Amesbury Maples Legend Series: Larry Fournier

( Photo Credit:  The Fournier Family )

By: Mark Allred   |   Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Growing up in my hometown of Amesbury, Massachusetts it was unfortunate for me as a passionate hockey fan to not see any of these Amesbury Maples hockey team legends play but stories of the past from those who witness first hand are always just as good. Like back in the day when former Amesbury Middle School athletics teacher Leo Dupere who often used old Maples player comparisons when a young man was making an end-to-end rush during the popular floor hockey season. Dupere, a longtime Maples player himself and had a tremendous hockey career.  The former Northeastern University standout will be the subject of a future article and was a mastermind when it came to player development.

Every player that donned the Kelly Green and White jersey certainly earned the right to be a member on the roster throughout the years, but you also have to give an assist to the Amesbury families and their ability to produce generations of hockey talent under their respected roofs. The Fournier family was no slouch when it came to a family legacy in this area, and for those who don’t know, I’ll explain a lot more below.

The Fournier last name was brought up often in my Maples research that I’ve been doing for the past three to four years. The first mention was when Freddie Fournier Sr. stepped on the ice during the 1950-51 season. Fred, a tremendous skater, and from a hockey history standpoint, I’d compare his skills to former Bruins player Derek Sanderson who was a pest to play against.  With the way, both could forecheck, and ability to strip the puck off an opposing player with their skilled reach was most impressive to hear. Fournier’s offensive attributes were also a key to his success as he used his speed to transition the other way for defensive relief.

( Photo Credit: The Fournier Family )Fred Fournier Sr. to the right showing you what I meant about his style of play.

Speaking of defense and strong skating, I should stop rambling and get to the point of my fourth Amesbury Maples Legend Series article which is my tribute to Fred’s son Larry Fournier. This was another great research project and want to thank all that were involved and who I personally met. Gathering information about a person’s unselfish acts from our Amesbury community on and off the ice are my favorite projects, and I hope everyone enjoys this article most importantly the Fournier Family.

Larry Fournier: The Original Larry Legend

( Photo Credit: The Fournier Family )

Before Boston Celtics, great Larry Bird stepped on the parquet floor of the original Boston Garden and later be nicknamed “Larry Legend,” there was another Larry in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts already earning legendary status with every day contributed to the game he loved.  Born in 1953 to the parents of aforementioned Maples Legend Freddie Sr. and wife Lorraine (Lariviere), young Larry was the second born to the family of five who had Ricky leading the way (former Maples player) down to Fred Jr (former Maples player), Glenn (Retired AFD, 35 YOS), and rounding it off daughter Lynne who I had the pleasure of meeting as mentioned below.

Larry Fournier was a product of outstanding homegrown development that you are going to continue to hear from me when it comes to the history of the Amesbury Maples and the clubs sustainability for over 75 years. The tutelage from his father and older sibling Ricky helped mold the young prodigy’s game to be his best and represent family and community with the utmost respect on and off the ice. Fournier,  a quiet young man, had his athleticism speak louder than words as he’s been mentioned to have excelled in multiple sports growing up and was a fantastic golfer like his father.

Having never met Larry myself and only hearing stories of the past I wanted a better understanding of how Larry was as a person was on a day-to-day basis, I thought it was important to get in touch with his siblings as they’d know best for that character factor.  Younger sister Lynne told me he was a very active and would hardly be seen lounging around with nothing to do. She mentioned to me at a local coffee shop in Amesbury that he would often go on long trips around the area on his bicycle or would go on foot and run miles for exercise and pass the time.  Without prior notice, one morning he woke up very early and rode all the way to the top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire and back in the same day. After hearing that, I was hooked into learning more about that never quit attitude and that mentality when it came to his game on the ice.

( Photo Credit:  The Fournier Family )

The young Fournier rose through the Amesbury Youth Hockey leagues to be considered as one of the city’s all-time athletes. The three-time All-League Defenseman helped his Amesbury Indians High School team to a 52-5-3 record when he played from the 1968 to 1972 seasons. After graduating from Amesbury, the 18-year-old Fournier made his first appearance on the Maples roster during the 1972-73 winter season and immediately started playing like a pro in the higher leagues he played in. There was no shortage of leadership when it came to developing Larry’s game.

( Photo Credit: The Fournier Family / Unknown Local Paper )

Having played with the likes of defensemen Jim Henderson, Steve Klien, Roger Nadeau, Randi Picard, and Carl Vedrani on the blueline in his rookie season and names like Goerge Dodier, Leo Dupere, Doug Gleason, and Jack Morrill up on the offense, he didn’t exactly have to go far when seeking to get advise. He also came into the league as the Maples semi-pro organization was celebrating their 50th consecutive season as one of the top amateur teams in the United States since 1924. Larry also joined older brother Ricky and cousin Mike Fournier in his first year and unfortunately missed playing alongside his father Fred Sr. when he hung up the skates a year prior after the 1971-72 season and an honorable 22-year career.  Fred Sr. also managed the Maples organization as a player for ten seasons relinquished his post after the 1962-63 season.

