Providence Bruins season preview

By Janine Pilkington

After a disappointing loss to the Philadelphia Phantoms in the Eastern Conference Finals in May, the Providence Bruins will look to capture some of that intensity for the 2005-06 season, and make another serious run for the Calder Cup. Behind the bench, the coaching staff remains the same, with Scott Gordon entering his third season as head coach and assistant coach Rob Murray beside him.

The team on the ice will be vastly different. With the departure of Andrew Alberts, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Boyes, Kevin Dallman, Andy Hilbert, Milan Jurcina, Colton Orr, Martin Samuelsson, Brent Thompson, and Hannu Toivonen, the lineup may not resemble the 2004-05 roster, but Providence will have the opportunity to start fresh with a new batch of prospects and free agents. The Baby B’s play their first regular season game Friday, Oct. 14 at home against the Portland Pirates.

Goaltenders

It’s no secret that a large part of the 2004-05 season’s success was between the pipes. Bruins top prospect Hannu Toivonen has moved on to big club as a back up to reigning rookie of the year Andrew Raycroft. That leaves three candidates in the running for the starting role, with recently signed veteran player Tim Thomas looking to be a good candidate.

The remaining two goaltenders are arguably Boston’s strongest goaltending prospects behind Toivonen. Jordan Sigalet, the Bowling Green State University grad and seventh round draft pick from 2001, wrapped up a successful college career during 2004-05 as a Hobey Baker award finalist and making a team record-breaking 1,140 saves. The former Falcons netminder and team captain posted a 2.89 GAA and .915 save percentage during 2004-05.

The next goaltender in line is 20-year-old Mike Brown. The 2003 draft pick (5th round, 153rd overall) split the 2004-05 season between the Saginaw Spirit and the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL. Brown played 26 games with Saginaw, where he earned a 7-17-1 record, 3.68 GAA and .901 save percentage. He then played his remaining 33 games with Owen Sound, with a significant improvement of 2.48 GAA, .913 save percentage and 17-11-4 record.


Defensemen

Providence loses two big, hard-hitting defensemen with Andrew Alberts and Milan Jurcina, and quick point scoring defender in Kevin Dallman, but this year’s new faces should make up for that. After a strong camp in Boston, 2003 first round draft pick (21st overall) Mark Stuart will make his pro debut with the Baby B’s for 2005-06. The former WCHA defensive player of the year brings a tough physical game and strong leadership qualities. Stuart opted out of his final year in college after finishing his junior season in 2004-05 with 19 points and 94 penalty minutes in 43 games.

Nineteen-year-old Jonathan Sigalet participated in his first training camp after being drafted in 2005 (4th round, 100th overall). Sigalet is a strong skater with an excellent hockey sense. He recently completed his 2004-05 sophomore season at Bowling Green State, where he put up 15 points and 36 penalty minutes in 33 games. He earned recognition from the team for both his academic and athletic achievements and shows considerable promise as an offensive defenseman. Sigalet surprised some when he opted to sign a contract with the B’s rather than complete his final years with Bowling Green, but developmentally, it should provide a valuable opportunity for the defender. He should be the youngest player on Providence’s roster.

Forwards

Center Ben Walter is another who opted out of college early to sign his contract. After a successful camp in Boston and some preseason NHL experience, Walter will begin his pro career in Providence. He recently completed a successful 2004-05 junior season at UMass-Lowell with 39 points in 36 games, 26 of which were goals. His play earned him recognition as one of the top forwards in Hockey East and finalist for the Hobey Baker award. Half of his 2004-05 season goals came on the power play, which topped all of Hockey East, where he led with goals scored as well.

Center Nate Thompson attended his second Boston camp since he was drafted eighth (183rd overall) in 2003. Twenty-one-year-old Thompson spent four seasons with the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL). His 34-point performance in 58 games helped the 2004-05 Thunderbirds team earn a first place finish and gave Thompson the opportunity to play in 11 of Providence’s 17 playoff games. If anything, being thrown into the lineup during a heated postseason in 2005 gave the 6’0 190 lb center added confidence as he entered camp this summer.

The roster as of Oct. 7

Key: italic=returning players; Bold=Bruins prospect; “* “ = currently called up to Boston

Forwards: Zdenek Blatny, Milan Gajic, Ben Guite, Eric Healey, Pat Leahy*, David Lundbohm, Jason MacDonald, Eric Nickulas, Tyler Redenbach, Jeremy Reich, Nathan Robinson, Garret Stroshein, Nate Thompson, Ben Walter

Defensemen: Chris Dyment, Scott Ford, Jonathan Girard, Jay Leach, Michael Schutte, Jonathan Sigalet, Mark Stuart

Goaltenders: Mike Brown, Jordan Sigalet, Tim Thomas

Upcoming Games:
FRI OCT 14TH vs. Portland Pirates (7:05 PM, Dunkin Donuts Center/ Providence, RI)
SAT OCT 15th vs. Portland Pirates (7:05 PM, Civic Center/ Portland, ME)
SAT OCT 22nd vs. Springfield Falcons (7:05 PM, MassMutual Center/ Springfield, MA)




Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.