Saturday, October 15, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: October 15

1993: The P-Bruins pay their first-ever visit to the Charlottetown Civic Center, where they edge the Prince Edward Island Senators, 5-4.

2005: Rookie goaltender Jordan Sigalet wins his Providence debut, stopping 23 of 25 shots to help beat the Portland Pirates, 5-2, at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins @ Springfield Falcons

Opening draw
In the midst of falling back into old patterns and getting off to another acrid October, the Providence Bruins can thirst after continuing at least one favorable trend. Last season, while floundering at home, they reaped their first pair of points at the expense of the Springfield Falcons in the season opener at MassMutual Center.

Saturday night will be their chance to duplicate that. Although, this Falcons team ought to be armed with a little more conviction, having gone 2-1-0 on the road to start its 2011-12 campaign.

Springfield lost at Manchester, 5-2, last Friday, then rebounded to throttle the Albany Devils, 6-3 last Saturday. The Falcons will return home on a bus from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, where they are fresh off a 7-4 win over the Penguins.

The Falcons have already drawn themselves 17 power plays and converted on five of them, including three against the Pens on Friday.

Notable names
Prolific playmaker Martin St. Pierre, who led the P-Bruins with 51 assists and 66 points in 2008-09, is back in North America with his sixth AHL team after playing in three European countries last year. So far, he has put his name on every Falcons’ scoresheet for a total of four points, although he is also nursing a minus-3 rating.

Winger Nick Drazenovic, a former teammate of Trent Whitfield’s with the Peoria Rivermen, is averaging two points per game to start his new life as a Falcon. He has had at least one assist every night through three games and scored twice on five total shots, including the game-winner at Albany last Saturday and a shorthanded strike against the Penguins.

Cody Bass comes from the defending Calder Cup champion Binghamton Senators, with whom he had spent the previous six seasons and seen time with both Drazenovic and new P-Bruin Josh Hennessy.

Fresh UMass-Amherst alumnus Paul Dainton is staying in western Massachusetts to kindle his professional goaltending endeavors with Springfield. So far, he is 1-1-0 in two appearances.

Although they have gone through eight consecutive seasons, six coaching changes and three NHL affiliation changes without a single playoff appearance, the Falcons were recently picked to finish third in the Eastern Conference by The Hockey News. The superficially bold prediction is doubtlessly influenced by the multitude of formidable offseason acquisitions.

Starting on Saturday, the Falcons will play 17 of their next 23 games at home, but the P-Bruins will be the visitor on only one of those occasions. Meanwhile, out of their next seven sporadic road games, the Falcons will pay to visits to the Dunkin Donuts Center (Nov. 18 and Dec. 16).

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bruins’ Bad Fruit Lands Directly Beneath Tree In Providence

As it stands in the first full week of the 2011-12 game schedule, the state of the Bruins family is purely akin to a middle-aged adult with an iffy driving record giving the keys to his/her barely old-enough, barely proven son or daughter.

If you think the elders are the epitome of ineptitude, take a toe-curling gander at how the heirs-apparent of the franchise are handling their business.

You thought it was hair-whitening to see Boston kickstart its Stanley Cup title defense by scraping out only two points in three straight road games?

Hey, at least those games were close and after 180 cumulative minutes, the Spoked-Bs had actually outscored their adversaries, 5-4. And at least none of these were virtual four-pointers against Northeast Division cohabitants

Conversely, after starting their own season with three unanswered dates at the Dunkin Donuts Center, the Providence Bruins are thoroughly barren. They have been outscored, 15-3, by a troika of Atlantic Division rivals en route to a 0-3-0 start.

You think Boston’s power play is comically incompetent, having converted on its very first try and whiffed on each of its last 16 opportunities for a 5.9 percent success rate after four games?

Hey, at least the Spoked-Bs have yet to surrender a shorthanded goal.

Conversely, the P-Bruins have now been outscored on their power play, 2-1. Overall, they are 1-for-14 with the man-advantage, including 23 seconds worth of 5-on-3 time to curtain Friday night’s 7-1 stinker against Manchester.

In his Providence debut, veteran AHL sizzler Josh Hennessy made a promising impression by converting the team’s first man-up opportunity to saw a 2-0 deficit in half. But afterwards, the visiting Monarchs countered with their own power-play strike via Justin Azevedo for a 3-1 edge.

Manchester’s second dose of insurance came from Slava Voynov, who joined St. John’s IceCaps captain Jason Jaffray as the second man to beat Anton Khudobin with a shortie in as many Fridays.

One period after head coach Bruce Cassidy pulled the overcooked Khudobin, the presupposed savior who reeks of Chad Erickson with his 5.09 goals-against average and .851 save-percentage, impressed backup Karel St. Laurent nearly authorized his own shortie. But in a rare, altogether meaningless reversal of fortune, St. Laurent denied Manchester veteran Marc-Andre Cliche on his breakaway in the ninth minute of the third period.