( Photo Credit:  The Fournier Family )

A lot of great things happened to Larry during the 1972-73 season as seen above but he also took a serious step in his hockey development as a postgraduate when he attended the Berwick Academy Prep School team in Berwick, Maine. Fournier showed his skills to the best of his ability and was fortunate to join the Berwick Prep team on a two week to trip to Sweden to participate in a Youth Tournament and play a few other teams throughout Scandinavia that year.

While playing with Berwick Academy, Fournier was fortunate to play and roommate with 1980 Team USA Gold Medalist Mike Eruzione. After leaving Berwick, Eruzione would go onto play at Boston University for four seasons before joining the United States team who would make history that year in Lake Placid, New York.

( Photo Credit: 15 Minutes With )

Eruzione, a Winthrop, Massachusetts native talked about his time with the Berwick Academy hockey club in a Foster’s Daily Democrat article written by John Doyle and mentions how great that team was playing alongside players like Fournier and others. Eruzione said…..

” I remember we were awfully good and it was an honor playing for Pop. (Former Head Coach) He was a legend and a great guy to play for. I remember how good we were. Prep Schools couldn’t play against us. We played a lot of College JV teams. We played UNH a ton. We were basically all PG’s, some local kids.”

After the 1972-73 season, Fournier would attend Salem State College for one season and would play under legendary coach Barry Urbanski. According to a Larry Fournier Tournament Program’s brief history, the talented defenseman was a late cut in his dream of being an Olympian in 1980 representing his country during the Winter Games from Lake Placid, New York.  Fournier made it as far as the Eastern Region which was a great accomplishment for an Olympic bid.

( Photo Credit:  The Fournier Family )

Fournier returned to the Maples organization and was heavily involved in several semi-pro leagues from 1973 to 1986 according to the Fournier Tournament pamphlet. When it comes to a player’s defensive game on the ice, you can’t get any better than to have a chance to talk to his linemate and best friend, Steve Klien. Steve was a 24-year veteran of the Maple organization and a member of the greatest two seasons of his and Larry’s high school career when Klien joined the team as a freshman while Larry was to have his best season on record in his junior year. Klien says both became instant friends after one practice together and a bond that would continue for years.  Off the ice, the fierce defensive tandem would often take their support for each other as teammates when they were walking about town. Klien said……

“Funny thing I remember we’d be walking downtown and if someone was walking at us we always made them go around as we walked never let anyone between us. Then after they passed by we would turn to each other an say “no one splits the D”!

( Photo Credit: Fournier Family / Local Newspaper Unknown )

Klien also mentioned Larry’s time and passion for coaching as he was heavily thought of from three different school systems. As taught to him as so many from the past advised him, he was very well known for his defensive coaching abilities. He was the Assistant Coach to mentioned Maples Legend Leo Dupre behind the Amesbury High School bench and also with Newburyport and Triton which are two schools located in the Northeastern part of Essex, County.

Per an article that was written on March 15th, 1988 by Daily News Sports Editor Kevin Doyle, Former bench boss of the Amesbury High School hockey team Leo Dupre had this to say about Larry’s coaching style…

You knew you could give Larry the defensemen and not worry. He had a knack to develop them. He had an even temperament and vast knowledge of the game and was a great help to me as a head coach said,” said Dupere.

Triton Head Coach Dan O’Connell also chimed in on the 1988 article by Daily New Editor Doyle saying after spending 16 years with the team. Fournier was O’Connell’s assistant coach for two seasons…..

“It doesn’t make much sense that one guy could coach in three systems and remain well-liked and well-respected by the people in all three. But that was Larry Fournier” said O’Connell.

In September of 1987 at the age of 33, Larry Fournier passed away from a short battle with cancer. His legacy and memory continued for over 28-years with so many charitable donations and successful Fournier Tournament Committee events that raised over $130K to graduate students that were eligible from Amesbury, Newburyport, and Triton according to the Larry Fournier Official  Facebook Page.

( Photo Credit: The Daily News / Kevin Doyle )

Dupere also mentioned that his dedication to the game went to the final days of his life when he missed only a few practices while coaching at Newburyport and was a regular attendee at several area summer hockey camps before leaving us in the fall of 1987. In 1988 and information shared from the article that Doyle wrote, Larry was to be honored by the Massachusetts State Hockey Coaches Association for his commitment to hockey and in the article Leo Dupere mentioned…..

