. He was still a decade removed from a permanent spot in The Show but has not looked back since the end of the lockout.

Andrew Ference was in his first full season with the WHL’s Portland Winter Hawks, with whom he played for three more years before turning professional at the start of 1999-00.

Shawn Thornton was in his first of two seasons with the Peterborough Petes, a stint that in turn led to four full years with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate and then six back-and-forth years before coming to Boston.

Joe Corvo was a freshman at Western Michigan University, where he stayed until after his junior season before beginning a minor-league journey in 1998-99. He is now seven outings away, including Tuesday night’s in Winnipeg, from hitting 600 in his NHL game log.

Zdeno Chara was still one year away from relocating to North America and making his Canadian major junior debut with the Prince George Cougars.

Tim Thomas was a junior at the University of Vermont, on the way to his best college campaign that saw him post a 26-7-4 record and help the Catamounts to a Frozen Four appearance. Now he is following up on his best NHL campaign to date.

Head coach Claude Julien was three years removed from ending his playing career and one season away from his debut behind the bench of the Quebec League’s Hull Olympiques.

Julien would help Hull to a league playoff championship and Memorial Cup the following year – Winnipeg’s first without the NHL. And he would not recreate that feeling for himself until last spring, when his Bruins won the Stanley Cup two weeks after the Jets confirmed their reincarnation for this season.

Monday, December 5, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: December 5

1993: The P-Bruins pay their first visit to Albany, where they lose to the River Rats, 3-2, at Knickerbocker Arena.

1999: Despite John Grahame’s 39-save dolphin show, the Worcester IceCats cultivate their first regular-season win over the P-Bruins in exactly one calendar year, claiming a 6-3 decision at the Centrum.

2001: After blowing three leads, the P-Bruins finally punch out the visiting Worcester IceCats, 5-4, on the strength of Joe Hulbig’s goal with 96 seconds left in regulation.

2003: Rich Brennan and Andre Savage delete 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to tie the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 2-2, at The Dunk.

2004: Patrice Bergeron inserts two of the team’s five power-play goals, including the game-winner, in a 6-2 lashing of the Hershey Bears at The Dunk.

2007: Trailing, 3-1, at the second intermission, the P-Bruins outshoot the visiting Wolf Pack, 20-7, in the closing frame and pull even with goals by Matt Hendricks and Matt Lashoff, both assisted by Pascal Pelletier. Hendricks and David Krejci both convert in the ensuing shootout to complete a 4-3 win at The Dunk.

2009: A 4-3 win at Portland gives the P-Bruins a sweep of their four-game road trip. Former Pirate Trent Whitfield scores each of the game’s first two goals and adds an assist on Jordan Knackstedt’s strike. Meanwhile, Brad Marchand is the hero for the third time in four nights, converting a power play at 8:24 of the closing frame to break a 3-3 tie.

2010: Michael Hutchinson (34 saves) gets the better of Jeff Zatkoff (45 saves) in a goaltender’s duel as the P-Bruins edge the Manchester Monarchs, 2-1, at The Dunk.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: December 4

1992: Mike Bales garners the first shutout in P-Bruins history as he turns back all 38 of the Hershey Bears’ shots to backstop a 6-0 triumph at the Civic Center.

1998: Brandon Smith and Landon Wilson each convert on a power play to delete 1-0 and 2-1 deficits against the Hartford Wolf Pack, who had already won four out of four meetings in the season series. In the subsequent overtime, Cameron Mann effectively turns the tables with a walkoff goal.

2005: Eric Healey, Shawn McEachern and Eric Nickulas each collect a goal and an assist to pilot the P-Bruins past Johnny Boychuk and the visiting Lowell Lock Monsters, 3-0. Tim Thomas only needs to deal with 15 shots in the shutout.

2009: Brad Marchand scores his second straight shootout decider to beat the Portland Pirates, 3-2, at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins @ Manchester Monarchs

Opening draw
The Providence Bruins will approach the halfway mark of their 2011-12 season series with the Manchester Monarchs upon visiting Verizon Wireless Arena Saturday night.

Winless in their last seven outings (0-6-1), the P-Bruins will look to pull ahead in the season series after most recently edging the Monarchs, 1-0, on home ice Nov. 11 and extracting a 3-2 shootout decision in their only other excursion to Manchester Nov. 5.

Manchester, on the other hand, hopes to avoid a second consecutive loss to an ostensibly weaker opponent. The Monarchs’ six-game winning streak was obliterated in Binghamton Friday night when the Senators claimed a 4-1 victory.

That upshot, coupled with the P-Bruins’ identical 4-1 falter against Connecticut, flip-flopped the Baby Bs and Baby Sens in their positions as the least successful teams in the Eastern Conference. Providence now has the second-worst winning percentage in the entire AHL (.375) behind the Hamilton Bulldogs (.350).

Notable names
Upon splashing a six-game production drought, winger Brandon Kozun has since tallied a point in each of his last three appearances, giving him a hand in three of the Monarchs’ last seven goals.

Defenseman Slava Voynov, who has played in each of Manchester’s first four meetings with Providence but only eight AHL games overall, was recalled to the parent Los Angeles Kings for the second time this season Nov. 15. He has not been back in the minors since, but rather cemented a regular spot on the active roster, appearing in eight straight NHL games.

Goaltender Martin Jones, Saturday’s presumptive starter for the Monarchs, has won each of his last three starts and is 2-1-0 against Providence with only one goal-against in each of those three meetings.

Both Providence and Manchester are experiencing a bit of a power-play drought. The P-Bruins have deferred on each of their last 15 man-advantage invitations, dating back to Jamie Tardif’s first-period conversion against Norfolk last Friday. The Monarchs, meanwhile, are 0-for-8 over the course of their last three games.

The Monarchs are still riding a five-game winning streak at home, although every win has been decided by a single goal, including one overtime and two shootout decisions.

The P-Bruins are off on Sunday while the Monarchs are slated to visit Worcester before the two parties converge yet again on the Dunkin Donuts Center next Friday.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: December 3

1999: Eric Nickulas returns from a concussion and assists on Eric Manlow’s game-winner to top the visiting Worcester IceCats, 3-2.

2000: Ivan Huml snaps a 1-1 tie with 9:05 to spare in regulation and Eric Manlow finalizes a 3-1 home win over the Albany River Rats.