You think Boston’s strike force is slow to thaw out?

Hey, at least former Providence fan favorite Brad Marchand, linemate Rich Peverley and the much-hyped Tyler Seguin can all lay claim to a multipoint outing. They all did that last Saturday in a 4-1 throttling of Tampa Bay.

The P-Bruins, on the other hand, has no multipoint scorers to speak of in an entire span of three games. They have had three different goal-scorers―one and only one per game―and four other men claiming credit for an assist on one and only one of those tallies.

Noteworthy non-scorers so far include captain Trent Whitfield, mainstay winger Kirk MacDonald and 2007 first-round NHL draft choice Zach Hamill.

In fairness, Hamill is shooting the puck in the young phases of the season. But that isn’t saying much considering this team has thrust only 72 stabs at opposing netminders for a precise nightly median of 24.

And of the four skaters tied for the team-high with seven SOG―Jamie Arniel, Colby Cohen, Hamill and Max Sauve―only Sauve has tuned the mesh.

Meanwhile, the opposition has taken a more substantial average of 33.67 shots at the Providence cage. And they have combined for 36 individual point-getters, including six multipoint efforts, for a three-game average upshot of 5-1.

The Monarchs only escalated the issue on Friday, thrusting 39 shots at Khudobin and St. Laurent, who filled in for an injured Michael Hutchinson on the bench and then succeeded Khudobin at 13:25 of the middle frame.

Linden Vey assisted on the two bookending goals and Azevedo inserted two doses of insurance. On top of that, Richard Clune logged a 2-1-3 outing while blueliner David Kolomatis went 1-2-3 on the night.

At this hour, Azevedo and Cliche, who charged up his first career hat trick last weekend, each have as many goals as Providence has as a team. So do 11 other AHLers.

Center Andrei Loktionov, who set up Voynov’s shorthanded strike, now has as many assists as all of the P-Bruins put together. So do seven other AHLers.

As an aside, Bruins buffs are strongly advised not to turn around and face in the direction of Toronto. Joe Colborne, the prime piece of compensation that brought Tomas Kaberle to Boston, has a 2-1-3 log in two games with the Marlies so far.

And Colborne had a penchant for burning the Monarchs when he was a P-Bruin last year, scoring six goals in as many meetings against Manchester between Nov. 21 and Jan. 23.

You think Boston is out of sync as it struggles to “turn the page” from its title? At least a notable number of its players are performing, particularly the goalies and the younger forwards.

Conversely, all of the Baby Bs are in a deep red as they try to build upon last year’s 12-6-1 homestretch.

Post-game Puckbag: Monarchs 7, P-Bruins 1

Swift summation
Oy vey. Does post-Stanley Cup hangover affect Black Aces, too? And is it contagious?

If so, then younger, underdeveloped AHL hockey players may be an even higher-risk group than their NHL parents.

Such is suggested by the crash course of the Providence Bruins, who dropped to 0-3-0 on Friday with an egregious 7-1 loss to the Manchester Monarchs at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

All 18 skaters finished in the red under the plus/minus heading while starting stopper Anton Khudobin did not make it to the second intermission as the P-Bruins finished their season-opening homestand having been outscored, 15-3.

The Monarchs spiked a quick 8-0 advantage in the shooting gallery, not letting the P-Bruins pester goaltender Martin Jones until the 7:21 mark. And starting at 2:41 and continuing for the better part of the next seven minutes, Manchester had more goals than Providence had shots altogether.

David Meckler got the better of Khudobin on his team’s fourth registered stab at 2:41. The shots read a 9-1 advantage for the visitors when Richard Clune augmented the scoring difference to 2-0 at 7:58.

Providence perked up for the second half of the opening stanza with two seasoned newcomers collaborating en route to their first points in Black and Gold. Josh Hennessy converted Jamie Tardif’s setup for a power-play goal with 10:03 gone.

The Monarchs, however, retorted as soon as they were invited. Providence captain Trent Whitfield (tripping) watched from the bin as Justin Azevedo slugged home his own 5-on-4 strike.

Khudobin was forked out at 13:15 of the middle frame, at which point blueliner Slava Voynov had submitted a shorthanded strike and Clune inserted his second goal of the game. Stand-in Karel St. Laurent would errantly boot in his third shot-faced at 19:40, granting Azevedo his own two-goal outing and the Monarchs a gaping, 6-1 edge after 40 minutes.

Manchester point patroller David Kolomatis, who had assisted on his team’s second and third strike, granted himself and Clune a three-point night when he sent home Linden Vey’s feed to finalize the 7-1 upshot at 5:56 of the closing frame.

