Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Providence Set To Make Playoff Run

Providence Coming Together
By Thomas Chace Jr.
February 1, 2011

On Friday January 7th, a watershed moment took place for the Providence Bruins hockey club. The team’s captain, Trent Whitfield, was making his debut after suffering a serious Achilles tendon injury in his off-season workouts. After skating hard for three weeks with the team at practice, he was cleared to return to face the Atlantic Division leading Manchester Monarchs at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence. The game was going to be meaningful on several levels. The Bruins home record had been abysmal to this point and as the halfway point in the season approached, the Monarchs had just whipped Providence 7-3 a week earlier. The Bruins, losers of four of five games, were hoping to kick start the second half of their season.

The daunting task of playing Manchester at home was to be followed by a road trip to face the best team in the AHL, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and the talented Binghamton Senators. The return of Whitfield and the solid goaltending of rookie Matt Dalton enabled Providence to shutout the Monarchs with a 3-0 victory. Head Coach, Rob Murray, asked the team to “approach every game as the biggest of the year, we’ve got to be more consistent, and approach each game with a little bit of desperation. This was a huge game; you’ve got the second best team in the AHL coming in here and they embarrassed us last week.”

Following the big win against Manchester, the team bused right out after the game for a five hour ride to Wilkes-Barre, PA to face the AHL’s best team. The ride actually took seven hours due to inclement weather, but the Bruins garnered a point that night after losing in overtime 2-1. Goaltender Nolan Schaefer made 50 saves and was named the 2nd star of the game. After another bus ride to Binghamton, NY for an afternoon game, the weary Bruins suffered a 5-3 loss. However, the three point weekend was considered a success.

Wilkes-Barre arrived in Providence for a rematch on the following Friday and registered a 2-0 victory in a well played game in front of 9300 fans. Nolan Schaefer was announced as the 3rd star for his solid performance in net again, despite the loss. Providence traveled to Connecticut on Saturday to face The Whale and held on for a 3-2 victory. Max Sauve scored the game winning goal; Sauve leads the entire AHL in that category. On Sunday, Providence’s other net minder, rookie Matt Dalton, made 45 saves as the Bruins shut out the Worcester Sharks on home ice, 2-0. Tuesday, the Bruins traveled to Bridgeport and were victorious again as they won in a shootout, 3-2.

On Friday, January 21st, the Manchester Monarchs returned to Providence and were beaten again, 5-2. Once again, Max Sauve had the game winner as the B’s extended their winning streak to four games. A road trip to rival and now division-leading Portland, ME resulted in a Bruins 5-2 loss. Providence responded by winning three more games in a row including another big home win in a rematch against Portland.

The team now plays with an expectation of winning as opposed to wondering what will derail them next during each game. Murray explains that the turnaround “comes with a little bit of success. It coincides with two things, the return of Trent Whitfield and we’re getting very good goaltending. There is a different attitude, a different feel with the team now. I feel we’re a pretty good team now, I couldn’t say that a month ago.”

The Providence Bruins are making a push for the playoffs with goaltending that is giving the team a chance to win every night, and a feeling of confidence that every game is winnable.

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