2003: The P-Bruins surmount a 2-0 deficit to top the host Albany River Rats in overtime, 3-2, at Pepsi Arena. Brett Nowak draws a 2-2 knot with 3:04 to spare in the third period and Kevin Dallman inserts the walkoff strike.

2004: Patrice Bergeron, with the AHL Bruins for the balance of the NHL lockout, is selected to represent Team Canada at the World Junior Championship.

2011: One week after shedding the Hartford Wolf Pack brand, the new Connecticut Whale pays its first visit to Providence, claiming a 3-1 decision.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Post-game Puckbag: Whale 4, P-Bruins 1

Swift summation
The Providence Bruins could have given their resident sympathetic figure, goaltender Anton Khudobin, a bit of a welcome respite Friday night. Entering the depths of the third period, the AHL’s cumulative saves leader appeared to be on pace for his lightest workload of the season.

That prospect ultimately blew apart, however, due to a late gale of penalties. But even before that, the P-Bruins had spotted themselves a losing battle as they authorized a 2-0 deficit within the first 40 minutes, despite pelting Connecticut Whale stopper Chad Johnson with 11 shots in each of the first two periods.

By night’s end, Khudobin had repelled 22 out of 26 shots faced, including 10 of 12 in a third period that more closely resembled a typical 2011-12 P-Bruins’ excursion. The scoreboard was likewise a wretched rerun as the Whale claimed a 4-1 victory before 7,352 fans at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

The first two-thirds of the opening frame constituted a stiff arm-wrestling match, the jutting difference being an icebreaker via Connecticut winger Scott Tanski with 6:13 gone.

Starting at 14:04, the P-Bruins drew three unanswered minors on the Whale and went on a 5-1 run in the shooting gallery to hustle into intermission. But Johnson held his own to maintain his club’s 1-0 advantage.

By the conclusion of the second stanza, Johnson and Co. had dealt with five consecutive penalty kills. Yet on a fleeting, even-strength counterattack, Connecticut’s Tommy Grant beat Providence stopper Anton Khudobin on his first test of the period, roofing home the game’s second goal for a 2-0 edge.

When the calls began to even out in the third, the P-Bruins paid in the form of two 5-on-3 disadvantages and a pair of Whale conversions that came with them.

Zach Hamill did hatch Johnson’s goose-egg by burying a Jordan Caron rebound for a shorthanded strike at 6:13. But that was sandwiched by Kris Newbury redirecting Mats Zuccarello’s power-play bid home 50 seconds prior for a 3-0 lead and Zuccarello inserting his own shot at 15:46 to finalize the 4-1 upshot.

P-Bruins pluses
The long-standing line of Josh Hennessy, Max Sauve and Jamie Tardif keyed the bulk of the first period attack. Not only did they combine for six of the P-Bruins’ first 11 shots, but they were also pressing within intimate distance of Johnson during a late power play when Stu Bickel was cited for cross-checking, amounting to a brief 5-on-3 and a carry-over man-advantage.

Prior to that, Tardif had drawn a tripping penalty on Grant behind the Whale cage. Tardif later drew an interference minor on defenseman Pavel Valentenko as he literally crashed the net in the ninth minute of the middle frame.

Meanwhile, Hennessy repeatedly thwarted Connecticut counterattacks by picking off forward passes in the neutral zone and thrusting the disc back onto Whale property.

Bruins blights
Even with the reinsertion of long-wounded captain Trent Whitfield and Caron, on his second one-game lone from Boston this season, along with the aforementioned efforts of Hennessy’s line, the power play continued to perform like the No. 29 unit in the league. And in special teams and even-strength onslaughts alike, too many passes were off key, too many races lost and too many loose pucks cleared by the Whale.

By night’s end, the P-Bruins were 0-for-7 with the extra body. Perhaps symbolically, their final 10 seconds of their last opportunity were spilled when Andrew Bodnarchuk went off for tripping with 5:09 to spare. He was joined by Jamie Arniel (high-sticking) 20 seconds later and they subsequently watched from their confined space as Zuccarello tallied Connecticut’s second 5-on-3 goal of the night.

Whale notes
Tanski’s goal was his first of the season, although it was originally credited to blueliner Jared Nightingale. Nightingale has not tuned the mesh in his last 38 AHL regular-season games, dating back to when he beat the P-Bruins’ Michael Hutchinson in the Feb. 19 Whale Bowl game at Rentschler Field.

Winger Jared Owens was credited with an assist on each of Connecticut’s first two goals.

Zuccarello led all participants with five shots on net and was joined by Nightingale and Owens in the night’s two-point club.

To make room for the additions of Caron and Whitfield, two P-Bruins forwards were deleted from the roster Friday, one exit presumed temporary, and the other a little closer to permanent. Rookie Kyle MacKinnon was reassigned to ECHL Reading for the first time while Adam Presizniuk was released from his professional tryout after nine days and two appearances in game action.

P-Bruins rookie defenseman Kevan Miller, putting in his first appearance in exactly two weeks after nursing an injury, dropped the gloves with Connecticut forward Andre Deveaux at the 51-second mark of the third period.

Caron and defenseman Matt Bartkowski were the only Providence skaters to finish with a positive rating. Despite putting in only two AHL appearances, Caron now leads the Baby Bs with a plus-2 rating on the year.

Bodnarchuk garnered the secondary assist on Hamill’s goal.

Identical twin brothers Zach McKelvie of Providence and Chris McKelvie of Connecticut have each suited up once in the season series, but have not played against each other yet.

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins vs. Connecticut Whale

Opening draw
The Eastern Conference’s second-worst and second-best will converge on the Dunkin Donuts Center when the Providence Bruins host the Connecticut Whale Friday night.

In terms of winning percentage, the most telling nugget of data as to everyone’s position in the Calder Cup playoff derby, Connecticut (.675) trails only the St. John’s IceCaps (.700) for tops in the conference. The Binghamton Senators (.381) are all that are keeping the P-Bruins (.391) out of the absolute basement.

The P-Bruins have neither donned home game attire nor cultivated a single point since the last time they faced Connecticut, which pilfered a 3-2 shootout decision Nov. 20. Since then, Providence has come up empty on a three-game road trip, conceding one match with Hershey and two straight to Norfolk by an aggregate 12-6 margin.