P-Bruins pluses
Within the last 11 minutes of the opening frame, after Manchester had taken its 2-0 edge, the P-Bruins perked up to go on a 10-6 run in the shooting gallery. Nine different puckslingers partook in that sugar rush when, in their previous two games, the Bruins were hard-pressed to come within smelling distance of double-digits shots in a full 20-minute stanza.

The defense was more involved on the offensive front on Friday, taking credit for 10 of the team’s 30 total SOG. Colby Cohen tied Hennessy for a team-high five stabs at Monarchs goalie Martin Jones.

Bruins blights
Head coach Bruce Cassidy waited far too long to utilize his timeout. He waited until the 13:15 mark of the middle frame, when it was a glowering 5-1 deficit.

Considering the tone the Monarchs had set with a gaping shot differential and two early strikes, 7:58 into the opening frame would have been a perfectly logical time to stop the bleeding. Instead, Cassidy waited until the residual scars had long dried.

Hennessy’s conversion and other attempts aside, the P-Bruins failed to cash in on their superior discipline. Despite earning seven power plays while giving Manchester only two, the Baby Bs surrendered the aforementioned shortie and later gave the perilous Marc-Andre Cliche a shorthanded breakaway in the third.

Rookie Zach McKelvie had the dreariest of debuts on an unripe blue line brigade. He was on the ice for four out of five even-strength goals, amounting to a minus-4 rating on the night. Partner and fellow freshman Marc Cantin was a minus-3.

Monarchs notes
Clune earned the Gordie Howe Hat Trick with his two goals, the secondary assist on Kolomatis’ brownie biscuit in the third and a fight with Bruins blueliner Kevan Miller with 12:15 gone in the opening frame.

Extraordinarily, despite taking a team-high five shots on goal, Cliche did not factor into any of the scoring and was the only Monarch not to add any points to his plus/minus. Looks like Manchester has more than a little depth to work with this season.

Clune and Azevedo both singlehandedly outscored Providence with two goals apiece and claimed the top two stars of the game. Kolomatis claimed the title of third star.

A troika of rookies, defenseman Ryan Button along with forwards Carter Camper and Tyler Randell, were all scratched for the first time this season.

St. Laurent was promptly summoned from ECHL Reading prior to the game when backup goalie Michael Hutchinson sustained an undisclosed injury.

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

Opening draw
The Providence Bruins will curtain a string of three consecutive home games while the Manchester Monarchs commence their 2011-12 road slate at the Dunkin Donuts Center Friday night.

The Monarchs claimed half the loot in a pair of home dates at Verizon Wireless Arena on opening weekend. After throttling the Springfield Falcons, 5-2, in their opener, they conceded a 1-0 decision to the St. John’s IceCaps, who had seared the P-Bruins with their first of two straight 4-1 losses the previous night.

Between now and a New Year’s Eve clash in Manchester, the Monarchs will be the P-Bruins’ adversary in seven out of their first 35 regular-season games, amounting to a precise 1-in-5 ratio. Their encounters will be far more sporadic when the calendar Zamboni razes 2011, with only three meetings on tap over the last 41 dates on the schedule.

Notable names
Forward Marc-Andre Cliche, who finished his 2010-11 on a 25-game goal-less skid, scored a natural hat trick on opening night against Springfield last Friday.

Defenseman David Kolomatis, who started his professional career with the P-Bruins at the tail-end of the 2008-09 season, has since scored eight assists and 10 points for the Monarchs in 18 meetings with his former team. Kolomatis led all participants with six shots on goal during the last Providence-Manchester confrontation on April 10 at The Dunk.

Veteran agitator Richard Clune has accumulated 30 penalty minutes in 16 games against Providence, including four fighting majors. On one occasion apiece, he has scuffled with Jeremy Reich, Adam McQuaid, Nathan McIver and Lane MacDermid.

Monarchs goaltender Martin Jones, a second-year pro, recorded his first career assist in last Friday’s 5-2 home victory over Springfield.

Providence stoppers Michael Hutchinson and Anton Khudobin went a combined 5-0-0 against Manchester last season. Hutchinson allowed no more and no fewer than one goal in each of three meetings, stopping 85 out of 88 shots. Khudobin authorized two goals apiece in two winning efforts while repelling 75 out of 79 total stabs.

Zach Hamill has scored 10 assists and 13 points in 30 career games versus Manchester. Last season was a career year against the Monarchs with six helpers and seven points over nine encounters.

Jamie Arniel led all returning P-Bruins with seven assists and nine points in nine meetings with the Monarchs in 2010-11.

P-Bruins captain Trent Whitfield will don a Providence uniform for the 100th time in his career on Friday. Other than Whitfield, only 96 out of 544 players in franchise history have cracked triple digits under the “GP” heading.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: October 14

1994: Sandy Moger and Jeff Wells each record multipoint games as the P-Bruins spoil the Worcester IceCats first visit to Providence, 5-2.

