Clappers, wristers, rebounds & tip-ins

Odds and ends from here and there:

— The last time the Providence Bruins went 1-4 to start a season was in 2010-11. At the end of that season, coach Rob Murray was let go after his team, which went through 51 players, missed the playoffs.

To this point in the young AHL season, only the 0-5 Hershey Bears have a worse record, but the P-Bruins have plenty of talent and time to straighten things out.

Providence again has a young team. Four rookies and six second-year players were in their lineup on Sunday.

There is reason to believe that the mistakes that have plagued them early on will start to fade away. And it’s only a matter of time before proven AHL point producers such as Peter Cehlarik and Jordan Szwarz get untracked.

Veteran defenseman Cody Goloubef, who missed the first two games while recovering from an injury, hasn’t hit his stride yet. And Martin Bakos, a big, skilled winger from Slovakia who was injured in Boston’s training camp, could be ready to go this weekend. Expect him to add some offensive punch.

It says here the P-Bruins will figure it out.

— This should be a fun college hockey weekend in Providence.

Fifth-ranked Providence College plays its first Hockey East game of the season against Connecticut on Friday night at Schneider Arena.

On Saturday, Brown will host scrimmages with two Ivy League rivals at Meehan Auditorium.

The schedule: Brown vs. Princeton at 12:30; Princeton vs. Yale at 2:15; Brown vs. Yale at 4.

Parker Ford of Wakefield, R.I., is off to a good start in his second season with Sioux City of the USHL. The 2000-born forward, a Providence College commit, has four goals in his first four games. Ford is an assistant captain with the Musketeers. Friar commit Luke Johnson is the captain.

— Congrats to Rhode Islanders Dennis Cesana (Providence and Michigan State) and Mike Lombardi (Barrington and Quinnipiac), who played their first NCAA games over the weekend. Cesana was credited with an assist on Saturday against Northern Michigan.

— With its top line firing on all cylinders, the Boston Bruins have a chance to make some hay on the road over the next week with games at Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Ottawa. It was good to see Anders Bjork get on the board, albeit in garbage time against the awful Red Wings.

— Kudos to Scott Borek, who earned his first win as Merrimack’s head coach on Friday, a 1-0 victory over Bentley.

The 17 years between head coaching wins for Borek is a record, according to the College Hockey News.

The Warriors were picked for last place in the Hockey East coaches poll. No big deal, says Borek.

At Hockey East media day a couple of weeks ago, he said his message to his team about the poll would be as follows: “Polls are just other people’s expectations. Don’t wear them. If you wear them, that’s your fault.’’

Borek said he is better equipped to be successful than he was when he took his last head coaching job at Lake Superior.

“When I first got to Lake Superior, I thought it was, unfortunately, all about me. ‘Hey, this is what I’ve got to do.’ It’s not all about you.’ It’s about the other people in the coaches’ room and in the locker room. It’s about everybody else,’’ he said.

“My most recent job with Nate (Leaman at Providence College), the turnover they had and the success that they continue to have as he hires the right people, I need to do the same thing.’’

David Berard’s many friends around college hockey were happy to hear last week that his contract as head coach at Holy Cross has been extended through 2022. The Crusaders are always competitive and Berard is one of college hockey’s best ambassadors.

Good, bad & ugly from P-Bruins weekend


The Providence Bruins opened their first three-in-three weekend of the season with a rousing come-from-behind 4-3 OT victory in Hartford on Friday night. After losing both their games the previous weekend, it looked like they’d figured some things out.

But the P-Bruins failed to build on the win. They mounted another big rally before dropping a 4-3 decision to Hartford at home on Saturday and lost 6-3 at Springfield on Sunday.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.


*** The P-Bruins trailed by two with under 10 minutes left in Hartford on Friday before Anton Blidh and Trent Frederic scored 1:32 apart to tie the game, setting the stage for overtime.

*** Cody Goloubef started his Providence career with a bang, scoring the winner 63 seconds into OT  in his first game.

*** Blidh has been one of the P-Bruins best players in the early going. Always a relentless forechecker and agitator, he scored in two straight games, including a Gordie Howe hat trick on Saturday.

