January 31, 2009
by Thomas Chace Jr.
The American Hockey League mandated that all teams take four days off during the All-Star break. For the Providence Bruins that meant time for only one practice, and players were left on their own to work out and mentally prepare for a return to the ice at home versus their division rival, the Portland Pirates. The Atlantic Division has only a five point separation from first to fifth place. Providence has a majority of home games coming up and Head Coach Rob Murray wants to establish Providence as a very difficult place to play. Friday night was not what he is looking for.
As could be expected, both teams were noticeably sluggish at the outset of the game due to the All-Star break. There were no goals scored and only thirteen shots total for both teams in the first period. Providence got on the board early in the second period on goals by Matt Marquardt and Jordan Knackstedt and held a 2-0 advantage, only to see that evaporate with goals 32 seconds apart by Portland’s Aaron Slattengren and Colton Fretter. Halfway through the third period, Fretter beat Providence goaltender Kevin Regan again; that was later followed by an empty net goal by Mike Weber. A Portland win along with a win by Hartford has now tied all three teams atop the Atlantic Division with 53 points apiece. In regards to his satisfaction with his team’s effort after the game, Murray stated that, “No, he was not satisfied, not by a large amount of guys, it wasn’t good enough. It looked like a few guys were still on the four day break. We want to dominate teams at home and right now we’re not doing it. Teams are coming into our building and taking points out of here and we don’t seem to be putting up enough of a fight.”
Earlier in the week, goaltender Tuukka Rask was called up with the big club in Boston and is expected to start against the New York Rangers this weekend. All-Star Martins Karsums was allowed to return home to Latvia to play in a tournament to try and get his Latvian National team qualified for the 2010 Olympics. Despite those obstacles to overcome, Coach Murray expects his team to bring emotion and effort every night, especially on home ice. “It’s important, the standings are so tight, we have six out of eight games at home coming up, there should be a sense of urgency with our home games. We need to play better at home and find a way to not allow teams to come in here and get points from us.” .” Providence is 2-4 in their last six home games, and with division rivals ahead on the schedule and most of those games at “The Dunk”, the P-Bruins are looking to establish Providence as a more difficult place to play for their opponents. Stay tuned.