2005: Eric Nickulas starts his second stint with the P-Bruins by having a hand in three power-play goals. Eric Healey matches Nickulas’ output with a goal and two helpers, though the Portland Pirates come from behind to take the season opener, 4-3, at The Dunk.

2006: Matt Lashoff’s power-play strike late in the first period accounts for the game’s only goal as Brian Finley blanks the Manchester Monarchs, 1-0, at Verizon Wireless Arena.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Unlike P-Bruins, Monarchs don’t need to manufacture much hunger

Ready or not, the Providence Bruins have their first measuring pole coming in a hurry.

No team in the AHL’s Eastern Conference has had more players reconvene to the same dressing room to wear the same uniform and play for the same system this autumn than the Manchester Monarchs.

Of the 24 members of his roster in the wee stages of the 2011-12 season, sixth-year head coach Mark Morris instructed 20 of them for all or a portion of 2010-11.

Two of them are delving into their fifth season with the team, including winger David Meckler, who just became the first Monarch to dress for 300 career games last Saturday. Another four are in Year No. 4 while five others are entering their third season with the Los Angeles Kings primary farm club.

Very little could bode much better for an aspiring contender, let alone one in a minor-league dynamic complete with the relentless revolving door. When Morris and his staff come to the Dunkin Donuts Center on Friday to face the P-Bruins, they will come bearing a uniquely veteran-laden, battle-tested core that has lived through most every breed of hardships.

A total of 16 Manchester returnees, including 14 skaters, were active during last year’s fall-from-ahead meltdown in the postseason. On the heels of placing second in the Atlantic Division, the Monarchs spilled a 3-1 first-round series lead and conceded three straight overtime games to the eventual Calder Cup champion Binghamton Senators.

Two years prior to that, six Manchester mainstays―Justin Azevedo, Andrew Campbell, Marc-Andre Cliche, Richard Clune, Meckler and Slava Voynov―partook in the 11-year-old franchise’s first and only playoff no-go.

In 2009-10, with nearly half of his current allotment, Morris improved his team by 13 points and enjoyed his deepest postseason run since his first year on the job. Manchester reached the conference finals, ultimately submitting to the dynastic Hershey Bears in six games.

Eight of this year’s skaters were with the Monarchs when they spilled a 2-0 lead in the third period and lost their elimination game, 3-2, in overtime at the Giant Center May 22, 2010.

Overall, Morris has 17 skaters who have played a cumulative 2,274 regular-season games for him. That’s an average of 133 Manchester twirls, or nearly two AHL seasons, per individual.

Contrast that with the 21 active skaters in Bruce Cassidy’s ice house who have charged up a combined 1,225 games-played with Providence. And it is worth noting that eight rostered P-Bruins are in their first full professional season, including five who whet their blades last March and April after finishing their college/major junior careers.

This is not to say that the Monarchs mortifyingly dwarf Providence in the way of seasoning and maturity. After all, Trent Whitfield, Jamie Tardif, Josh Hennessy and Anton Khudobin have all seen substantial AHL action in other cities.

But the Monarchs do have a decisive upper hand in the gelling game. Only rookies Nick Deslauriers and Linden Vey along with seventh-year pro Cam Paddock came to training camp wholly unfamiliar with Morris. More recently, fourth-year AHLer Stefan Legein was just imported on Wednesday from the Adirondack Phantoms as part of a swap between the Kings and Philadelphia Flyers.

Other than that, Morris has 19 players who have seen action in at least 19 extramural ventures under his instruction. Cassidy has 13 players who have played 18 games or fewer under himself and/or predecessor Rob Murray.

For what one weekend is worth, the Monarchs have already set a tone with the St. John’s IceCaps to be the two top dogs in the new, five-team Atlantic circuit. Before enduring a 1-0 loss to the 2-0-0 IceCaps last Saturday, they thrashed the Springfield Falcons, 5-2, on the strength of Cliche’s natural hat trick and Andrei Loktionov’s playmaker hat trick.

Translation: Cliche is presently outscoring the entire Providence strike force, which is relatively seasoned in its own right, yet has tuned the mesh twice in as many games.

The P-Bruins have not started at 0-3 since their inaugural season in 1992-93. They have not gone winless through their first three ventures since an 0-2-1 start to the 1995-96 campaign.

Of all the prospective adversaries to help avert one or both scenarios, the Monarchs are likely the least charitably inclined. Cassidy and Co. can still set an early tone of defiance and throw their helmets in the Atlantic Division derby, but they are advised to perk up in an efficient hurry.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: October 13

1995: A power play strike apiece from Denis Chervyakov and Peter Laviolette and a shortie via Tod Hartje bolsters the host P-Bruins to a 3-2 win over the Worcester IceCats.