*** Zach Senyshyn scored a goal on Saturday and another on Sunday.

*** Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson, Frederic and Ryan Fitzgerald recorded their first goals of the season over the weekend.

*** Chris Breen played a strong game on defense in Hartford, as did Urho Vaakanainen, who led all players with six shots on goal.

*** Colby Cave played a good two-way game all weekend and had a goal and an assist on Saturday.

*** Mark McNeill quietly leads the team in scoring with 2-3-5 in 5 games.


*** Jordan Szwarz and Peter Cehlarik are both looking for their first goals of the season.

*** Jakub Zboril got caught up ice on Hartford’s shorthanded goal on Saturday. The pairing of Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon were flat-footed and backing in on Hartford’s fourth goal, by John Gilmour, on Saturday.

*** No question Zane McIntyre’s numbers weren’t pretty on Sunday – 14 saves on 20 shots – but none of the goals was soft. He made a bunch of timely stops in Friday night’s win.

*** Yeah, I know plus-minus is no longer considered a meaningful stat, but some P-Bruins are piling up some not-so-good numbers: Zboril -7; Szwarz and Fitzgerald -5; Cehlarik -4.


*** On Sunday, Providence gave up three goals in a span of 2:04 early in the second period. Frederic did a poor job managing the puck on the first goal. Vaakanainen got caught too deep in the offensive zone on the second goal. JFK failed to handle Zboril’s pass in the defensive zone, leading to the third goal.

*** Providence finished the weekend with a 1-4 record. They are seventh in the eight-team Atlantic Division.

*** Injured: David Broll (hand).

P-Bruins GameDay — Return trip to Hartford

PROVIDENCE — Still looking for their first win of the season, the Providence Bruins open the season’s first three-in-three weekend with a game in Hartford tonight.

Zane McIntyre will start in goal, looking to rebound from last Friday’s opener against the Wolf Pack when he was pulled after allowing three goals in the first 12:39.

“We need two goalies. No one works harder than Zane McIntyre. He has performed for us for a long time and he deserves the opportunity to go in and have a good game,” said coach Jay Leach. “I could never fault his effort. He would probably say he’d like to have some (of last Friday’s goals) back, but that’s why it’s the hardest position.”

Leach anticipates having veteran defenseman Cody Goloubef in the lineup for the first time.  He missed the end of training camp with an upper body injury. He’ll be paired with rookie Urho Vaakanainen.

“He’s a guy that’s been around. Can make plays. Hopefully, he’s able to help Vaak get situated with North American pro hockey. He’s played (in both AHL & NHL). We’re hoping he can provide Vaak with good support & get him acclimated to this league,” said Leach.

These were lines in Thursday’s practice and I expect they will be the same tonight:





Besides Vaakanainen and Goloubef, look for the other defensemen tonight to be Lauzon, Zboril, Breen and Clifton.

Sherman, Koppanen, Pond, Gabrielle and Johansson stayed on the ice after today’s morning skate, so expect them to be scratches. David Broll remains out with a hand injury.

Gabrielle is cleared to play after recovering from an upper body injury in the preseason. He could in the lineup on Saturday or Sunday, according to Leach.

Providence is home for a rematch with Hartford on Saturday night, then visits Springfield on Sunday afternoon.

P-Bruins Tuesday practice report


PROVIDENCE — Coming off a winless opening weekend, the Providence Bruins are back at it in practice this week as they prepare for their first three-in-three weekend of the season.

Coach Jay Leach liked Tuesday morning’s session. “There were some plays out there,’’ he said.

Some sparks flew, too. At one point, Anton Blidh knocked off Trent Frederic’s helmet, angering Frederic before cooler heads prevailed. At the end of practice, on the P-Bruins logo at center ice, Blidh and Frederic talked as they led the stretch.

After playing catch up all night in Friday’s loss in Hartford, the P-Bruins led for most of Saturday’s game against Laval before losing on a last-minute goal.

“Laval was very good. They were physical. They were a little older than us. They worked. It was a tough game for us. We had moments where we were good and we had some sustained pressure and then we had moments where we were just holding on for dear life,’’ Leach said.

“They ultimately deserved to win the game. We were up, 2-0, but they outchanced us handily.’’