“Larry knew and liked everybody and had a great personality. You just don’t want a guy of his magnitude to be quickly forgotten. This award is a class act by the association,” and saying that “Larry was a model person. He left something for all of us who knew him,” said Dupere in Kevin Doyle’s 1988 article.

To End…..

In the fall of 2017 Minnesota State resident, Roger Krafve got in touch with me after he did a website search related to the Amesbury Maples. He wanted to know if I had any information on an old jersey that he bought on Ebay from a collector in Texas. After I viewed the photos and particulars of the fantastic item, I said the jersey looked close but needed more details. He later sent me a photo of the tag on the inside and found that the Kelly Green and White jersey was manufactured in Brockton, Massachusetts by a company named Stall & Dean who was the oldest sporting goods manufacturers in America and outfitted the National Hockey Leagues original six franchises until the league expanded in 1967.

To make this particular part of my tribute short, it was later confirmed that the jersey my friend Roger was in possession of was, in fact, the hockey jersey worn by the late and great Larry Fournier. I later shared my findings with Michael Gorman who is working with Global Property Developers as a team to get a hockey facility back to Amesbury and erase a 40+ year absence.

Through the mutual contact in the process, Mr. Gorman asked me for purchasing inquiries of the jersey to bring it back to it’s Amesbury home and closer to our town’s legacy when it comes to the Fournier family and their contributions to the area.  Mr. Gorman mentioned he’d like to honor Larry and surviving family with a shrine somewhere in the new facility in the foreseeable future at the South Hunt Road location later to be called the Amesbury Sports Center.

In a June 26th, 2018 article written by Jim Sullivan of The Daily News out of Newburyport, Massachusetts, The Town of Amesbury Planning Board approved the hockey mega center’s plan and taking positive steps forward to finally breaking ground.  For the official Global Property Developers Corporation presentation that was released in 2016-17, Please CLICK HERE

On September 7, 2018, the aforementioned Jim Sullivan wrote an update about the permits that were granted from the City of Amesbury for the project that will cost $48 million. That article can be seen by ClICKING HERE.

Check out the photos of Larry’s Jersey below.

       

I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone that had a hand in this project and if it weren’t for those folks who helped out this wouldn’t have happened. Special appreciation goes out to Larry’s siblings Lynne and Glenn for the great conversations about your brother and other family members that have reached out with great information. Big thanks to Steve Klien for sharing his memories about his best friend to add to this project. Always a Class Act when I have Maples related questions. I will continue to thank the late and great sports researcher Bert Spofford for his amazing work gathering information for the Maples 75th Anniversary Ceremony in 1994, and to all of you that took the time to read my tribute to this unbelievable person.

Below is a video of the aforementioned Roger Krafve who found Larry’s jersey on Ebay and a little history of his hockey collecting throughout the years.

I hope you all enjoyed this read, and ask if anyone has Maples Hockey related news or photos that you’d like to share and contribute to future articles, please send me an  email at blackngoldhockeyblog@gmail.com

Prospects Challenge: Part 3 – Providence Bruins Head Coach Jay Leach

Coach Leach( Photo Courtesy of Joshua Bemis @ToCauseway )

By: Jen Stasio Coombe  |  Follow Me On Twitter @hockeygirl2976

One of the benefits to covering a preseason event like Buffalo’s Prospects Challenge is the amount of access to and the amount of time you get to spend with the players and coaches asking questions.  I found that everyone was very amiable and ready to answer any questions I had for them, even when not directly hockey related.  For example, did you know the Jakub Zboril fell in love over the summer?  Ok… don’t get carried away here, he fell in love with tennis. He explained, ”My brother and I took up tennis over the summer… other than Hockey, the only sport I love is Tennis.”

Now that I really have your attention, I will tell you, on a recent appearance on the Beers N’ Bruins podcast hosted by Mark Allred, he asked me what I felt about Jay Leach.  It wasn’t hard to come up with a solid answer really.  From a fans perspective, sitting in the stands week after week, watching him direct traffic, boost morale and guide the boys set to take the ice, what I saw was a calm, quiet, completely cool coach.

Whether they were winning or losing, having a ‘conversation’ with the stripes or failing to make it past the first round of the playoffs, I never saw him break into a rant or flail about with frustration.  Once the podcast was over, I began to wonder how naïve I was being… Is he always like this or does he blow up behind closed doors?  Is this the type of coach he aimed to be from the start?  What does he think of his style? What do the boys on the bench think of him?  The questions continued to swirl, but I knew right where to look for answers.