1996: The P-Bruins and Bandits combine for nine power play goals in Baltimore’s 8-5 victory at the Civic Center.

2000: Peter Vandermeer scores his fourth goal in as many games, ultimately winning a 3-1 decision at the Civic Center over the Hartford Wolf Pack, improving Providence to 3-0-1 on the year.

2006: In the P-Bruins home opener and their first-ever meeting with the new Worcester Sharks, goaltender Brian Finley records his first Providence victory with a 3-1 decision.

2007: Despite Rochester goaltender David Shantz’s 40-save effort, including two penalty shots, the P-Bruins scrape out a 4-3 win over the Americans at Blue Cross Arena.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: October 12

1997: The P-Bruins record morphs to 2-1-1 in the wake of a 4-4 tie with Fredericton at the Civic Center.

2002: Tim Thomas stops 33 out of 35 shots to win his AHL debut. Matt Herr and Andy Hilbert insert two goals apiece to fuel the 5-2 decision against the Saint John Flames at Harbour Station. It will prove to be the P-Bruins final visit to that venue as the Flames fold at season’s end.

2008: Goaltender Tuukka Rask and forward Mikko Lehtonen share credit for the assists when Vladimir Sobotka strikes 25 seconds into overtime, finalizing a 4-3 home win over Springfield.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

P-Bruins Commentary: Bodnarchuk, Hennessy Will Help, But So Should Everyone Else

Providence Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was rightly disinclined to pass a collective lack of seasoning as an excuse for his team’s defensive ineptitude and the resultant back-to-back 4-1 losses last weekend.

But given that there were no veterans of a full season, or even a full month, under the Cassidy/Rob Murray administration on that blue line brigade, it was a reasonable explanation. It is, by far, the most reasonable explanation available for last Friday and Sunday’s upshots.

Regardless, the reinstatement of Andrew Bodnarchuk, whose 207 career games with the P-Bruins more than doubles the combined 99 professional twirls of his five colleagues, should stuff that topic into the cooler. When Bodnarchuk suits up for Friday night’s homestand closer versus Manchester, the likes of Ryan Button, Marc Cantin, Colby Cohen, Kevan Miller and David Warsofsky should all be two games and one week more conscientious.

But to the core point, the belated Providence debut of Josh Hennessy ought to come with the splash that Bruins buffs should really be pining for.

Just to clarify, “come with” is meant in the sense of strict concomitance. No direct connection; just a timely convergence of a key personality and a critical perk-up across the bench.

By the time the horn sounds around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, the best-case scenario will have any given P-Bruins puckslinger dismissing Hennessy’s exclusive influence on a redemptive victory. Because whereas five first-year pros on defense can expectably amount to eight goals-against in 120 minutes, a collection of eight AHL mainstays up front ought to cultivate more than two goals in the same time frame.

Come this weekend, Hennessy will make as many as nine active veterans among the 12 forwards in the Providence lineup.

Granted, having missed only two out of 76 games with his ailment, he stands more than a good chance of topping the team’s scoring chart by season’s end.

Another bushel of 20-plus goals, just like the five he collected in as many previous AHL campaigns in Cleveland and Binghamton, is the least anybody can ask of him. Considering his upward trend through the years, discounting a not-so-indicative semester abroad last year in Switzerland, cracking the 30-goal range is more than reasonable.

That said, Hennessy is not bound to bag a hat trick or two this weekend, nor would he have if healthy last weekend.

Two lines’ worth of other forwards—Jamie Arniel, Zach Hamill, Kirk MacDonald, Max Sauve, Jamie Tardif and Trent Whitfield—were all equally capable of entering this practice week with one or two points apiece.

Add up to two hypothetical Hennessy points and you would have had anywhere between eight and 14 individual entries onto the scoresheet. Good for at least two-to-four Providence goals plus any output from the less likely contributors.

Instead, out of 19 skaters to have consumed any ice time so far, only five P-Bruins have hatched the goose-egg in their point column, each with only one tally. Only Sauve and Lane MacDermid have tuned the opposing mesh. Hamill, MacDonald, Tardif and Whitfield—each with at least two years of AHL experience—are not yet in that club.

Not to mention, out of six periods of play thus far, the Bruins have landed six shots on goal or fewer in four of them. They have averaged exactly seven stabs per stanza at the opposing netminder with a cumulative 42.

At least the defense has subjected goaltender Anton Khudobin to 31 tests each night over the weekend. One more bid from every leaned-on forward would have amounted to a negligible gap in the shooting gallery and, more than likely, a slimmer margin of defeat against St. John’s and Worcester alike.

Those eight, nine or 10 extra SOG could not have all come off of Hennessy’s twig. They all couldn’t have even come while he was on the ice.

Instead, a couple of them should have resulted from those innumerable grinding sprees that Whitfield embarked upon with Sauve. The captain and team MVP two years running tested St. John’s stopper David Aebischer thrice on Friday, but thrust nothing at unripe Worcester goalie Tyson Sexsmith.