Before the opener, Leach stressed that a coach never knows what he has until the real games start.

“The only proper way to evaluate where your team is is to just dive in. We had some success last year. We had some success in the preseason. But it doesn’t make a difference when you start playing the real games,’’ Leach said.

“We’ve got work to do. We’ve got younger players playing in different roles, expanded roles. They’ve got to learn how to do that. Tommy Cross isn’t logging 28 minutes (on defense) any more. Guys have got to eat some of those minutes, those younger players. Our guys are competitive and they work. They want to get better.’’

Providence visits Hartford on Friday; has a rematch with the Wolf Pack at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Saturday night; then plays in Springfield on Sunday afternoon.

Quick hits from Bruins opener


BOSTON — All’s well that ends well. The Boston Bruins weren’t at their best in Monday’s home opener, but they did what they needed to bank a 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators.

Four quick hits:


The first line provided the firepower as Patrice Bergeron scored a hat trick and David Pastrnak scored twice, but the fourth line played a part in the win.

After being a healthy scratch in Buffalo, Chris Wagner played with Noel Acciari on the wings between Sean Kuraly. Acciari landed a crunching hit along the boards less than a minute in.  He and Wagner recorded three hits each.

“They looked very good,’’ coach Bruce Cassidy said. “See, that’s the thing. When Noel goes to the wing I find he’s freed up to be more physical, be on top of pucks. When you’re a centerman, you have to be a little more responsible, so that’s the difference. I like him as a centerman. He knows what he’s doing in his own end, makes good reads, good stick, willing to block shots, but when he’s on the wing, he’s freed up a little more.’’


As he often does, Edmonton scout Scott Harlow watched the game from the ninth floor.

“That was a Wags goal right there,’’ Harlow said after the second period, in which Wagner scored Boston’s third goal. Harlow would know since he coached Wagner with the Eastern Junior Hockey League’s South Shore Kings.

Wagner, a meat-and-potatoes player, fought for ice in the slot, stood his ground and got a stick on Charlie McAvoy’s shot from the point as he was knocked down.

“I thought we had one coming after our first period when we had a lot of O-zone time. Sometimes you get the bounces and sometimes you don’t, but that was a pretty good bounce,’’ Wagner said.

It was his first goal as a Bruin in his first home game. What a great moment for the Walpole native and his family.


Too Many Men was, of course, an infamous moment in the history of the Boston Bruins.

Not Enough Men? That was an odd twist in Monday’s game. I can’t recall another one like it in many years of watching the Bruins.

The Senators scored their second goal after a faceoff in the Boston end where the Bruins had only two forwards and two defensemen on the ice. David Pastrnak was the missing forward, jumping over the boards in time to see Ryan Dzingel score his second goal.

Cassidy said he’d called for the Bergeron line to be on the ice and then went to talk to Anders Bjork about his last shift.

“It’s always on the coach to get the right people out there, but by the same token (Bergeron’s) line was out there and I just assumed (Pastrnak) was on the ice lined up against the boards. So, we’ll share responsibility on that one, and we’re just fortunate it didn’t come back to bite us in the ass,’’ said Cassidy.

For Pastnrak’s part, he accepted the blame. “I heard Kuraly line. Definitely my bad. I misheard and, to be honest, I had no idea. All of a sudden I jumped on the ice and they scored. But maybe I lost a little focus and didn’t hear our line so it was my bad.’’


Coming off a rocky night in the season opener, Tuukka Rask wasn’t perfect on Monday, but he didn’t have to be.

“Well, I finished the game. I guess that qualifies as a lot better. We played good,’’ said Rask, who stopped 28 shots.

“He made some big saves. He came out to absorb some traffic around the net, was more engaged in the game, willing to play the puck, so I thought he was good. A good bounce-back game for him,’’ said Cassidy.


“That (Bergeron) hat trick is great, but that backhand saucer pass that lands on Pasta’s stick on the backdoor, I don’t’ get it. We might have to have a talk tonight and he can explain it to me. Maybe I’ll implement it next game’’ – DAVID BACKES

Good, bad & ugly from P-Bruins weekend


There’s nowhere to go but up for the Providence Bruins after losing their first two games of the season.

