Saturday, March 17, 2012

This Date In Providence Bruins History: March 17

1993: The P-Bruins edge the Springfield Indians, 3-2, to extend their season-high home winning streak to seven games.

2000: Jay Henderson (hat trick) and Jason Krog each log four points and linemate Peter Ferraro nails a playmaker hat trick to help the P-Bruins surpass their season-long nemesis from Portland, 6-2.

2001: John Grahame’s 34 saves are enough to garner a regulation tie for the P-Bruins, who submit to the host Hartford Wolf Pack in overtime, 4-3.

2010: Trent Whitfield busts a 2-2 tie midway through the third period, helping the P-Bruins halt a six-game winless skid (0-5-1) with a 4-2 triumph at Hartford’s XL Center.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

PC Men’s Hockey’s Progression Evokes Memory of a Fallen Follower

The Friars’ best-of-three triumph over UMass-Lowell last weekend and date Friday afternoon at TD Garden with Boston College justifies the not-so-shabby careers of senior scorer Matt Bergland and stopper Alex Beaudry.

The recent achievement gives co-captains Andy Balysky and Danny New a small-to-medium helping of fulfillment that had consistently eluded them since orientation. It rewards all seven skating seniors for enduring three years in the cellar before pivoting the program back in a favorable direction under first-year skipper Nate Leaman.

But outside the boards, outside of Balysky, Bergland, Beaudry, David Brown, Justin Gates, Rob Maloney and New, there is doubtlessly another key 2012 graduate on the collective minds of the Friar Puck community.

Brendan Frail, the inaugural men’s hockey chair of the Friar Faithful club, has been gone for a little more than a year and a half. His untimely death in a traumatic fall Aug. 22, 2010, devastated a college community that spent the previous two years savoring his amiability, energy and school spirit.

In accordance with his specialty in the student booster club, Frail arguably sculpted his PC legacy―certainly the extracurricular aspect―as the rabid ringleader of the student section at Schneider Arena. And while his arrival on campus coincided with the beginning of the nadir of the men’s hockey program’s modern history, he battled vigorously against self-negativity and fair-weather fanaticism.

Frail, who also had a comparatively serene yet comparably passionate side as an elementary/special education major, died a year too soon to partake in the program’s renaissance with his fellow student rooters. Odds are all current seniors and recent alumni who bolstered “Mission 3,000” in Leaman’s head coaching debut Oct. 7 would hold that Frail was conspicuous by his absence that night more than any other.

But those who are faithful in the original sense of the term would also hold that he has enjoyed the view of this season from his seat in the Ultimate Skybox. If that did not culminate in the Friars’ long-awaited Hockey East playoff clincher or the longer-awaited quarterfinal triumph, it shall this weekend when he follows the action from Causeway Street.

Even the rigidly objective―as this author always was in the student section and as this author plans to remain in these affairs―can appreciate a notion like that. Being his colorful self, Frail never failed to percolate a fun atmosphere at Schneider Arena.

Now, while staying within boundaries fit for the great beyond, there is reason to imagine he will watch Friday’s action with a gusto that the Rev. Herman Schneider himself will enjoy from the side.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: March 15

1998: A multi-goal game for Joel Prpic and 1-2-3 scoring log by defenseman Barry Richter highlight a 5-1 home victory over Kentucky. That gives the P-Bruins a 2-0-0 season series sweep of the Thoroughblades, who inexplicably were not on Providence’s schedule during their inaugural season in 1996-97.

2000: After the visiting Worcester IceCats delete 1-0 an 2-1 leads, the P-Bruins break away in the third period for three unanswered goals, then subsist long enough to stamp a 6-4 victory.

2008: The P-Bruins win their fourth consecutive contest by battering the San Antonio Rampage, 6-2, at The Dunk.

2009: Zach Hamill and Jeff Penner nail two goals apiece while Kirk MacDonald, Brad Marchand and Jeremy Reich charge up two assists in a 6-2 home rout of the Lowell Devils.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bruins Puckbag: An Assortment of Observations on Boston and Providence

Are this year’s Boston Bruins facing a more adverse bout of hardship than they were around this time in 2009-10? Yes and no.

If you count only those who saw action in more AHL than NHL games, there were 10 individual reinforcements variously coming up from Providence two seasons ago, combining for 71 games-played in the NHL. This season, with 13 games yet to come, seven different Providence-caliber players have aggregated 42 twirls with the parent club.

This year’s figures will likely fall just short of 2009-10. With that said, one could certainly argue that the current Boston team could have a slightly better grip on its situation. Case in point: Tuesday night’s utterly inexplicable debacle in Tampa Bay.

Even with Tuesday’s 6-1 shellacking, the Bruins still own the NHL’s best cumulative scoring differential at a plus-53 rating. However, they only lead the runner-up Detroit Red Wings by one point in that category and could thus abdicate the trivial throne by the time Detroit is through with its Wednesday night tilt in Anaheim.

The Bruins are right up there with Ottawa and Vancouver in terms of showing no significant performance discrepancies between home and road venues. The Bruins, Senators and Canucks are 20-13-2, 18-3-4 and 20-9-4, respectively, at home. Their respective road records are 20-13-1, 18-12-5 and 22-10-4.