While even a development team can only tolerate so much internal competition, Arniel has a title to protect from Hennessy as the P-Bruins most prolific scorer. In addition, both are clamoring for a rare look at action in Boston.

And for Hamill, the demand for more shots is nothing new. Whether he is staying in the organization for a miracle turnaround or ultimately taking his potential to a more broadly open window, he does himself no favors recycling old patterns. But that’s virtually his present pace with zero points, a minus-3 rating, four SOG and four penalty minutes.

In summation, Hennessy’s new scoring colleagues proved too generous waiting all weekend for their presumptive leader to show up and join in. Now that he is in the equation, it is on them to not presume themselves as followers.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: October 11

1992: Mike Bales become the first Providence goaltender to be credited with a point, earning an assist in an eventual 4-2 road loss to the Halifax Citadels. It proves to be the P-Bruins only visit to the Halifax Metro Centre as the Citadels become the Cornwall Aces the following year.

1996: The P-Bruins spill a 6-4 lead against the Portland Pirates within the final two minutes of regulation, with the two tying goals coming from old friend Andrew Brunette and Anson Carter, who would be acquired by Boston in a blockbuster trade five months later. But in the ensuing overtime, the host club regroups and Kirk Nielsen scores the walkoff goal for a 7-6 win at the Providence Civic Center.

1998: Tim Sweeney, once a top scorer for the P-Bruins, abruptly retires and ends his third stint with the team.

1999: Joe Hulbig scores two unanswered goals to morph a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead and Eric Nickulas adds the insurance for a 5-3 win at the Worcester Centrum. Andre Savage and Jassen Cullimore join Hulbig in the game’s multipoint club. Meanwhile, Stephen Valiquette wins his debut in the Providence cage.

2002: After Andrew Raycroft neutralizes a first period firestorm with 15 saves on 16 shots, the P-Bruins pace themselves to a 3-2 road victory over the Saint John Flames.

2003: Kris Vernarsky inserts the lone goal and Tim Thomas claims the shutout victory in a 1-0 decision against the IceCats at the Worcester Centrum.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Key P-Bruins Team Statistics (Through Games of Oct. 9)

Author’s note: Unlike the NHL or the NCAA, the AHL does not make many team statistics readily available to the general public. Accordingly, for your convenience, this author will track the scoresheet of every Providence Bruins game this season and update key data each week.

Special Teams
Power Play: 0-for-7 (0.00)
Penalty Kill: 8-for-9 (88.89)
Combined Special Teams: 8-for-16 (50.0)
Shorthanded Goals For: 0
Shorthanded Goals Against: 1

Situational Records
When Scoring First: 0-0-0
When Opponents Score First: 0-2-0
When Leading After 1: 0-0-0
When Leading After 2: 0-0-0
When Trailing After 1: 0-1-0
When Trailing After 2: 0-2-0
When Tied After 1: 0-1-0
When Tied After 2: 0-0-0

Goals For-Goals Against in 1st period: 1-2
Goals For-Goals Against in 2nd period: 1-4
Goals For-Goals Against in 3rd period: 0-2
Shots For-Shots Against in 1st period: 15-25
Shots For-Shots Against in 2nd period: 11-23
Shots For-Shots Against in 3rd period: 16-14

Penalty Breakdown
Minors: 10
Majors: 2
Misconducts: 0
Opposing Minors: 8
Opposing Majors: 2
Opposing Misconducts: 0

P-Bruins transactions: Degon out, St. Laurent in, Bodnarchuk/Bartkowski back soon?

On Sunday, the Providence Bruins cut defenseman Marvin Degon loose right after the three-team AHL veteran had faced his hometown Worcester Sharks. While nothing has been readily disclosed, Degon’s departure so soon after his last-minute summons for the season opener on Friday hints toward a return for one of the many wounded Bruins blueliners.

At the start of last week, 207-game AHL veteran Andrew Bodnarchuk was reportedly the closest to game-ready status, ahead of fellow familiar face Nathan McIver and rookie Zach McKelvie.

Either that, or Matt Bartkowski's stand-in stint with Boston could be drawing to a close. That all depends on how soon Steven Kampfer is back in commission.

In addition, the Baby Bs announced the acquisition of goaltender Karel St. Laurent, who spent the previous three years in the junior ranks with the Saint John Sea Dogs and Surrey Eagles.

St. Laurent, who will turn 21 between Christmas and New Year’s, went 29-11-0 over 51 appearances in the Quebec League. He spent the better part of last year in the British Columbia Hockey League, finishing sixth among all league stoppers with a 2.74 goals-against average and third overall with a .916 save-percentage.

