May 10, 2008
By Thomas Chace Jr.
As I walked away from the Providence Bruins locker room for the last time this season, I realized I had made so many new acquaintances, that the sadness I felt for the boys in losing the series, was tempered by my experience this season covering the team. This team was like a distant cousin right here in the greater Providence area. The lack of coverage by our only newspaper saw to that. This Providence team was the best in the American Hockey League during the regular season, yet they received little attention throughout the season. The team who won seventy-five percent of their games during the season and won their first six playoff games in dramatic fashion has now suffered defeat at the hands of their arch rival, the Portland Pirates. The four games in a row in which they were defeated were decided by four goals, all one goal losses, including two in overtime. They were one minute away from winning game three in Portland that would have, in all likelihood, been the game that would have propelled the Bruins into the next round on their quest to win the Calder Cup. Even when they were down by two goals with minutes to play in game six, I felt they would win and force a game seven. I had the same feeling when the Patriots played Oakland in the playoffs in the amazing snow game where the infamous “tuck rule” took place. But on this night it was not meant to be. The resiliency the boys showed all year was present, but they just couldn’t get that tying goal. There is no doubt that the Pirates benefited from the return of their goaltender in game three, Jean-Sebastien Aubin, a 30 year-old NHL veteran, but it could be argued that the Bruins outplayed the Pirates in every phase of the game, yet still lost the series. These things happen in sports and it is surely disappointing and hard to swallow. The team perhaps deserved a better fate but it was not for lack of effort or costly mistakes; they played the same way they played all year. They fore-checked you to death, were aggressive in the neutral zone, and with few exceptions, out shot and out chanced opponents.
They are a very, very good team who were led by two extremely talented coaches in Scott Gordon and Rob Murray. Many of the Bruins players had their best years ever as professionals. It started when they bought into the system that was presented to them in training camp; their resulting record is proof that it was a success. More proof existed in the call ups of so many Providence players to the parent club in Boston; no player looked out of place when pressed into service in the NHL. So yes, I am saddened by the loss to the Pirates, but the team should hold their heads high. They were the best team in the AHL and despite their playoff loss to Portland; they have become better hockey players and are much more prepared to advance in their own professional careers. They are a class act and it was a pleasure to be around an organization that fosters such goodwill in the community and humility on and off the ice. There is so much to be proud of and that is what I’ll take away from this season after the disappointment ends.