Leach( Photo courtesy of Times Union )

I started with the man himself on the second day in Buffalo I interviewed him about how he coaches and what his plan was when transitioning from player to coach.  He explained that he never really knew what to expect or how to be the best coach.  “You try to do your due diligence, come in with an idea, but you go through a year with a bunch of experiences, and you come out the other side and things are just different.”

By nature, he is the type of person who likes to ‘check his boxes’ be sure that tasks are complete, but he tempers his needs to filter a ton of information down to the players with the understanding that Makes him a ‘Players’ coach.  “I am 39 years old, I am not that far removed from playing, I don’t want to come across as anything other than who I am… obviously, we have standards, and we hold everyone to those standards, but it has to be organic, I try to create a good environment…”

Leach, Koppanen, Kuhlman( Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Stasio Coombe )

When I had the chance to ask his players about his coaching style and how he compared to other coaches they had worked with each player had their own take, but it all boiled down to three basic facts:

  1. He is always open to discussions and willing to offer advice or counsel. Whether it was professional or personal, each of the players confirmed that they had no problems talking to Leach about anything.
  2. He does have standards. “If you don’t play well and don’t improve, he will sit you,” said one player, but when I followed on asking about if this was a silent sit or if he explained I was told time and again, “He always explains himself, it is always to help us and to get better.”
  3. He has garnered the respect of each of the players. “He is not far away from being a player…he knows what it is like to be us, and we respect him.  We don’t improve because he will yell, we want to do better because we don’t want to disappoint him.  He has our total respect.”

The last question I posed to both Coach Leach and each player was about his composure behind the bench. Jay responded, ”It’s all right here (motioning to his chest),  right here and maybe a bead of sweat, I don’t know if you will ever get rid of that… I need them (the players) to not think that is happening.”  Apparently, the old adage of never let them see you sweat holds fast with Jay.  Players responded likewise saying that he was always composed behind the bench and while once and a while he will blow off steam behind closed doors, all in all, “he is as level as they come.”

The result of the interviews with both Coach Leach and his players has solidified in my mind that he IS that solid coach I see behind the bench.  He guides and directs them with composure and tough love when needed, but most of all he is truly invested in the development of not just the players, but himself. “I would imagine that every year I will come out a little different, I think, I hope that means I am growing.”

Prospects Challenge: Part 2 – A Tale Of Three Goalies For The Bruins

Round Up ( Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Stasio Coombe )

By: Jen Stasio Coombe  |  Follow Me On Twitter @hockeygirl2976

Dan Vladar, Kyle Keyser, and Dawson Weatherill were three netminders who played their way to Buffalo representing the Bruins in net over the four-day extended weekend event. Three men to tend the pipes gave Boston Brass the opportunity to scrutinize the skills and tenacity each of these players brought to the game.  As well as giving each of them their opportunity to shine as the squads starting goalie.

Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, was to be Kyle Keyser’s night in the spotlight. The 6’2” 180-pound goalie has played for the Oshawa Generals since 2016 and at the young age of 19 was looking to convince the people upstairs that their faith in his growth and development were not misguided.  Attending the development camp in the spring, there were a few doubts about his ability to keep the pace and continue to build his repertoire.  Kyle took game 1 by the horns and left little doubt that he was here to work hard and win.

Keyser 2( Photo Courtesy of Joshua Bemis @ToCauseway )

The first two periods Keyser was on fire not letting one of the many shots he faced past his post.  His determination in net saw the B’s entering the third with a 4-0 lead.  This iron curtain did appear to falter a bit in the third allowing two pucks to find their way into the net, but his composure and calm were not to let him down.

Finishing his night off with a total of 35 saves, it was reasonable to think that perhaps fatigue is what caused the two pucks to slip by in the third so the next day I asked Kyle his take on the situation.  “Honestly, I didn’t feel fatigued at all in the third, sometimes when you are as a team four nothing, and you are going into the third you maybe take your foot off the gas a little, even me, and I think that is just an area to focus in on to improve for everybody.”  Backing up his confident statement regarding his endurance Keyser did show a good bit of athleticism late into the third, using the butt of his stick while making a nice leap to ensure the puck would not find its intended target.

Vladar( Photo Courtesy of Joshua Bemis @ToCauseway )

Game 2, the feature game of the weekend, saw Dan Vladar take his place in the crease to put a kibosh on the Buffalo Sabres scoring chances.  His 6’5” 185-pound frame towered over the net as the puck was dropped at the Harbor Center.  After spending two seasons with the Atlanta Gladiators, Boston’s ECHL Affiliate, Dan was ready to make his next step up the pro ladder taking place in Providence as the second goaltender for the organization this coming year.  His performance tonight would not disappoint those invested in this 21-year old’s blossoming career.