The Eagles would reach the Fred Page Cup semifinals ultimately submitting to the Powell River Kings in six games. St. Laurent worked up his biggest sweat of the year in Game 4 of that series, repelling 66 out of 68 shots in an eventual 2-1, triple-overtime loss March 22. The majority of his saves that evening (35) were made in the sudden-death phases.

Already this autumn, St. Laurent has seen preseason action in the NHL (Vancouver), AHL (Chicago Wolves) and ECHL (Reading Royals).

With St. Laurent in the equation, the notion of off-and-on P-Bruin Adam Courchaine being the team’s third stopper if and when needed has been ostensibly dashed. For the moment, though, he will likely remain with the Royals, who commence their regular season in South Carolina on Friday.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: October 10

1993: Defenseman Denis Chervyakov makes his Providence debut and pitches in two assists to help knock off the Saint John Flames, 5-3, at the Civic Center.

2003: Hannu Toivonen wins his Providence debut, turning away 34 shots to top the Springfield Falcons, 5-2, on opening night at The Dunk. Darren Van Oene pilots the offensive cause with two goals, including the game-winner.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

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

Swift summation
One more outing remotely like this, even if it’s a genuinely valiant losing effort, and the 2011-12 Providence Bruins will have their equivalent of the 2011 Boston Red Sox’ 0-6 and 2-10 starts.

For the second time in as many ventures, the P-Bruins absorbed a vinegary 4-1 drawback at the hands of a visiting divisional rival, this one being conceded to the Worcester Sharks before 3,579 congregants at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

Although the reality held true for only one participating club, namely the Sharks, both squads initially appeared to be breaking in their new CCMs, Bauers and RBKs. Before long, though, Worcester was outclassing its hosts in the way of battles, races, shots, face-offs and discipline.

After an ongoing sequence of predominantly air hockey-paced action through the first five minutes, including an efficient Providence penalty kill, the P-Bruins landed the first shot on goal at the 5:12 mark. But afterwards, the Sharks perked up and ran away with the shooting gallery, taking a 14-3 edge in that category with six unanswered stabs in a span of four minutes before intermission.

Rookie Curt Gogol’s low-riding bid from within the far face-off circle at 14:35 was the only one of those 14 to elude Bruins goaltender Anton Khudobin.

In the middle frame, the Providence defense found some way to filter at least some of Worcester’s ammo. But the Sharks ultimately made more out of less, augmenting their lead by two goals on 10 second-period shots.

By the 15:37 mark, Brandon Mashinter had given Worcester its first power-play conversion on five tries as well as a 3-0 edge.

Lane MacDermid whittled the deficit back down to two goals with 66 ticks to spare and 10 seconds after their second 5-on-4 segment had expired. But that was all Providence could muster, even upon owning the third-period shot clock, 10-7.

Worcester’s Benn Ferriero finalized the 4-1 outcome at 1:31 of the closing stanza.

P-Bruins pluses
The P-Bruins’ first power play, awarded on the cusp of the halfway mark of the opening frame, amounted to nothing even in the way of a legitimate threat. But defenseman David Warsofsky conspicuously wanted to get something going when the getting was good. During that 5-on-4 segment, the rookie point-patroller thwarted two Worcester clearing attempts and thrust them back behind the goal line.

Rookie winger Calle Ridderwall took four of his team’s 20 shots, including a valiant shorthanded bid late in the game.

Bruins blights
The Baby Bs have been outshot in four out of six periods played in the young season. Their worst drought so far was when they mustered only one shot on net within the latter half of Sunday’s first, including none within the last 8:05.

Before Gogol’s cross-checking infraction with 3:16 to spare in the second, Providence had taken five unaccompanied trips to the penalty box while drawing only one power play for itself.

Linemates Zach Hamill and Jamie Tardif each finished with no points and a minus-2 rating, hardly the expectation from a pair of veterans of three-plus AHL seasons. Hamill also took two of Bruins’ six minor penalties.

Sharks notes
Blueliner Sean Sullivan had a hand in both of Worcester’s second-period goals, directly granting his team a 2-0 edge at 4:10 and claiming the secondary assist on Mashinter’s power-play strike. In addition, Sullivan landed a game-high six shots on goal and claimed the distinction of the game’s No. 1 star.

Fellow defensemen Taylor Doherty and Nick Petrecki each posted a plus-2 rating.

Despite having to deal with a mere 20 shots on goal, goaltender Tyson Sexsmith garnered second-star accolades for the day.

MacDermid, ever a prime suspect in the fight club, waged the P-Bruins first skirmish of the 2011-12 season, wrestling down Jimmy Bonneau at 6:36 of the second period. Almost a full stanza later, Tyler Randell engaged Gogol at with 13:55 left on the clock.

MacDermid was the only Providence skater to come away with a positive rating on the day and was also chosen as the game’s No. 3 star.

