March 21, 2008
By Thomas Chace Jr.
In my last article I opined about the Providence Bruins road trip to face several Western Conference teams. I wondered how they would hold up physically and mentally as they tried to hold onto the best record in the American Hockey League. This team has been holding the best record in the league all year and that trip was going to challenge them in many ways. They did not fare very well out west, winning in Milwaukee to start the trip, but then losing four straight, including a 4-1 loss to Chicago. They are battling Chicago for the overall best record and home ice throughout the Calder Cup playoffs.
But once again the Bruins have rebounded and shown tremendous resiliency. Upon returning, Providence has gone 5-0-2. They have a ten point lead in their division, they lead Chicago by four points in the overall race, and are the first team to reach 100 points in the 2007-08 AHL season. All year, this team has shown that no matter what the circumstances, they are united to overcome any adversity. Earlier in the year, their team’s best players were called up to the parent club in Boston. Centers Vladimir Sobotka and David Krejci had nearly 50 points between them in limited time with Providence. Right wing Petteri Nokelainen played in only eight games for Providence but averaged a point a game. Their present leading scorer, Pascal Pelletier, was also called up for a time, yet Providence still managed to play stellar hockey. Their goaltender, Jordan Sigalet, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, actually collapsed during a game earlier in the year. He had to be transported to the hospital by rescue, and after several weeks of testing and a hospital stay, was returned home to recuperate and to begin to get back into game shape. His return to the team and his subsequent game efforts somewhat symbolizes what this Bruins team is all about. These guys never give up and they want to hold onto what they have.
In recent days there has been more good news regarding the team. The Boston Bruins have agreed to an eight year agreement with Providence to be their farm club through the 2015-16 AHL season. The playoff rosters were submitted in late February and Providence will enjoy the services of Sobotka, Krejci, and Nokelainen again after all. Another player who is eligible for Providence in the playoffs is Boston RW Phil Kessel. Tuukka Rask, the young Finnish goaltender, got his first shutout the other night and has proven he is a star in the making. The Providence Bruins may fall short of the record for wins or points this season, but their season could become one for the ages. Stay tuned.