While the Sabres came into the weekend not only with a home-ice advantage but a strong and wiley group of youngsters, the first period ended with only a single puck making it past this Czech beast.  Not completely satisfied with his first period, Valdar came into the second two periods with a galvanized resolve and a positive outlook.  Not one of the battery of shots on goal was able to penetrate this jolly giant’s façade.Vladar 2 ( Photo Courtesy of Joshua Bemis @ToCauseway )

Finishing the night with a record of saving 38 of 39 shots on goal would leave many a goalie, tooting his own horn, but not our Vlad.  When asked about his performance in the net his humble attitude and desire to continually better himself was on full display.  “I feel good, but it is my first game of the season … I felt a little bit off my posts, but I got a little bit stronger over the summer, so my pushes were good…To be honest, it was not my best hockey… ”  In contrast, Jay Leach felt Vladar had an outstanding performance.  “I think at first he had a few saves that looked like he hadn’t played in six months, which he hadn’t, but he settled right in, and ‘Vlady’ will always give you his best effort… guys love playing in front of him … and he was really very impressive.”

The 3rd and final game of the weekend saw Dawson Weatherill step up in an attempt to send the New Jersey Devils packing.  Another formidable obstacle at 6’4” 190-pounds, Weatherill came to the prospect challenge as an invite.  Basically, he was brought up to test the waters and fill out the third roster spot as some would say.  Not taking this merely a chance to mingle with the pro boys or a holiday with a bit of hockey thrown in, Dawson buckled down, worked hard at all practices and morning skates, and soaked up all the information he could from the coaches and teammates here in Buffalo.

Unfortunately, learning does not occur overnight and being the least seasoned of the goalies here for Boston, Dawson saw the 3rd game come to a disappointing close with a score of Devils 6 Bruins 2.  He was not as focused or as agile as Vladar and Keyser, and he appeared to have trouble from time to time with letting the frustration overtake him.  While he was not able to vanquish these Devils, Weatherill will take what he has learned in this tournament back to the Spokane Chiefs in the WHL and continue to grow and develop, hoping for another shot in future seasons.

Finishing with a strong showing of winning 2 of the 3 matches the Bruins goalies were ready to head back home and get the rest of the preseason underway.  Don Sweeny confirmed that Vladar would be heading to Providence to split time in net with Veteran P-Bruin Zane McIntyre stating, “We play a lot of three in three situations in Providence, where one goalie gets two out of those three. You want that competition, he really needs to challenge and push Zane for as many starts as he can get.”  So, while Keyser and Weatherill set off to mature for another season, it is up to Dan Vladar to determine his own next big move.

What China Trip Meant For Bruins, NHL

Image result for china nhl 2018(Photo Credit: South China Morning Post)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @Evan007onTV

One team. Three countries. An entire sport.

That’s the focus all of Boston had on the Bruins recently completed (and successful) trip against Calgary to the Far East for the NHL China Games in Shenzen & Beijing! And for supposedly “meaningless” preseason games, these two timely tilts held plenty of meaning for everyone involved, especially the Chinese fans of the game who want nothing more than to see NHL players be a part of the 2022 Winter Olympics in the People’s Republic. Thankfully, the young, up-and-coming talent of the B’s was on full display and in full force, perhaps setting the stage for many a prospect’s skillful return to China in only four years.

But winning two highly-publicized exhibition games, affectionately labeled by NBC Sports as “NHL’s Asian Championship,” isn’t the true accomplishment for the Bruins, for the NHL or [big picture] for the sport of hockey in general.

It’s winning the minds, hearts & attention of a region that desperately wants to be a part of the future of our favorite game. And at least IMHHO (a familiar acronym from my previous writings & musings)–with no disrespect to the Flames or Calgary, Alberta for that matter–the National Hockey League couldn’t have picked a better team than the Boston Bruins to help spotlight the sport.

Sure, there are many writers & reporters out there who documented the trials & tribulations of the team’s traveling travails…

…from equipment being lost to everyday essentials unavailable to stomach bugs & to this:

But that’s not what I’m running with for this article. And since many a fellow Black N’ Gold blogger & colleague has recapped these aforementioned games, their subsequent highlights and highlighted players & plays, I shall focus only on the B-spoked symbolism of the Bruins China trip, as evidenced in the playful picture below.

Image result for bruins fans china(Photo Credit: BTA by way of the Associated Press)

Far East fandom at its finest is what you see. You also see a sea of B’s sweaters, jerseys, posters & towels — kids connecting with a team whose likability factor, and history, is appreciated as greatly as The Great Wall, which Brad Marchand and company couldn’t help but stand atop in hopefully a sign of foreshadowing for the standings and this season’s end game.