Hamill suited up for his 217th game with Providence, surpassing Nate Thompson for the No. 10 slot on the franchise’s all-time appearance leaderboard. As early as Saturday’s visit to Springfield, Hamill will next surpass the ninth-seeded Joel Prpic, who saw action in 218 games with the P-Bruins.

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins vs. Worcester Sharks

Opening draw
The Worcester Sharks will be one of the last four AHL teams to finally commence their 2011-12 schedule on the third day of the season when they drop in at the Dunkin Donuts Center at 4:05 Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, in the wake of Friday night’s 4-1 loss to the St. John’s IceCaps, the host Providence Bruins are trying to avert their first 0-2-0 start since the 1995-96 season.

Worcester returns 12 members of its 2010-11 roster, including four forwards, seven defensemen and goaltender Tyson Sexsmith. Blueliner Mike Moore is the only active Shark to have played for the team more than two seasons, having joined the team out of Princeton University late in the 2007-08 campaign and played 192 AHL games since.

In turn, Moore is Worcester’s only holdover from its encounter with the P-Bruins in the second round of the 2009 Calder Cup playoffs. Conversely, Providence still has Jamie Arniel, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Zach Hamill and Kirk MacDonald. All five players were classified as rookies that season.

Both the Bruins and Sharks are coming off non-playoff runs in 2011 and each striving to emulate their respective parent clubs, who both went to NHL conference finals last spring.

Notable names
Veteran pivot Ben Guite is primed to begin his stint with Worcester, his seventh AHL team and fourth New England-based club in an 11-year career.

In two seasons as a P-Bruin (2004-06), Guite saw action in 150 regular-season and 23 playoff games, charging up an aggregate 35 goals and 50 assists. His 22 goals and 31 assists from the 2005-06 campaign―when he claimed the MVP and Hendricks Fan Appreciation Award—remain a career-high for him.

More recently, Guite has played for four different organizations in as many seasons, including the young 2011-12 campaign with the Sharks. His most productive year since leaving Providence was last year with the Springfield Falcons, for whom he chipped in 17 goals and 30 helpers.

All six of Worcester’s top scorers from last year have gone elsewhere for this season. That leaves third-year professional and Boston College alumnus Benn Ferriero to step it up. Ferriero tied fellow returnee Brandon Mashinter for seventh on the Sharks’ scoring chart with 33 points, despite missing 37 games due to promotion to San Jose.

P-Bruins goaltender Michael Hutchinson went 1-1-2 in five appearances against the Sharks as a rookie last season. Late-season acquisition Anton Khudobin posted a 2-1-0 transcript in three bouts with Worcester.

Sexsmith, the presumptive frontrunner to replace Alex Stalock as Worcester’s starter, has faced the P-Bruins once in 19 total AHL outings. He was ultimately forked out of that Feb. 7, 2010 clash in favor of Stalock at 7:01 of the third period upon authorizing five goals on 35 shots en route to a 6-2 loss at The Dunk.

Through their first five years of coexistence, the P-Bruins have charged up a 31-18-5 all-time regular-season record against the Sharks. Although, Worcester has closed the gap within the past two seasons after Providence jumped out to an initial 22-8-2 advantage over the first three years.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: October 9

1992: Darryl Olsen, Tim Sweeney and Jozef Stumpel all score within a span of 29 seconds, though the P-Bruins ultimately drop a 9-7 decision at Cape Breton.

1994: Mike Bodnarchuk draws a 4-4 knot with only 14 seconds left in regulation, but old friend Andrew McKim gets the walkoff goal as the host Adirondack Red Wings surmount the P-Bruins in overtime, 5-4.

1998: In Peter Laviolette’s head coaching debut, the P-Bruins blow a pair of one-goal leads, but eventually pull ahead for good via Jay Henderson to top the visiting Springfield Falcons, 3-2.

1999: A multitude of newbies contribute to a 3-1 home win over the Philadelphia Phantoms that improves the defending champion P-Bruins record to 4-0-1. Former PC Friar Joe Hulbig, Jassen Cullimore and former Maine and UMass-Lowell forward Tim Lovell pitch in on the offense while Maxime Gingras repels 29 out of 30 shots to improve his personal transcript to 2-0-0.

2009: The visiting Hartford Wolf Pack convert on two of five power plays, but the P-Bruins one-up their rivals with a 3-for-5 conversion rate en route to a 5-3 win at The Dunk.

2010: Max Sauve tallies a hat trick, defenseman Steven Kampfer matches his three-point output (goal, two assists) and both have a hand in the game-winner to top the Springfield Falcons, 6-5, at MassMutual Center. The game salvages a split in a home-and-home series highlighted by the Bruins and Falcons wearing Rhode Island Reds and Springfield Indians jerseys, respectively, to celebrate the start of the AHL’s 75th anniversary season.