Overall, the Bruins are nursing a six-game winless streak, their only point being that aforementioned shootout reward in their fall-from-ahead loss to the Whale.

Notable names
Forwards Carl Hagelin and John Mitchell have both been on recall to the parent New York Rangers since Thanksgiving Day. Despite missing their last three games, Hagelin and Mitchell are still in a three-way tie with Jonathan Audy-Marchessault for the Whale team lead with seven goals apiece.

Andre Deveaux, who has not seen AHL game action since the tail-end of October, was reassigned from The Show on Thursday.

Since the Whale’s last meeting with the P-Bruins, Audy-Marchessault has started up a four-game point-getting streak with a cumulative 2-4-6 log in that span. Meanwhile, defenseman Pavel Valentenko has a goal in each of his last two outings.

Since starting the season at 1-2-0, Connecticut has only had trouble with Bridgeport and St. John’s, going a cumulative 1-4-2 against those two teams. But dating back to Oct. 21, the Whale are a pristine 11-0-0 versus all other adversaries.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: December 2

1994: Sandy Moger draws a 2-2 knot on a third period power play and Brett Harkins converts in overtime for a 3-2 win over the visiting Cornwall Aces. With that, the P-Bruins sweep a four-game homestand and extend their overall winning streak to six games, including five at the Civic Center.

1995: In his second game since being sent down to the Baby Bs, Boston goaltending prospect Blaine Lacher shares a shutout with Rob Tallas. Cam Stewart bookends the scoring in the 5-0 win over the Worcester IceCats with a shorthanded goal and a penalty shot conversion while Tim Sweeney inserts a power play goal and adds two assists.

2007: The P-Bruins sweep a three-day slate of home games upon knocking off the Albany River Rats, 5-3.

2009: Mikko Lehtonen tunes the mesh in both regulation and the shootout. Zach Hamill and Brad Marchand add their own one-on-one strikes to spell the difference in a 2-1 road win over Bridgeport.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bruins Puckbag: An Assortment of Observations on Boston and Providence

Thursday’s reassignment of Jordan Caron and Steven Kamper to Providence is at least a week overdue, especially for Caron. So long as Benoit Pouliot is continuing to catch on, it’s only fair that he stay active every night with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley, but Caron needs regular extramural action. I say keep him in Providence for at least the first half of this month and let Zach Hamill be Boston’s 13th forward for the time being.

David Krejci’s newfangled three-year contract is not necessarily an impeccable, but all things considered, it is at least a shrewd idea to keep the upper echelon of the Bruins’ depth chart as it is for the balance of this season. When Krejci and wingers Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic are on their game, as they were Wednesday night against Toronto, they are an integral part of Claude Julien’s ecosystem.

Speaking of Lucic, with his second two-goal performance in as many visits to Toronto, he nudged ahead of Chris Kelly for the team’s best shooting percentage with 23.8 percent accuracy.

For the next two weekends, it’s all Connecticut and Manchester on the P-Bruins’ docket. They will host the Whale on Friday and next Sunday in addition to paying their first visit to the XL Center this season next Saturday. The Monarchs are on deck to host Providence this Saturday and pay their third of five slated visits to the Dunkin Donuts Center a week from Friday.

Is the Boston-Toronto season series the 2011-12 equivalent of Montreal-Boston in 2007-08? The Bruins are halfway there after claiming the first three installments and outscoring the Maple Leafs, 19-5, in that span.

The Baby Bs will not venture outside of New England boundaries again until Jan. 25, when they visit the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. Starting with that, they will play four of five games on the road and outside of this region (Feb. 4 at Adirondack and Feb. 7-8 at St. John’s). But until then, it’s 21 straight games at home or in any of last year’s Atlantic Division cities.

Is it just me or is Zdeno Chara’s productivity flying under the radar? The peerlessly towering blueliner and Bruins’ captain has goals in three of his last four outings and posted a 4-10-14 scoring log in November whilst upping his rating to plus-15, the best among all NHL defensemen. Perhaps most strikingly, he leads Boston’s power play with three goals and seven points.

In the NHL as a whole, Chara is tied with Brad Marchand for third in the plus/minus column. They trail only teammates Kelly (plus-16) and Tyler Seguin (plus-19). Patrice Bergeron is in a three-way tie with Florida’s Tomas Fleischmann and St. Louis’ Alex Steen for fifth with a plus-14.

The P-Bruins turned a few heads by outdrawing their co-tenants, PC men’s basketball, last season. So far this year, with 13 home games under their belt, the local AHL entry has drawn about 6,352 fans per night. The Friar hoops team has played four nonconference games on the Dave Gavitt Court before an average audience of 5,552. But there is still plenty of time, not to mention nine Big East games, for that to change.

In two fewer games, Gregory Campbell, Kelly, Lucic and Peverley have each already charged up more points this regular season than they did over the course of the 2011 playoffs. In addition, the otherworldly Tim Thomas is retaining the exact same save percentage (.940) and a slightly better goals-against average (1.93 this regular season versus 1.98 in last year’s playoffs).

Brian McGrattan was a P-Bruins’ enforcer at this time last year and saw no NHL action in 2010-11, including after his rights were swapped over to the Anaheim Ducks in February. So far this year, he leads the Nashville Predators with 34 penalty minutes.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: December 1

1995: Mark Cornforth and Ted Crowley each log a three-point game to pilot a 9-2 throttling of the Rochester Americans, the eventual Calder Cup champions.

2000: Zdenak Kutlak’s two goals pilot the P-Bruins to their sixth consecutive victory, a 5-2 home triumph over the Lowell Lock Monsters.

2001: The P-Bruins engage the expansion Manchester Monarchs for the first time at Verizon Wireless Arena, where they lose, 3-1.

2006: The Sigalet brothers make all the difference in a 1-0 home win over the Lowell Devils. Jonathan Sigalet stops all 23 of Lowell’s shots while Jonathan Sigalet inserts the game’s only goal on a power play at 14:06 of the second period.