And when the games had ended in China for the Bruins, the team had built something equally impressive, if not as visually stunning just yet: a genuine connection to a people and a culture craving to be a part of ice hockey history. As longtime Bruin’s correspondent Amalie Benjamin wrote in a brilliant profile piece for NHL.com, “this is hockey in China… [a teenager yelling for Brad Marchand] wore a Bruins jersey with a No. 15, Milt Schmidt’s retired number.” She goes on to describe the crowd as people who already know and love the game surrounded by those who want it to stay and become a part of their lives. It’s as revealing and eye-opening a picture of the importance and impact of these games as Pierre McGuire’s new take on what “DD” could soon mean to New Englanders (move over Dunkin’ Donuts)!

Fonts, puns and wordplay aside, it’s the play of the Bruins that has garnered the attention of a nation at time the NHL needs it most. Bringing the game back to the Olympics, especially in China, would be as a celebratory as an OT game winner for players and fans alike. And based on what we just saw from the B’s, perhaps some of those festive, fireworks-filled celebrations will soon be in order — for one team, three countries AND an entire sport!

Donato Looks To Play Big Role For The Bruins In 2018-19

470f75a62af4bc417a8a8987ab42a0ea(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

It’s a well-known fact that the Boston Bruins have an impressive slew of young players. Ranging from the dynamic and speedy Jake DeBrusk to the all-around outstanding defenseman Charlie McAvoy. Two prime examples of recent successes of young players that have helped the Bruins expedite their rebuild. This season will be no different as a few players including the talented Anders Bjork will be looking to put together an impressive campaign to continue the trend of young players having success in Boston. Perhaps the most important young player in 2018-19 is Ryan Donato, who if all goes well, could end the season bringing home the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.

The Scituate, Massachusetts native was a 2014 draft choice of the Bruins(56th overall) and burst onto the scene late last season. Donato appeared in 12 regular season games, scoring five goals and adding four assists and also played three postseason games, going scoreless. His impressive debut on March 19th included a goal and two assists.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

It wasn’t just Boston where Donato impressed last year. As a member of Team USA in the Winter Olympics, Donato was tied for the tournament lead in goal scoring with five goals. Despite Team USA’s seventh-place finish, Donato was one of the top players in the tournament. Donato’s Olympic experience can only be a good thing for his development as he looks to build off of it for the upcoming season.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

This past season playing for Harvard University, Donato was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, awarded to the top player in college hockey. Clearly, his talent is there, and the Bruins hope he can truly break out this season. Perhaps the biggest question for Donato is who will he play with. Seemingly every roster projection I’ve seen has him on a different line. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him on the top line with Patrice Bergeron or on the second line with David Krejci. It seems likely that he could even see time on the third line, but it remains to be seen who that line will be comprised of.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Donato’s versatility is the best part of his game at the moment, and it gives the Bruins the opportunity to put him in a number of different situations to see where he’d be most useful. My best guess is he’ll be placed on the second line with Krejci and DeBrusk and look to make a formidable line to follow the top group. Donato will almost certainly see power play time and possibly with the top group. I would imagine that the Bruins will want him to shoot the puck as much as possible as they try to find another winger to match with Krejci. His shot is already a big weapon, and if you stayed up late to watch the first China game, you saw it firsthand.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The Bruins will be looking for players to add secondary scoring this season to help out the top line and create a more balanced attack. If Donato can perform the way he’s capable of, this team will be even more dangerous than it already is and he may even take home some hardware as well. Playing only 15 games last season, Donato gave us all a glimpse of what could be the start of a great NHL career, and you can be sure this season he’ll try to prove he’s the real deal.

2018 Training Camp: The Bruins Make Some Cuts

Image result for 2018 bruins training camp zane mcintyre(Photo Credits: The Boston Globe)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

The NHL China Games are over, and the Bruins are 4-0 this preseason. Yeah, it’s preseason, and these games don’t count, but it is hard not to get excited about this team. And with many of the veteran players returning back home just shy of two weeks before the season opens, it’s time now to trim the fat, so to speak. On Wednesday afternoon, the Bruins officially announced a number of players that have been released before training camp, while others return to their junior teams. General Manager Don Sweeney has officially cut twelve players from the roster (most were not earth-shattering).

The Hit List

The players that were cut from their tryouts were defenseman Mark Fayne and German left-winger Marcel Noebels. For his part, Noebels played just one game for the Bruins. Fayne also played in one game for Boston this past Sunday against the Capitals. The 31-year-old previously played for the Edmonton Oilers and the New Jersey Devils. He has played a career total of 389 games with 17 goals and 48 assists. Noebels is an Olympic silver medalist and played for the 2018 German ice hockey team in the Winter Olympics.