They dropped a 4-2 decision in Hartford on Friday night, then lost to Laval, 3-2, at home on Saturday.

The beginning was bad as the P-Bruins were blitzed in the opening minutes against the Wolf Pack. And the ending on Saturday was grim, as they allowed the Rocket’s winning goal in the final minute.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.


*** Mark McNeill scored a goal in both games.

*** The line of Cam Hughes, Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson and McNeill did nice work on McNeill’s  goal against Laval, starting with a good forecheck by JFK.

*** Hughes had assists on both goals against Laval.

*** The line of Anton Blidh-Tanner Pond-Austin Fyten was strong against Hartford.

*** Fyten scored a nifty unassisted shorthanded goal on Friday. On Saturday, he fought Laval’s Mike McCarron after McCarron took a run at Colby Cave.

*** Providence drew a crowd of 9,245 in the home opener.


*** Scoring two goals per game, as the P-Bruins did this weekend, is not a formula for success.

*** The P-Bruins looked like deer in the headlights early on in Hartford, according to coach Jay Leach.

*** Providence’s top line of Ryan Fitzgerald, Jordan Szwarz and Peter Cehlarik finished the weekend with just one assist (Fitzgerald) between them. All three were minus-3.

*** Urho Vaakanainen lost a puck battle behind the net after the P-Bruins won a defensive zone faceoff, starting the play that led to Laval’s winning goal.

*** Dan Vladar was beaten over the catching glove on Laval’s first and third goals on Saturday night.


*** Zane McIntyre gave up three goals in the first 12:39 in Hartford before being pulled. He couldn’t be faulted on the first goal, but the next two were soft.

*** The P-Bruins let a 2-0 third-period lead slip away and gave up the decisive goal with 35 seconds left in the loss to Laval.

*** Injured: Cody Goloubef and Jesse Gabrielle (both upper body), David Broll (hand).

5 quick hits from opening night at Schneider Arena


PROVIDENCE — After Providence College exploded for three goals in 2:48 late in the first period, it looked like they might roll to a one-sided win over American International College on Saturday night.

That didn’t happen, though the Friars did enough to earn a 3-1 victory in their season-opening game.

Coach Nate Leaman will take the victory, of course, and go to work on fixing areas where his team fell short.

“I liked certain aspects, but we gave up a lot of chances. I didn’t like some of the chances we were giving up because they were bad reads away from the puck. We got up and then we started cheating a lot, not playing real smart hockey,’’ said Leaman.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who got their first game under their belt. At the end of the day, we won a game.’’

Here are five quick hits:


The six-foot-two sophomore winger’s stock is rising after starting the game as PC’s extra forward and quickly earning more playing time.

“Greg Printz played really well tonight. He was the 13th forward, but he played so well I had to find him ice,’’ said Leaman.

Printz scored a shorthanded goal on a breakaway, hit a post and missed on a second breakaway.


In the first period, Conway scored PC’s first goal on a power play, then assisted on Jacob Bryson’s score.

So far, so good, but in the second and third period, “he got pretty cute and missed some shifts because of it,’’ Leaman said.

“We expect him to be a leader. We’ve got to play smart hockey. Our older guys have got to be the ones that are leading by example. He did a good job in the first and then in the second and third not so much, but he won some key faceoffs for us and that was good.’’


There aren’t many players in college hockey who are as difficult to play against. On Saturday, Sukumaran punished AIC defensemen on the forecheck.

In the first period, he trucked Patrik Demel with a clean open-ice hit. When there was a whistle a few seconds later, he skated by Demel and gave him a tap on the shinpads.

“He’s had a great 2-3 weeks. We’re really excited about him. It’s kind of surprised us a little bit. He’s doing a good job with leadership. He had a solid game,’’ said Leaman.

“He’s always been a guy that works hard but doesn’t always work smart. One thing he’s done really well (so far this year), he’s worked smart and he’s teaching other guys to work smart. We’ve found through the first two and a half weeks that whoever we put him with, they play better. That’s the mark of a good player.’’


PC finished with only 25 shots and 51 shot attempts.