2007: With 11 skaters contributing to the outburst, the P-Bruins sculpt a 5-0 lead all within the second period en route to a 5-1 home win over Rochester.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 30

2007: The P-Bruins win their first-ever confrontation with the Rockford IceHogs, taking a 5-4 shootout decision at The Dunk. David Krejci joins Chris Collins in scoring a goal and an assist apiece in regulation, then joins Jeff Hoggan in beating goaltender Corey Crawford in the shootout.

2008: Brad Marchand’s goal at 3:33 of overtime beats Hartford, 4-3, and extends the P-Bruins home winning streak to six games.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 29

1992: The P-Bruins win their second and final confrontation with the Halifax Citadels, claiming a 7-4 decision at the Civic Center.

1996: The P-Bruins pay their first visit to the historic Spectrum in Philadelphia and fall short to the formidable Phantoms, 6-3.

2002: Andy Hilbert’s second hat trick pilots a 5-2 home win over the Lowell Lock Monsters.

2003: Former PC Friars captain and soon-to-be P-Bruins captain Jay Leach makes his debut with the Spoked-Ps in a 7-0 road loss to Manchester.

2008: Vladimir Sobotka has a hand in both goals while Tuukka Rask repels all 27 shots to blank the Springfield Falcons, 2-0, at MassMutual Center.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Is This P-Bruins Team Worse Than 97-98?

There are a multitude of reasons to either accept or object to the shootout as well as the outright elimination of ties that came with it back in 2004-05.

For Providence Bruins fans, this particular season, the shootout has been little more than the ultimate sugarcoating. With three of the P-Bruins’ eight wins decided by way of the one-on-one derby, it is all that is keeping the superficial observer from evoking memories of the team’s single-worst season in franchise history.

Recall that, in 1997-98, when Providence finished last in what was then an 18-team AHL under the misguidance of Tom McVie, the only prominent league to use the shootout was its since-deceased rival, the International League.

As was learned a year later when Peter Laviolette came to initiate a District-Five-to-Ducks turnaround, that team had an abundance of capable personnel. The likes of goaltender John Grahame, defenseman Elias Abrahamsson and forwards Cameron Mann, Randy Robitaille and Landon Wilson formed part of a returning corps that garnered the 1999 Calder Cup title.

With goaltender Anton Khudobin, long-tenured blueliner Andrew Bodnarchuk and strikers like Zach Hamill, Josh Hennessy, Max Sauve and Jamie Tardif, this 2011-12 team theoretically could have at least been a threat. No need to be a record-setting runaway, but a reckonable club would have generated little surprise.

The fact that this P-Bruins’ group is instead languishing the way it has been for the first two calendar months of action is enough to size them up with the peerlessly plebeian 1997-98 installment.

But back then, if a regular-season game’s ice chips hadn’t settled in the standard, 60-minute time frame, each team got a hard-earned point and proceeded to a bite-size bonus round to go for the extra point.

If no goals were scored over the next five minutes of play, then that third point was withheld and each team settled for a tie. If you surrendered a sudden-death goal, you settled for the regulation tie. If you tuned the mesh, the win was yours.

En route to an eventual 19-49-12 finish, the 1997-98 P-Bruins were 6-12-5 at the 23-game mark, with all six wins decided in regulation and two of their five regulation ties being overtime losses.

After 23 games this season, Providence bears an 8-13-2 transcript with four regulation wins, one overtime triumph, three shootout victories, one overtime loss and one shootout falter.

But imagine if this were at least eight years ago, before the advent of the shootout. None of those four lightning rounds would have happened. Accordingly, under the previous system, the Bruins’ record today would read 5-13-5.

Translation: They would have three points fewer on this season as well as one win and two points fewer than their infamous ancestors had at this point of their itinerary.

Oh, and this may be an awkward time to mention, but as of this season, these P-Bruins have four fewer opportunities to make up for lost ground. Additionally, in contrast to the McVie team, Bruce Cassidy’s pupils have six additional Eastern Conference rivals to overcome if they are to earn a slot in the Calder Cup playoffs.

As mortifying as it was in the former days to be the odd team out when 16 out of 18 AHL teams earned bonus springtime action, today’s P-Bruins are in stark danger of their third straight postseason no-show.

Of the four other times they have whiffed on a playoff passport, the P-Bruins have never had as low a bushel of regulation/overtime wins after their first 23 games. In 1993-94, they started at 7-13-3. They were 11-11-1 at this point in 2009-10 with only one shootout win. And last year, they were 9-10-4 with eight victories decided with a clock running.

And while the misery of a non-playoff AHL season has more company than it did before the turn of the century, Providence is presently third-to-worst in terms of winning percentage. In the 30-team circuit, their .391 success rate compares favorably only to that of the Binghamton Senators (.381) and Hamilton Bulldogs (.368).

But delete the B-Sens, who did not exist until 2002 and whose city started going without Triple-A hockey in 1997, and last place would be the P-Bruins’ to take once the Worcester Sharks start using their six games in hand.

And the Senators themselves have two games in hand on Providence, whom they trail by only two points.

This means that, at this rate, the shootout could do what years of expansion might fail to do. That is, salvage the genetically modified table scraps of dignity the 2011-12 Providence Bruins may require to avoid lowering the bar set by their 1997-98 counterparts.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 28

1996: On Thanksgiving night, the P-Bruins rout the Binghamton Rangers, 6-1, in the final meeting between the two teams at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. The Rangers would visit Providence one more time before becoming the Hartford Wolf Pack the subsequent summer.

1997: Shawn Bates scores a hat trick on Jean-Sebastien Giguere, spelling the difference in a 5-2 home victory over the Saint John Flames.

2003: Rich Brennan and Martin Samuelsson pilot the scoring with two points apiece as the P-Bruins pace themselves past the Portland Pirates, 4-3. The win amounts to four straight home victories and a 5-0-1 unbeaten streak at The Dunk.

2007: With a 2-1 overtime loss to the visiting Springfield Falcons, the P-Bruins record morphs to 14-3-3 with 31 out of a possible 40 points.

2008: The P-Bruins take a 2-0 lead over Worcester into the first intermission, spill a 3-2 difference through 40 minutes, then score three unanswered goals to regain the lead and stamp a 5-3 win at The Dunk.