Center Cedric Pare and Defenseman Daniel Bukac were sent back to their junior teams. Bukac will go to the OHL (Ontario Hockey League) and play for the Niagara Ice Dogs while Pare will play for the Canadian team Rimouski Océanic in the Junior Quebec League. Pare got to play this past Tuesday and won six of eight face-offs. Bukac didn’t really see much action this season. 19-year-old goalie Kyle Keyser (and backup to Daniel Vlader) will return to the OHL to play for the Oshawa Generals. The 6’2″, 182-lbs Keyser has done well for the Generals posting a 28-13-0 record and was named MVP.

For those that are being assigned down to Providence will be winger Austin Fyten, defensemen Wiley Sherman, Olivier Galipeau, and Joel Messner. Centermen Brett McKenzie and Tanner Pond will also play down in Providence along with goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos.

Related image(Photo Credits: NBC Sports)

Heading Back Home

Many familiar faces (Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk) will be returning to Brighton at the Bruins practice facility (along with some really talented prospects). The young superstars that will soon be at Warrior Ice will be Jake Studnicka, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Trent Frederic. Coaches will be looking closely at these young players as they battle for that vacant third-line spot. An interesting side-note: the players returning from China won’t be heading back to camp right away as they’ll enjoy a few days off. Something to also keep in mind: expect some more cuts as the team comes together. It will be interesting to see what the final roster will look like come October.

Atlanta Gladiators: New Beginings

( Photo credit: quepasaenatlanta.com )

By: Chris Greene  |  Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports

This year I will be covering the Atlanta Gladiators, ECHL affiliate of the Boston Bruins, for blackngoldhockey.com  website. Throughout the season I’ll provide news and summaries of the team’s performance as well as updates on any Bruins prospects that represent the organization in the ECHL. With hockey season almost upon us, it seems like a good time to preview the Atlanta Gladiators upcoming season.

Despite finishing 4th in the Eastern South Division last season, the Gladiators managed to make the Kelly Cup playoffs for the first time since 2012-13, though they were blown away 4-0 in the first round by the Florida Everblades. The team will be hoping to make progress next season with the return of Jeff Pyle, who left Atlanta for the AHL in 2011.  Pyle will assume the role of General Manager and Head Coach, and seems hungry for success stating, “This is a great market with an incredible fan base.

They deserve the best, and we as an organization, from not just the hockey side, but the business side as well, are going to work together to do everything we possibly can to produce a championship caliber team that the community can truly be proud of”. Pyle lead the Gladiators to their most successful season back in 2005-06, 107 regular season points and the teams first and only appearance in the Kelly Cup finals, where they were beaten by the top seeded Alaska Aces.

( Photo credit: atlantagladiators.com )

Building on the optimism generated by the return of Jeff Pyle, the Gladiators finally revealed their long anticipated new uniforms on Tuesday, September 18th. The new threads, modeled by Derek Nesbitt, provide a fresh look using the teams primary colors, garnet, gold and black while retaining a classic feel. The home jersey will now be garnet instead of black and the away jersey will be gold, making the Gladiators the only team in the NHL, AHL and ECHL without a white jersey. “We felt it was time for an update that goes parallel with all the new and exciting things we are doing as an organization.” said designer Chris Treft. Gladiators fans will also have the chance to vote on which uniforms they want the team to use on any given night, a unique opportunity which could provide some very colorful match ups as the season unfolds. With the 3rd jersey still yet to be revealed, the Gladiators will be hoping the new uniforms mark the beginning of a successful era in Atlanta.

The ECHL season starts slightly later than the NHL, and the teams roster will be finalized in the coming weeks. As is normal in the ECHL, the team have invited a large number of PTOs with many places up for grabs. It would be great to see some Bruins prospects make the team after a strong showing from Dan Vladar last season, who helped the Gladiators into the playoffs. Both Vladar and Tanner Pond featured for the Boston Bruins in their preseason win over the Washington Capitals, an encouraging sign for players who are sent to Atlanta.

With a lot of action off the ice, it won’t be long before the Gladiators are back on it. The team travel to South Carolina and face off against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on October 4th, in their only official pre-season game. An inter-squad game is planned for October 7th to help get the skaters up to speed ahead of the 2018-19 season opener on the road against the Orlando Solar Bears on October 13th. The games then come thick and fast in week 2 as the Gladiators play 3 times in 3 days, at home to the Swamp Rabbits, the Solar Bears and then a road game against the South Carolina Stingrays. You can find the Gladiators 2018-19 schedule on the teams official website for full details.

