There is not much cause to believe that Friday night’s 4-1 loss at the hands of the St. John’s IceCaps is indicative of what the Providence Bruins will put forth in the 2011-12 season.
After all, veteran forward Josh Hennessy, who stands more than a fair chance of topping the team scoring chart, will put off his Black and Gold debut with a mild injury. Familiar defensemen Andrew Bodnarchuk and Nathan McIver each sat out with their own ailments, as did rookie Zach McKelvie.
With the latter three injuries, the initial outlook for this game had the P-Bruins limited to five active defenders bearing a cumulative 86 games worth of AHL experience and only three NHL twirls (all by Colby Cohen).
Uncannily enough, though, the scoreboard scares could have been even worse.
With the emergency insertion of Marvin Degon, a one-time Hartford Wolf Pack and Hamilton Bulldogs rearguard, that AHL man-game total spiked to 250. And it allowed Providence to roll out a full, 18-wheel truck with three full defensive pairings.
Nonetheless, what they had to work with still pales in comparison to what McIver and Bodnarchuk—who have played 306 and 207 AHL games, respectively—may have offered.
The collective inexperience on the Baby Bs’ blue line brigade was exploited to an unusually jutting extent as the IceCaps drew first blood a mere 75 seconds into the action. Former Boston University teammates Cohen and David Warsofsky along with newcomer Marc Cantin were all on the ice as Mark Flood got the puck through for St. John’s.
Max Sauve tuned the mesh on the P-Bruins first registered shot of the season to draw a nimble 1-1 knot at 4:10.
Initially trailing the shooting gallery by a gaping 8-2 margin, Providence utilized the first period’s only power-play—a double-minor to Carl Klingberg—to go on an 8-0 run. But seasoned St. John’s stopper David Aebischer neutralized that entire five-minute tempest, ultimately propping up the 1-1 score through intermission.
For the better part of the latter two stanzas, the Bruins’ bushel of shots suffered from an old-fashioned autumn frost. They only tested Aebischer twice within the first 14-plus minutes while Paul Postma and Klingberg sculpted St. John’s a 3-1 advantage.
By period’s end, Providence had registered five stabs for a 40-minute total of 16. They added a mere six more in the third, five of them coming in a vain, six-minute cramming session, at which point Jason Jaffray’s shorthanded strike had already finalized the score.
Of the Bruins’ 22 shots, only one came off the stick of a blueliner, that being Cantin.
There was plenty of blame to be shared for this glacial meltdown as 11 out of 18 skaters finished in the red under the plus/minus heading. With that being said, it is worth mentioning that Degon and fellow defender Ryan Button were not among them.
And neither was rookie forward Craig Cunningham, who ultimately led the team with four shots on goal.
Three stabs apiece came from prime suspects: Sauve, Zach Hamill, Jamie Tardif and Trent Whitfield.
Jamie Arniel and Carter Camper each got on the scoresheet by assisting on Sauve’s first-period equalizer, but did little in the effort to build upon that. Neither of them had a single shot to his credit at the second intermission. Likewise, Sauve failed to pelt Aebischer at any point in the middle frame after hitting 1-for-3 on him in the first.
Of those three linemates, only Arniel mustered an SOG in the latter 40 minutes.
To quote Reggie Dunlop on a night reminiscent of the opening scenes in Slap Shot, Warsofsky’s transcript took “a savage beating.” In Game 1 of his first full professional campaign, he was on the ice for all five goals, amounting to a minus-3 rating.
Camper also had a night wholly unlike his promising post-college amateur tryout last spring. His assist aside, he failed to land a single shot on net, endured a minus-2 rating and took an ill-timed slashing penalty at 15:13 of the second period.
In their franchise debut, and with a team comprised heavily of former Chicago Wolves and former Manitoba Moose, the St. John’s offensive output was about as balanced as they come. Their four goals amounted to the maximum limit of 12 individual point-getters.
In addition, 14 out of 18 skaters took part in a 31-shot onslaught on Providence stopper Anton Khudobin, who had plenty of fits at the hands of these players as a Houston Aero.
Arturs Kulda took two of the game’s six penalties, but watched with glee from the sin bin when Jaffray inserted his shortie with 18:14 to spare in the game. Kulda also assisted on Postma’s eventual game-winner and joined Flood and Riley Holzapfel with a plus-2 rating apiece.
Aebischer garnered the game’s first-star laurel.
The reported attendance was 10,337.
The P-Bruins dropped to 1-6-0 all-time on the historically unlucky date of Oct. 7.