Jack Dugan, who has a pedigree as a scorer, was in good position to shoot a few times and chose to pass instead. He wasn’t the only one.

“We passed up a lot of shots. In the first period, we did a better job getting pucks to the net. In the second period, we became a really perimeter team and we didn’t get many pucks to the net. In the third period, we put together some shifts,” said Leaman.

“It’s something we’ve been harping on for a week and a half. Just because we have good stick skill we want to make the extra pass. We had a lot of shots blocked, too. You hold it and look for a better pass and when you do shoot, they’re in our lane.”


O’Brien didn’t record any points, but had some impressive shifts, playing fast and with poise.

“For a first college game, he’s light’s out with the puck. He got a couple of pucks right in the slot area and he wants to stickhandle that. You can’t do that at this level. You get one in the right area and it’s got to be off your stick,” said Leaman.

“He was really good with the puck and he’s learning off the puck. That’s nothing that I wouldn’t expect.”


Quick hits on opening night


HARTFORD — One game down, 75 to go for the Providence Bruins, who opened the season with a 4-2 loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack on Friday night.

Here are three thoughts on the game:


Like the big club did in Washington on Wednesday night, the P-Bruins put themselves in an early hole. They were down by three goals before the first period was 13 minutes old, as Zane McIntyre allowed a couple of soft goals before Dan Vladar took over.

“We knew (the Wolf Pack) were going to come out with energy – it’s the home opener, right?” coach Jay Leach said after the game.

“We were not clean. We looked a little bit like a deer in the headlights. We got behind early. Unfortunately, we weren’t really able to recover. We played a lot better the second and third. It wasn’t enough.

“It’s a gauge as to where we’re at. We definitely need to be a lot more clean in our own zone. We needed to get pucks behind their defensemen and we needed to get on the forecheck more because when we did, we were pretty effective.”

The P-Bruins pulled to within one with 4:28 left and were pressing for the tying goal when Hartford’s Peter Holland scored an empty netter.


The trio of Anton Blidh, Tanner Pond and Austin Fyten was Providence’s best line.

Fyten scored a nifty unassisted shorthanded goal in the third period to give the P-Bruins a spark.

“All they did was go north. They were simple but effective. Our other guys were searching for their games really from the drop of the puck,” Leach said.


Without even one practice under his belt with the P-Bruins, first rounder Urho Vaakanainen jumped into the lineup and played a solid game.

Paired with Connor Clifton, Vaakanainen wasn’t on either of the power play units to start  the game — “We didn’t want to throw everything at him,” Leach said — but he did get some late shifts on the PP. Leach estimated that he played 20-22 minutes.

“For a guy that just got here three hours ago, I thought he was pretty good. The first period, like for most of us, was a little bit of a blitz. We were trying to find our footing. But as it got along he was smooth, as advertised,” Leach said.

P-Bruins GameDay — Getting started in Hartford


Zane McIntyre starts in goal for the Providence Bruins in the season opener against the Hartford Wolf Pack at the XL Center tonight at 7:15.

Jay Leach says the first game of the season is “a little nerve-wracking” for a coach.

“You just don’t know what the heck is going to happen. Especially this training camp this year (with Boston’s players divided into two groups to accommodate the trip to China),” he said.

“You just never know. Once the games start, that’s when the real work starts. That’s when you can start to teach, get your team to play the way you want to play.

“Even with (Boston), I know it was a tough first night, but it’s a reference point – ‘OK, this is where we’re at and this is where we’ve got to get to.’ Getting the first one out of the way is important.”

You can read my Providence Journal season preview here.

For the most part, the P-Bruins will have their ‘A’ lineup tonight.

Colby Cave won’t play. He is attending to a personal matter.

Cody Goloubef, who is coming off an upper body injury, isn’t expected to play this weekend. He had a hard skate after practice this morning.

With Goloubef not ready, Providence has six healthy defenseman.

I’m curious to see if we get a look at Urho Vaakanainen with the P-Bruins at some point this weekend. He’s been a healthy scratch for Boston’s first two games and there’s no fit for him in the lineup unless the big club has another injury on defense. Something to keep an eye on.

