Friday, December 16, 2011

Providence Trying to Stay Afloat

Good Starts Are Key
December 14, 2011
By Thomas R. Chace Jr.

Most Friday nights the Providence Bruins play at home and draw large crowds that have been patient, yet anxious for victories.  Week after week, loss after loss, I have been charged with interviewing Head Coach “Butch” Cassidy.  Every week it seems we discuss the same problematic issues.  Finally, last Friday we were able to greet each other with a smile.

Cassidy has been preaching the importance of getting off to a good start in front of the packed Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Friday nights.  Time after time, the opposition would get the first goal and with a lack of scoring punch, Providence would struggle mightily to get those early goals back. Cassidy said “It’s the coach’s responsibility to prepare your team to play and give them information, and it’s the individual as a pro to get themselves ready.  We need to find the right balance there. It’s frustrating, we have great support here and we want to use that to our advantage.”

Youth has also been a major factor in the fate of the team thus far.  Providence has dressed nine or ten first year players in the lineup for some games this year.  Cassidy was adamant that his job is to develop those young players so he hates to use that as an excuse.  The fact of the matter is that many of his opponents have numerous veteran players who have a great deal of experience on a professional level. Composure and confidence have to be learned at this level and that process is continuing on a weekly basis. 

The recent return of team Captain Trent Whitfield is a huge boost on the ice and more importantly in the locker room.  Whitfield’s veteran presence is invaluable with this year’s young squad.  Cassidy says Whitfield is like a third coach who can carry their message to the players without them in the room.  Whitfield saw too many games from the stands while he was injured and looks forward to pushing and educating the rookies now that he’s back on the ice.

“We’re losing the ability to win battle” states Cassidy.  “We’ve got to cut down the opponent’s chances in front.  Win the battles, be hard on your stick, all of this comes with experience.” Several of the rookies including Carter Camper have improved faster than others. Camper surprisingly is the team’s leading scorer.  Cassidy says that “Carter is a good player, he makes plays, and he’s starting to come into his own.  He has figured out what he can get away with, protecting the puck against bigger players, not getting knocked around, he puts himself in good positions.” Cassidy would like to see more players figure out what they can and cannot do at this level.

After not winning a game in nine tries, Providence came out last Friday against Manchester and scored first and got off to that good start they have longed for.  Cassidy claimed “we’ve got a long way to go, I know that, but we’re moving the puck, supporting one another, but we need to be consistent now.”  Cassidy chose to start backup goaltender Michael Hutchinson over veteran Anton Khudobin and “Hutch” was rewarded with his first victory of the year. 

Hutchinson, 21, an exuberant second year netminder was smiling ear to ear after his first victory.  “It’s been a long time coming, I’ve been getting frustrated a little, I can have a little more confidence in games now.”  He played well on Saturday night in Connecticut as well, but Providence dropped a 3-0 decision with “Hutch” making 31 saves on 33 shots.  Veteran Anton “Dobie” Khudobin redeemed the loss with a solid performance on Sunday, in a roughly played 3-2 rematch victory over Connecticut.  Once again the baby B’s got the lead early in front of the home crowd and rode home to victory.  Providence enjoyed a four point weekend and hopes to continue their winning ways this Friday as they face the Springfield Falcons.

Providence finds themselves in a tough division with scoring liabilities, specialty team shortcomings, and youth working against them.  However, they won’t be young forever and should grow into better players with a better sense of how to play at this level.   Perhaps the coach will not age as fast either, if they can score early and make things more difficult for their opponents to score.  It’s great to see a smile after a game instead of the same redundant expression.

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