The P-Bruins are one of five AHL teams whose goalies have yet to record a single assist on the year. The others are the Albany Devils, Peoria Rivermen, St. John’s IceCaps and Syracuse Crunch.

Meanwhile, former Providence stopper Dany Sabourin has three helpers for the Hershey Bears on the year.

Patrice Bergeron is no longer on pace for a career year. Assuming he suits up for every remaining game, he’s looking at a season total of 65 points. But that will at least amount to a fifth straight yearly increase after his lost 2007-08 campaign and he stands a solid chance of setting a new bar in the plus/minus department.

If recent events hold much sway, and they very likely will, Jordan Caron ought to now be the runaway favorite to claim this year’s Seventh Man Award. Virtually every Bruin have been unremarkable, if not underachieving since at least mid-January, but Caron has broken out of the blue for 4-4-8 totals in his last six outings.

Providence is facing a must-win in Worcester this Friday. The Sharks, who were in a virtual tie with Adirondack for 10th place in the AHL’s Eastern Conference entering Wednesday night’s action, hold a two-point advantage on the No. 13-seeded P-Bruins with still three games in hand.

It certainly looks like Boston College senior captain Tommy Cross will be the only Bruins’ prospect competing in this year’s NCAA men’s hockey tournament. But Justin Florek’s Northern Michigan Wildcats, who were eliminated by Bowling Green in the preliminary round of the CCHA tournament, are still technically hanging by a thread, ranked No. 16 on USCHO’s venerable PairWise leaderboard.

No official word coming from any readily accessible sources, but seeing as Florek is a senior, it is safe to speculate he will be wearing a Spoked-P in the coming weeks if his Wildcats are ruled out of the selection show.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: March 14

1993: Jim Vesey’s hat trick and Jozef Stumpel’s four assists highlight a 6-4 road win over the Baltimore Skipjacks. The game is played before a light audience of 1,777 at Baltimore Arena, virtually presaging the Skipjacks’ demise at the end of the season. The parent Washington Capitals would transfer their prospects to Portland, Me., filling the void the P-Bruins/Maine Mariners themselves made.

1997: The Baltimore Bandits claim a 4-2 decision at the Providence Civic Center, thus winning their last confrontation with the P-Bruins before the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim transfer their prospects to Cincinnati.

1999: Four individual skaters sculpt a 4-0 lead in the first period and Eric Nickulas tacks on one apiece in the middle and closing frames for a 6-3 win over Springfield. With the win, the P-Bruins clinch first place in the Eastern Conference.

2003: Carl Corazzini inserts two goals en route to a 4-1 home win over Springfield.

2008: Trailing the host Manchester Monarchs, 2-0, at the end of the first period and 3-1 through the halfway mark of regulation, the P-Bruins rally to win in overtime, 4-3.

2009: Wacey Rabbit scores on both of his shootout tries, including an eighth-round game-winner to beat the Springfield Falcons, 2-1.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

This Date In Providence Bruins History: March 13

1994: With Boston executive Mike Milbury on hand, the Baby Bs edge the Hamilton Canucks, 5-4.

1999: Peter Ferraro’s hat trick and Antti Laaksonen’s goal spell the difference in a 4-3 win over the Portland Pirates at the Cumberland County Civic Center. With that, the P-Bruins crack triple-digits in the point column for the first time in their seven-year history.

2004: Brad Boyes makes his Black and Gold debut after being acquired from the San Jose system in exchange for Rhode Island native Jeff Jillson. Boyes makes an instant impact with a goal and two assists as part of a 4-0 win at Albany. Matt Herr converts two Boyes set-ups within 22 seconds and Hannu Toivonen stamps the shutout with 35 saves.

2005: The P-Bruins halt a month-long, five-game winless streak (0-4-1) with a 3-2 home win over Albany, led by Keith Aucoin’s two-point night. Andy Hilbert chips in an assist, giving him a franchise-record 105 career helpers.

2009: A mere 80 seconds after the visiting Pirates draw a 3-3 knot, Mikko Lehtonen finalizes a 4-3 victory with 6:10 to go in regulation.

Monday, March 12, 2012

This Date In Providence Bruins History: March 12

1999: Brandon Smith’s multi-goal game highlights a 3-2 home win over Lowell.

2000: Kay Whitmore stops a season-best 45 shots, though the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks muster a 4-1 win at the Providence Civic Center.

2002: Eric Manlow has a hand in all four Providence goals, charging up a playmaker hat trick in regulation and inserting the overtime clincher in a 4-3 win at Lowell.

2006: Jordan Sigalet repels all 34 of the Hershey Bears shots while David Lundbohm’s playmaker hat trick is one of four multipoint efforts in a 4-0 win at The Dunk.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

This Date In Providence Bruins History: March 11

2005: The P-Bruins delete 2-0 and 3-2 deficits sculpted by future Providence captain Trent Whitfield and earn a single point, though the visiting Portland Pirates claim the shootout decision, 4-3.

2006: The Springfield Falcons delete a 2-0 deficit in the third period, but Eric Nickulas scores 45 seconds into overtime to grant Providence a 3-2 win at MassMutual Center.

2011: Bridgeport’s Jeremy Colliton forces overtime with two unanswered goals within the final four minutes of regulation, but the P-Bruins win the shootout to take a 4-3 decision at The Dunk.