Here are tonight’s expected lines:

Ryan Fitzgerald-Jordan Szwarz-Peter Cehlarik

Cam Hughes-Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson-Mark McNeill

Zach Senyshyn-Trent Frederic-Karson Kuhlman

Anton Blidh-Tanner Pond-Austin Fyten

D pairs:

Chris Breen-Jakob Zboril

Jeremy Lauzon-Connor Clifton

Emil Johansson-Wiley Sherman


Zane McIntyre and Dan Vladar

Scratches: Colby Cave, Cody Goloubef, Jesse Gabrielle (upper body), Joona Koppanen, David Broll (hand).

Strong game for JFK in P-Bruins’ win


PROVIDENCE – Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson went back to work on Saturday, a day after he fell short in his bid to make the Boston Bruins out of training camp.

Still a month away from his 22nd birthday, JFK brought his “A’’ game in a 3-2 preseason win by the Providence Bruins over the Springfield Thunderbirds. Playing big minutes in all situations, he set up the first two goals by the P-Bruins, both off offensive zone draws.

Before the game, P-Bruins coach Jay Leach said that he talked with JFK on Friday after he was sent down about what he needs to work on.

“He has to continue to improve upon being engaged in the games. Going in and getting pucks and becoming a centerman that’s going to go and take pucks away. If you think about his preseason, there were a couple of times he gets in on the forecheck first, he pops one loose for a quick goal,’’ Leach said.

“He just has to continue to mature and feel comfortable becoming a center that really can dictate at both ends of the rink. We’ve definitely seen improvement in that area, as his camp showed, but I also think he has to continue to improve at being someone that really dictates.’’

Starting Saturday’s game with Jesse Gabrielle on his left side and Mark McNeill on the right, JFK won races and puck battles, things that he did always do during Boston’s preseason games.

“Being a centerman for the Boston Bruins, you’re really asked to do a lot. Whether it’s fair or unfair, we’re always holding our standard to Patrice Bergeron. To get to that level you really have to make a difference in all areas of the rink. You have to be engaged in all facets of the ice. He’s going to continue to work on that,’’ he said.

Though undoubtedly disappointed over being sent down, JFK is taking the right approach, according to Leach.

“I talked to him yesterday about it. He wants to be in Boston, so he wants to prove that he’s able to do all those things. He’s a very focused individual. He’ll find his way, but right now his mindset is he wants to play and prove that he can do that,’’ he said.

Fast start for P-Bruins

Mark McNeill scored a goal and set up another in Providence’s win.

Cam Hughes opened the scoring at 6:32 of the first period, converting a nice backhand pass from JFK. Mark Fayne was credited with the second assist.

Providence’s David Broll and Springfield’s Tony Turgeon dropped the gloves off the ensuing the faceoff.

McNeill made it 2-0 at 9:35, assisted by JFK.

Shortly after, Austin Fyten of the P-Bruins and Riley Stillman engaged in a spirited scrap.

Zach Senyshyn made it 3-0 with a power play goal at 17:50 of the second period. Senyshyn, who had a strong game, hit the post on a breakaway, but the puck deflected off him and into the net.

It was only fitting that Senyshyn got the goal. Minutes earlier, he’d gone to the dressing room after being boarded by Turgeon, who received a five-minute major and a game misconduct.

The Thunderbirds scored twice on Dan Vladar before the end of the second period. Sean Bonar took over in the third period and made several nice stops to preserve the win.


Broll hurt his hand in the fight with Turgeon and did not return.

Jesse Gabrielle played well before leaving the game with an upper body injury.

Joona Koppanen went to the room in the third period after taking what looked like a knee-on-knee hit.

Praise for Fayne

Providence College alumnus Mark Fayne, a veteran of 413 NHL games, played his usual steady game on defense.

“He’s a really good guy. Obviously, you can see that he’s been around, knows the deal,” said Leach.

Fayne, 31, is hoping to earn a contract, either in Providence or elsewhere.

“It’s my first camp ever going in without a contract. It’s definitely a different situation, a different mindset, but you’ve just got to try to make the best of it,” said Fayne.

“There’s a few different options. I’m definitely playing hockey this season. One more year at least.”