2009: Guillame Lefebvre scores twice in regulation and Mikko Lehtonen converts Trent Whitfield’s feed at 4:19 of overtime to beat the Wolf Pack, 3-2, at Hartford’s XL Center. Kevin Regan stops 40 out of 42 shots, including 15 in the third period and overtime.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 27

1994: After scoring thrice in the first seven minutes of regulation, the P-Bruins pace themselves to a 4-1 win over Springfield.

2004: Andy Hilbert has a hand in the first two goals, which ultimately spell the difference in beating the Lowell Lock Monsters, 3-1, at Tsongas Arena.

2005: Tyler Redenbach converts two Ben Guite passes in an eventual 4-3 shootout loss to Manchester at Verizon Wireless Arena.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 26

1999: Jay Henderson and Jeff Wells both score within the final four minutes of regulation, turning a 2-0 deficit into a 2-2 draw with the Worcester IceCats at the Providence Civic Center.

2003: Colton Orr and Kevin Dallman each splash their season-long goal-scoring droughts, spelling the difference in a 3-1 home win over the Springfield Falcons.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins @ Norfolk Admirals

Opening draw
Mired in a season-worst four-game winless streak, the Providence Bruins will vie to reverse their fortunes with a two-night stay in Norfolk, beginning Friday evening with a 7:05 puck-drop.

The host Admirals have already raided the Dunkin Donuts Center twice in as many scheduled visits, winning 4-2 and 3-0 decisions on Oct. 28 and Nov. 6, respectively.

With Wednesday night’s 4-3 falter to Hershey, the P-Bruins have dropped to 0-3-0 against East Division residents. They have three more matches with that division yet to come, including this weekend’s two-set with the Admirals and a home date with the Bears on Feb. 17.

Notable names
Admirals’ top gun Cory Conacher has been held pointless in only two of his first 18 outings and pitched in an assist in both of Norfolk’s visits to Providence earlier this autumn.

Rookie Carter Ashton’s scoring touch has slightly tapered off since he collected a goal-assist value pack against the P-Bruins on Nov. 6. In six games since then, he has chipped in a helper against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, logged another 1-1-2 night versus St. John’s and been held off the scoresheet four times. Nonetheless, he still leads the Admirals with 12 goals, is tied for first in the AHL in the same category and is third on their charts with 19 points on the year.

Ashton and defenseman Jeff Dimmen are tied for second among league rookies with 11 minor penalties apiece.

Winger Dana Tyrell was recalled to the parent Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday.

Goaltenders Jaroslav Janus and Dustin Tokarski continue to split the workload evenly for Norfolk. Last time out, Janus endured six goals on 26 shots in a 6-3 home loss to Charlotte on Wednesday, so look for Tokarski to guard the cage against the P-Bruins for at least Part I of this set.

The P-Bruins have not visited the Norfolk Scope since Feb. 27, 2009, Martin St. Pierre inserted the decider en route to a 3-2 victory. Andrew Bodnarchuk, Zach Hamill, Kirk MacDonald and assistant-turned-head coach Bruce Cassidy are the only Providence holdovers from that evening. The Providence roster that night also featured four current Boston staples in Johnny Boychuk, Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid and Tuukka Rask.

In terms of winning percentage, the P-Bruins are second-worst in the Eastern Conference with a .429 success rate. Only the defending Calder Cup champion Binghamton Senators are faring worse with a .421 percentage.

Two nights after facing the league’s most potent home-ice power play in Hershey, the P-Bruins will face the No. 2 team in that category these next two nights. The Admirals have converted 10 of 36 opportunities at The Scope for a 27.8 percent success rate. Although, Norfolk is also the worst penalty-killing team at home with only 67.6 percent success.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 25

1994: One week after they ended a five-game losing skid at the expense of the Baby Habs, the P-Bruins throttle the Fredericton Canadiens once more, 8-2, to augment their winning streak to four games. Daniel Lacroix and Grigori Panteleev each log a multi-goal game in the Black Friday matinee that effectively replaces that of the parent Boston Bruins, who at the time are still in the midst of a lockout.

1995: Davis Payne splashes his 18-game goal-scoring drought with two strikes as part of a come-from-behind, 3-1 road victory over Adirondack.

1998: The P-Bruins garner national airtime on both CNN and ESPN2 when they sculpt a whopping 10-1 lead in the first period and pace themselves to a 14-2 victory in Syracuse. Randy Robitaille sets a franchise record with five goals on the night and adds two assists to join Landon Wilson in the exclusive seven-point club. Andre Savage and Cameron Mann insert two goals of their own in the record-setting first period with Mann’s stick going to the Hockey Hall of Fame after he scores the team’s 10th goal.

2005: The P-Bruins play their fourth consecutive overtime game and win their third straight with a 5-4 decision against Portland at The Dunk. Fueled by the multipoint efforts of Ben Guite (goal, assist), Jason MacDonald (goal, assist), Tyler Redenbach (two assists) and Jonathan Sigalet (two assists), the Bs delete 1-0, 3-1 and 4-2 deficits before Ben Walter converts in sudden-death.

2009: Seven different point-getters pace the P-Bruins past the defending champion Hershey Bears, 4-1, at the Giant Center.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 24

2000: Peter Vandermeer and Eric Nickulas both score in a fight-filled, 2-1 home win over Hartford.

2002: Andrew Raycroft’s 26-save shutout highlights a 4-0 whitewash of the Albany River Rats at The Dunk.

2007: The P-Bruins improve to 14-2-1 on the year with a 5-4 shootout win at Worcester’s DCU Center. David Krejci is one of four Providence skaters to record two points in regulation, then the first of three straight―along with Matt Hendricks and Brett Skinner―to connect in the shootout.

2010: With a 2-1 overtime win at Bridgeport, finalized by Jamie Arniel’s third sudden-death strike of the season, the P-Bruins improve to 6-0-1 in their last seven road games.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins @ Hershey Bears

Opening draw
Wednesday night’s renewal of the Ultimate Ursine battle will pit conflicting endeavors to snap out of a winless funk as the Providence Bruins, on the heels of a one-point-in-three-game weekend, visit the Hershey Bears, who have lost their last four overall and last two in a shootout.

Hershey is presently running away with the league’s most lethal power-play brigade with a 30.1 percent success rate. On home ice, the Bears have converted 16 out of 42 man-up invitations for an average of 38.1 percent.

