Maybe it’s the inevitable fate for a farm team, but some of the turmoil from Boston’s lineup managed to trickle down to the roster in Providence. The team currently sits near the bottom of the Atlantic division with an 8-10-1-1 record and a .450 percentage. With injuries that seemed to happen on a daily basis, Boston was forced to reach into the system for backup. This, compounded with Providence’s sparse schedule at the beginning of the season (the team played only five games in the month of October) made for a rough beginning for Scott Gordon’s team.
“We had so many one-goal games that could’ve gone either way, and if we’d won them then it doesn’t seem like it was much of an issue,” explained Gordon. “But what we found after the first month was that we didn’t get the chance to work out some of the kinks, with the turnover of bodies that we’ve had and what we got back from last year’s team, and all the movement from Boston, we haven’t been able to really get an identity as a team or have our players figure out what the expectations are.”
Only a handful of players returned from the 2004-05 team, including veterans Chris Dyment, Ben Guite, and Jay Leach, as well as 2001 draft pick Milan Jurcina. After a strong season with the baby B’s in 2004-05, Jurcina made the big club right out of camp. He traveled with the team and made his debut in the NHL, before he was assigned back to Providence. At 6’4 235 lbs, Jurcina can be a strong physical presence on the ice, but he’s also a good skater and puck handler with a powerful shot, who is used on both the power play and the penalty kill. He’s played a total of seven games for Providence, picking up 3 assists, 8 penalty minutes and a +2 rating. Jurcina is one of a handful of players that has bounced back and forth between Providence and Boston this season.
“I was in Boston for four or five games and now I’ve been back here for a few games,” Jurcina said, and then admitted, laughing, “Of course I’d rather be up there, but I feel more comfortable here.” Two days later he was called back to Boston.
While Jurcina was recalled to Boston, rookie defenseman Andrew Alberts was assigned to Providence for the first time in the season. After a strong camp that earned him a spot on the Boston roster, Alberts was forced to adapt quickly to the NHL, as the rookies were relied upon to make up for Boston’s depleted defense. Alberts averaged almost 15 minutes per game in the 25 he played for Boston, picking up an assist, 43 penalty minutes, and a -7 rating. A sound skater who is not easily knocked down, Alberts has the size and strength to compete successfully at the NHL level. His positioning is excellent, he is competitive, and he delivers brutal hits. The assignment to Providence was seen as a move to allow the young defenseman to refine his game at a more natural rate. He’s played three games for the baby B’s, with a total of two penalty minutes, and was most recently paired with rookie Mark Stuart as part of the starting lineup.
Aside from the movement to and from Boston, Coach Gordon points to the large number of rookies as just one of many factors in the team’s inconsistency. Players are not only learning a new system, but they are trying to adapt to the pro game and lifestyle.
“It just makes it tougher given the fact that we don’t have that many returning players, and we have eight first-year players, and you have the rest of your lineup consisting of players from different organizations,” he explained. “So the terminology’s different, some of the systems are the same and some different, and then you throw in the fact that some of the guys that have been here haven’t been here because they’ve been up in Boston, and it hasn’t really allowed us to have the consistency we would’ve liked to have had at this point.”
Rookie defenseman Mark Stuart left a good impression during his first camp with Boston and many believed he had a solid shot at making the Boston roster. Ultimately he needed to spend more time working on his game to be NHL ready and was assigned to Providence at the beginning of the season. Stuart is a smooth skater who shows remarkable poise for a rookie, but the tough, physical defender has had to spend considerable time adapting to not only the pro game, but the new rules. In 20 games he has an assist and 25 penalty minutes.
Jonathan Sigalet has a combination of great speed, maneuverability and offensive capability, and has thus far made a smooth transition from college to pro. He appears to move the length of the ice with minimal effort, and is often the first defenseman to the puck in his own zone. His quick, accurate shot currently places him as the top scoring defenseman for Providence. Sigalet has 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists) in 20 games, including two power play goals. He scored his first goal during Providence’s first regular season game on October 14th, and has had a two-point game, as well as a game-winning goal in mid November.
Sigalet is not easily knocked off the puck and is able to use his quick stride to elude others, often taking the puck end to end. Aside from the normal growing pains of a young defenseman, one of the biggest weaknesses in Sigalet’s game is with his size and strength. This is most apparent along the boards, where he is sometimes easily shoved aside and down.
After being drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2003, Tyler Redenbach was picked up by Boston as a free agent over the summer of 2005 and has impressed since camp. He’s made a quick adjustment to the pro game, and is beginning to establish himself as a strong playmaking forward.
“Starting I was a little shaky, I guess,” he said when asked about his progress at this point in the season. “But games get on and you just have to get some confidence under your belt and after that you just play every period at a time, every shift at a time. I can’t look too far ahead, you’ve just got to focus on what’s going on now.”
Currently second on the team in scoring, Redenbach has 19 points (8 goals, 11 assists) in 20 games, and leads the team in plus/minus with a +7. He has also had several multiple point games, including a three-point game in November. Redenbach is the type of player that seeks out scoring opportunities and is often found battling for the puck along the boards. In a recent game against Lowell, he was paired with veterans Eric Healey and Ben Guite, and though he didn’t score, had six shots on net.
Ben Walter was also quick to put points up this season, recording his first assist as a pro in Providence’s second game of the season, and his first goal a couple games later against Lowell. He had two multiple point games, two power play goals, and scored the game winner against Portland on November 25th. Walter currently has 10 points (3 goals, 8 assists) and two penalty minutes in 18 games, and has also been used on the power play and in the shootout. He was injured December 2 in a game against Springfield, and has missed two games.
Nate Thompson has played in 20 games for a total of 3 points (2 goals, 1 assist) and six penalty minutes. He scored his first goal as a pro on October 15th in the third period versus Portland. Though he hasn’t made a huge impact on the scorecard, overall, Thompson is sound on both ends of the ice and is an excellent skater who takes frequent shots at the net. In the December 4th game against Lowell, Thomspon played on a line with Nathan Robinson and Jeremy Reich. He had six shots on goal, and played a good physical game, delivering one particularly jarring hit along the boards late in the first period.
Rookie goaltender Jordan Sigalet made the P-Bruins squad out of camp. He debuted in Providence’s second regular season game on October 15th against Portland, where he stopped 23 of 25 shots and earned his first win as a pro.
“It’s been great,” said Sigalet. “To get in eight games already, it’s more than I expected. That they have confidence in me, it’s given me confidence, and getting called up earlier in the year, it was a pretty good experience.”
Earlier in the season, Boston starting goaltender Andrew Raycroft went down with injury, and as the team didn’t want to take the chance that vet Tim Thomas would be claimed off waivers, it was a surprised Sigalet that got the call.
“I got to learn a lot from Boston, from the players, even though I didn’t play,” he said. “Being in practice, watching the other guys play, it was a great experience for me.”
Overall, Sigalet has shown remarkable poise in the net his first pro season. He’s started in a total of nine games, and posted a 5-4-1 record, 2.77 goals against and .887 save percentage. One of his strongest efforts came November 6th against Portland, but despite stopping 26 of 27 shots, the team lost. On November 20th, Sigalet was in the net for a shootout that went 12 rounds and resulted in a Providence win over Albany. Of the twelve shots, Sigalet only let in two. Sigalet did, however, have one tough showing on December 2nd against Springfield, where he was pulled early in the second period after letting in three goals.
Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.