The Bears’ penalty killing at the Giant Center is irreproachable in its own right, allowing only three goals on 35 scenarios for a 91.4 percent survival rate.

The Bears have multiple games in hand on the majority of their cohabitants, meaning they are technically tied with the Adirondack Phantoms for the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference with a .594 winning percentage.

Wednesday’s first period could be a telling indicator as to the ultimate upshot of the game. The Bears have scored 23 goals in the opening frame, second in the league to St. John’s (24), whereas the P-Bruins have accrued an AHL-worst minus-12 differential in the first 20 minutes.

Notable names
Former P-Bruin Keith Aucoin is in a three-way for third on the AHL leaderboard with 21 points and is second only to Peoria’s TJ Hensick with 17 assists.

Decorated Calder Cup hero Chris Bourque and newly acquired veteran Jacob Micflikier also rank within the top 10 producers among active AHLers, brandishing 9-11-20 and 8-11-19 transcripts, respectively.

Six of Bourque’s goals, nine of Aucoin’s helpers and 12 of Micflikier’s points have come on the power play. Defenseman Patrick McNeill has pitched in a jutting eight assists with a man-advantage himself.

Andrew Carroll is tied with a familiar Providence foe, Richard Clune of Manchester, for the league lead with eight major penalties.

Goaltender Dany Sabourin, who transferred to Hershey last year after spending 2009-10 in the Bruins’ system, has made 30 appearances with the Bears, but has yet to face Providence. He will, however, reportedly get the nod on Wednesday.

The Bears have had five games stretch beyond regulation, but have settled for the single point every time, authorizing three sudden-death strikes and bowing in two shootouts. Out of eight total shootout attempts, only Micflikier has hit the back of the net for Hershey.

Wednesday will mark the P-Bruins second straight meeting with one of Hall of Fame Boston blueliner Ray Bourque's sons. Ryan Bourque is a rookie with the Connecticut Whale, who pilfered a 3-2 shootout decision at the Dunkin Donuts Center on Sunday.

The P-Bruins will host Hershey in the teams’ only other encounter this season on Feb. 17.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 23

1994: Mike Bodnarchuk draws a 2-2 knot midway through the third period and Jeff Serowik breaks it with 6:17 to spare en route to a 3-2 home win over the newfangled Syracuse Crunch. With the NHL lockout still in session, the game is nationally televised on ESPN2.

2001: Five different goal-scorers fuel a 5-2 home win over Springfield, putting the P-Bruins above the .500 mark for the first time since their season opener.

2002: Tim Thomas bolsters a 5-2 win at Manchester’s Verizon Wireless Arena, halting 41 out of 43 Monarchs’ shots.

2005: Defenseman Jonathan Sigalet scores in overtime to beat the host Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 2-1.

2007: Seven individual point-getters pace the P-Bruins to a 3-2 home win over Portland.

2008: Martin St. Pierre (goal, assist), Brad Marchand (playmaker hat trick) and three other multipoint performers pilot the P-Bruins past the Hartford Wolf Pack, 6-3.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Providence Bruins First Quarter Report Card

As the Providence Bruins rolled over the one-quarter mark of their 76-game schedule this past weekend, at least 75 percent of their forwards can be branded “underachievers.” They have held only 16 leads in a span of 20 games, expanding only two of those to a multi-goal advantage and blowing 11 of them altogether. The race for the distinction of the team’s plus-minus leader looks about as competitive as the old Celebrity Jeopardy! parodies from “Saturday Night Live.”

Still, with their record two games below .500, the P-Bruins have had a few flickers of gratification, rewarding the modest handful of consistent (or very nearly consistent) performers.

Those forlorn bastions of brightness, along with all that needs extra grooming for the next four-plus months and 56 games, are addressed in the following position-by-position evaluation.

Offense: D
Even with the revolving door to the wounded ward, the Providence strike force ought to have aggregated more than 44 regulation goals at the 20-game mark. Various injuries to Stefan Chaput, Josh Hennessy, Max Sauve, Jamie Tardif and Trent Whitfield ought not to preclude the likes of Jamie Arniel, Kirk MacDonald and Lane MacDermid from stepping up and furthering their own development.

As it happens, the veteran linemates Hennessy and Tardif have missed two and four games, respectively. Chaput, ostensibly a checking-liner, has missed nine. Yet all three of them have as many goals to their individual credit as Arniel, MacDonald and MacDermid have combined.

The offense’s longest-tenured member, Zach Hamill, and rookie Carter Camper have been the closest to consistent. And maybe they would be cultivating points every weekend if their supporting cast joined in a little more and cut down on all of the five-, six- or seven-shot periods.

Defense: C-minus/D-plus
Most of the time, this blue line brigade looks like one with only a single player―Andrew Bodnarchuk―who has played at least two full professional seasons. Professional sophomores Matt Bartkowski and Colby Cohen could both stand to step up, especially the peerlessly sizeable Cohen, with his 215-pound build.

In another ironic twist, Cohen’s fellow BU Terrier alum, David Warsofsky, is one of the few plus points. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound has recently taken more involvement in the attacking zone and reaped rewards for it with four assists in his last three games.

And ever since the team’s collective sleepskating start in the first three games, Warsfosky has improved his plus-minus rating to even, which ties his with fellow rookie Kevan Miller for second-best on the Providence defense.

Surprise, surprise, Bodnarchuk is No. 1 with a plus-1. Not exactly something to flatter himself about.

Goaltending: B-plus
Anton Khudobin leads the league with eight losses, though that owes at least partially to the fact that he is second in the way of minutes-played with 930:17. That also explains, in part, why he leads all AHL stoppers with 498 saves.

Khudobin has doubtlessly been the spine of the Spoked-Ps, salvaging many of the points they have earned in regulation, overtime and shootout decisions alike. However, he has not been infallible, exiting two of his 16 starts (Oct. 14 and Nov. 18) early upon authorizing five goals.

In his three start-to-finish appearances so far, backup Michael Hutchinson has looked like somebody who has yet to dispel the aftereffects of an early October injury. Each time, he has allowed three goals and lost.

Special Teams: D-minus/F
The P-Bruins boast the league’s penultimate power play with an 11.8 percent conversion rate overall. Only the San Antonio Rampage have fared worse with 8.6 percent success.

More troublingly, Providence is decisively less proficient with the extra man on home ice, converting five out of 50 opportunities in its first 13 twirls at the Dunkin Donuts Center. And on the road, a 4-for-26 success rate still places them at No. 21 in the 30-team circuit.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Bruins are in the middle of the AHL’s penalty-killing pack. But at home, on the road and overall, respectively, the opposition’s power play is still 8.5, 2.5 and 7.5 percentage points better.

If they can build upon Tardif’s recent four-goal weekend going forward, maybe that will change.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 22

1996: Rob Tallas’ 45 saves bolster a 4-2 home win over the Adirondack Red Wings.

1997: A four-goal third period amounts to a come-from-behind, 5-3 win over the Beast of New Haven and snaps the P-Bruins six-game winless streak.

2002: Pat Leahy and Martin Samuelsson both connect to snap a team power-play scoring drought as part of a 3-2 win over Springfield at The Dunk.

2003: After a 2-0 advantage devolves into a 3-2 deficit, defenseman Peter Metcalf gives the P-Bruins a point with a power-play equalizer at 15:56 of the third period, finalizing a 3-3 tie at the Hartford Civic Center.

2009: The P-Bruins trail the Manchester Monarchs, 3-1, at the end of one period and 4-2 through the second intermission. But after rugged defenseman Adam McQuaid scores twice to cut the deficits to 3-2 and 4-3, Kirk MacDonald draws a 4-4 knot at 8:34 of the third period. Then, with 48 seconds left in regulation, McQuaid and Brad Marchand set up Andrew Bodnarchuk for the go-ahead strike en route to a 5-4 win at The Dunk.

Monday, November 21, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 21

2001: After spilling a 3-1 lead and then yielding a 4-3 deficit in the closing minutes of regulation, the P-Bruins rally for a 4-4 tie with the visiting Portland Pirates as Andy Hilbert connects for the equalizer.

2003: Less than three minutes after the Hartford Wolf Pack draw a 1-1 knot, veteran Ted Donato restores the lead with 3:08 left in regulation and stamps a 2-1 victory at The Dunk.

2007: Matt Hendricks assists on two goals, including the game-winner, in a 3-2 victory at Hartford.

2008: The P-Bruins delete a pair of one-goal deficits in regulation before Kevin Regan stops all five shootout attempts while Peter Schaefer converts to beat the visiting Portland Pirates, 3-2.

2010: Jeremy Reich scores the eventual winner while Steven Kampfer has a hand in the other three Providence goals to knock off the Manchester Monarchs, 4-1, at Verizon Wireless Arena.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Post-game Puckbag: Whale 3, P-Bruins 2 (SO)

Swift summation
The Providence Bruins brought a new meaning to delayed penalty upon themselves Sunday afternoon at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

A rare, long-held 2-0 lead over the Connecticut Whale withstood a second period that saw the Bruins take five minor penalties as opposed to only two by Connecticut. But the P-Bruins were patently spent in the third period, for after Connecticut rolled up a light 15-12 edge in the shooting gallery through 40 minutes, the visitors went on a 19-shot sugar rush and deleted their 2-0 deficit.

In the subsequent shootout, rookie Carl Hagelin buried a backhander in the bottom half of the sixth round, snapping a 1-1 tie and handing Providence a vinegary 3-2 final before an audience of 4,721.

In an otherwise uneventful first period, the P-Bruins drew first blood by converting the afternoon’s first power play at 3:18. Persistence paid for point patrolling specialist Carter Camper, who after repeated failed attempts absorbed a feed from Josh Hennessy and launched another stab that dinked off of Jamie Tardif’s twig and through the roof of the Connecticut cage.

When Tardif repeated his act at 1:27 of the second, converting a carry-over power play, Providence had its first multi-goal lead since its first win of the season back on Oct. 15 in Springfield.

A mere 24 seconds later, though, intermittent flurries of penalties kicked in, slightly in favor of the Whale. Beginning with Ryan Button at 1:51 and ending with Jamie Arniel at 19:17, five individual P-Bruins made unaccompanied trips to the sin bin.

That amounted to a cumulative 8:33 of shorthanded time all within the middle frame, including 70 seconds of 5-on-3 and not counting the 77 seconds of Arniel’s slashing sentence that spilled over into the third.

But the Whale could not hatch the goose-egg in any of that time and the P-Bruins did not permit any tests of goaltender Anton Khudobin through the first four minutes of the third period.

From there on in, however, Connecticut erupted for a 19-3 run in the shooting gallery. Along the way, the Whale smuggled in the two requisite goals to force overtime via Brendan Bell and Jordan Owens.

P-Bruins pluses
Tardif nailed his third and fourth 5-on-4 goal in a span of three days after he had endured a six-game goal-less skid over the previous two weekends. During that personal drought, the Providence power play brigade had gone barren in 20 straight opportunities, plus its first three tries against Springfield on Friday. Starting with Tardif’s strike that night, the power play has now converted four of its last nine chances.

Khudobin cannot be faulted much after his workload swelled so much in the latter 15-plus minutes of regulation. Throughout that as well as the precipitating penalty-killing motif of the middle frame, Khudobin’s poise generally translated smoothly to the stats sheet and scoreboard as he foiled every Connecticut power play and at least salvaged a precious point.

Tardif’s linemate Hennessy extended his own point-getting streak and was sharp at the face-off dot most of the time, especially on both sides of the special teams’ spectrum.

Bruins blights
A full barrel of blame can be doled out in equal portions strictly amongst all of the penalty takers, whose lack of discipline was ultimately the silent turning point in this one. Ryan Button, Colby Cohen, Matt Bartkowski, Craig Cunningham and Jamie Arniel all variously taxed their teammates in that second period.

As a consequence, in a penalty-free closing frame, 10 different Providence skaters brooked a minus-1 rating as Connecticut lashed its way back. Perhaps fittingly, all five of the aforementioned were among those on the ice for either Whale goal.

With the exception of Cohen, the red-handed five joined forwards Kyle MacKinnon and Kirk MacDonald in not only losing a plus/minus point, but also failing to land any of the P-Bruins’ 20 shots on goal in 65 minutes of action.

Whale notes
Bell, who earned a secondary assist on Owens’ equalizer, was on the ice for all four regulation goals and was the only Connecticut skater to garner a plus-2 rating.

In addition, Bell led all participants with eight shots on goal. That doubled up the output of the closest runners-up as Connecticut’s Carl Hagelin and Blake Parlett each registered four stabs, as did the P-Bruins’ Camper.

Goaltender Cameron Talbot stopped 15 regulation shots, three more in overtime and five out of six in the one-on-ones to claim his second shootout victory of the season.

Rookie defenseman Marc Cantin, summoned back from ECHL Reading earlier in the day after an 11-day reassignment, put in his first AHL appearance since Oct. 30.

Arniel scored the P-Bruins only shootout goal with a bar-down conversion in the third round. That temporarily offered some hope in response to John Mitchell’s opening round strike for Connecticut.

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins vs. Connecticut Whale

Opening draw
The Providence Bruins will try to avert their first empty three-game weekend of the 2011-12 campaign in Part I of a 10-game season series with the Connecticut Whale at the Dunkin Donuts Center Sunday afternoon.

The Whale were idle on Saturday and were thus inevitably bound to lose their one-point edge for first place of the Northeast Division with Bridgeport facing Springfield. (The Falcons prevailed, 4-1, to usurp the division lead.)

After a 5-1-2 start, the Whale have seen things grow more congested, as evidenced by the Pangaea-like compression in their division as well as their own recent results on the ice. Connecticut is 3-3-1 in its last seven outings, with all three wins coming in overtime or a shootout and all three regulation losses at the hands of the St. John’s IceCaps.

Notable names
Rookie Carl Hagelin is riding a six-game production streak and has inserted a goal in each of his last four outings. Overall, he is tied for the Whale team lead with John Mitchell for the team lead with an identical output of seven goals and 12 assists.

Winger Aaron Voros, who since 2004 has appeared in 251 AHL and 162 NHL games, joined Connecticut this past Tuesday on a professional tryout. He has yet to suit up for extramural action this season.

Since coming down from the parent New York Rangers, blueliner Tim Erixon has put in six appearances and charged up a 1-4-5 scoring log. Erixon enters Sunday’s contest on a three-game point streak, including most recently two helpers in a 3-2 overtime win over Bridgeport on Friday.

Overall, Connecticut has been involved in more shootouts than any other AHL team, upholding a 3-2 record in that scenario.

The Whale are led in the one-on-one department by Mitchell, who is 2-for-5 in his shootout attempts, Brendan Bell (2-for-3) and Mats Zuccarello (a perfect 2-for-2, and he was 2-for-6 throughout last year). For the P-Bruins, Jamie Arniel is 2-for-3 while Zach Hamill, Carter Camper and Josh Hennessy have each converted one shootout try.

The Whale will help to both usher in and end the P-Bruins’ longest hiatus from home ice (12 days) to date this season. After Sunday’s bout, Providence will hit the road for a Thanksgiving Eve visit to Hershey followed by a two-night stay in Norfolk. From there, the Bruins will return home a week from Friday, Dec. 2, to confront Connecticut at The Dunk yet again.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 20

1992: Glen Murray’s overtime goal beats the visiting Springfield Indians and elevates the P-Bruins to a 10-10-1 record, marking the first time the new franchise hits the .500 mark in its young history.

1998: Jim Carey charges up a 31-save shutout while Landon Wilson comes up an assist shy of the Gordie Howe Hat Trick in a 3-0 home win over the expansion Lowell Lock Monsters. With that, the P-Bruins improve their winning streak to a franchise-best seven games. Prior to the streak, they had a sub-.500 transcript at 4-5-1.

1999: Peter Ferraro assists on both Providence goals, including Sean Pronger’s overtime strike in a 2-1 win over the Lowell Lock Monsters at Tsongas Arena.

2004: Andy Hilbert scores the eventual winner and assists on each of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Boyes’ two strikes in a 7-1 romp of the host Portland Pirates.

2005: Alexander Suglobov’s hat trick accounts all of the Albany River Rats offense while the P-Bruins cultivate three strikes of their own to force a shootout. The one-on-one period runs for 12 rounds, culminating in Eric Healey’s game-winner to give Providence the extra point in a 4-3 decision at The Dunk.

2009: Kirk MacDonald breaks a 2-2 tie only 34 seconds after the Springfield Falcons had forged it with 14:35 remaining in regulation. Guillame Lefebvre and Jamie Arniel tack on the insurance for a 5-2 home victory.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins @ Portland Pirates

Opening draw
A week to date, the Providence Bruins let the Portland Pirates pipe burst on the rest of the American Hockey League. Now this Saturday is their chance to quickly plug it back up with a return trip to the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Before clipping the visiting P-Bruins, 4-2, last week, the Pirates had not won consecutive games on the year. But that victory has since led to a three-game winning streak, prolonged with a 4-2 Tuesday triumph over Adirondack and a 3-2 shootout decision Friday night at the expense of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Providence, on the other hand, has followed a strict loss-win-loss pattern over its last nine outings dating back to Oct. 29 and continuing with Friday’s 7-2 submission to the Springfield Falcons. The Bruins have not formulated a win streak of any length since a four-game tear that coincidentally culminated in a 4-3 seesaw triumph at Portland on Oct. 23.

Notable names
Portland winger Jordan Szwarz, who was pointless in seven appearances prior to the P-Bruins’ last visit, has since notched a point in every installment of his team’s winning streak. An assist against Providence and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton sandwiched a goal against Adirondack that came on his only shot on net in any of the last three outings.

Goaltender Marc Cheverie, called up to fill in for an injured Justin Pogge, has made one appearance thus far for the Pirates. After consensus starter Curtis McElhinney authorized two unanswered Adirondack goals on seven shots in less than nine minutes, Cheverie stepped in and repelled all 17 Phantoms bids while his mates sculpted a four-goal rally.

Productive rookie Andy Miele has at least one assist in each of his last five games for a total of six helpers in that span.

P-Bruins forwards Carter Camper and Kirk MacDonald have notched at least one point in all three meetings with the Pirates so far this season. Camper has charged up a goal-assist value pack in both of his first two visits to the Cumberland County Civic Center and leads all participants in the season series with a 2-3-5 transcript.

The Pirates are currently second in attendance among New England AHL teams behind the P-Bruins, drawing an average of 5,588 spectators per night.