With less than a month to go before the puck drops, there’s a lot to be excited about for the Atlanta Gladiators. Jeff Pyle will be working hard to make sure the team are ready to build on making the playoffs last year. With all the changes the team have made, there’s no better time to start following the Atlanta Gladiators. I look forward to keeping you all up to date as the season unfolds, stay tuned.

Bruins VS Caps: How Did The Forwards Perform?

Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 2.00.51 PM(Photo Credit: The Boston Globe)

By Jacob Albrecht | Follow me on Twitter @bruinsfan3725

On the surface, Sunday’s preseason game against the Washington Capitals was just that, a preseason game. For the fans, it’s a sign that opening night of the NHL’s regular season is inching that much closer. For the players, it’s an opportunity to impress the coaches and win a spot in the lineup when the puck drops on a brand new season in a few weeks. Going into this year’s preseason matchups, a majority of the Bruins’ roster has already been decided. However, there are some spots available, as well as a number of possible combinations throughout the lineup that the coaches want to test out. In this article, I’ll be taking a look at the performance of the forwards in the opening matchup of the Bruin’s domestic preseason.

Sunday’s matchup with the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals at the TD Garden in Boston was a prime opportunity to do just that. With many of the Bruins’ regulars overseas for the O.R.G. NHL China Games, many spots were given to young prospects, allowing them to strut their stuff. Before getting into the nuts and bolts, here’s the full highlight reel in case you weren’t able to catch the game:

A couple young guns on the offensive side of the puck stood out in particular; 2018 3rd-round draft pick Jakub Lauko, 2015 15th-overall pick Zach Senyshyn, and 2013 4th-round pick Ryan Fitzgerald. Of those players, Lauko showed the most prowess throughout the game. A very fast player, he was able to consistently use his speed to get up and down the ice and create space. For a guy who’s main focus would be scoring goals, he was solid on defense as well, making the sacrifice and putting himself between the puck and the net on multiple occasions. He took one shot off the leg later in the game right at the point and despite feeling quite a bit of pain finished his shift. Not all of his plays will show up on a highlight reel, but the most important of all certainly did. Take a look at the Bruins’ only regulation goal from the game:

The most promising part of this entire play isn’t the end result, but the effort and skill put in to make the play. First off Lauko does a solid job picking the puck up in the slot and maintaining possession while surrounded by Capitals defenders. He doesn’t give up on the play after his first shot attempt gets blocked down, he corrals the puck and rips a quick wrister through the defenseman’s legs to put the Bruins on the board. It’s clear he knows how to celebrate and enjoy his time on the ice too. That kind of jam, as one Bruins announcer Jack Edwards would say, is what coaches look for in young players. Lauko’s skating and scoring ability matched with his willingness to fight for the puck and put his body on the line could have him wearing the black and gold sooner than most might think. Lauko himself certainly agrees, here are his thoughts on his performance:

Fitzgerald’s performance didn’t result in any goals or flashy highlights, but he meshed well on a line with David Krejci and Danton Heinen throughout the entire game. While they weren’t able to convert on any of their scoring chances, they certainly had a good number of them. There were multiple instances in the 2nd and 3rd period where the Bruins were able to hold the Capitals in their own zone for at least 90 seconds, even 2 minutes at one point.

Fitzgerald fit well in the offensive cycle, took advantage of his opportunities and got the puck towards the net. Most notably is the pass he made to a streaking David Krejci in the opening period in the above highlight reel. Krejci was thwarted, but nonetheless, it was one of the Bruins’ best scoring chances the entire game. Senyshyn also had a strong scoring chance later on in the 1st period on a rebound from an Anton Blidh breakaway. Senyshyn certainly wanted to make an impression on the Bruins coaches when he dropped the gloves with Tyler Lewington in front of the Capitals’ net. He’s definitely feeling pressure from the other young guys in the system and is looking to be in the conversation when it comes to final roster spots or injury call-ups.

Now for the more established players, the likes of David Krejci, Danton Heinen, and Daniel Winnik. It’s a known fact that Krejci will center the Bruins’ 2nd forward line, but his linemates have been in question all summer. Most likely Jake DeBrusk will retain his spot on the left wing from last season. Danton Heinen looks to move up to the right flank of Krejci in his sophomore season. The pair seemed to have strong chemistry, linking up to create multiple grade-A scoring chances. Heinen was also given the chance to show off his own individual skills at the start of the shootout. Here’s the silky smooth play where Heinen had the puck on a string:

Heinen undoubtedly has the skill and hockey IQ to play on Krejci’s wing for this coming season. If he does, he most certainly will improve on his point totals from last season (16 goals, 31 assists, and 47 points in 77 games). Given more time together throughout the remainder of the preseason, Heinen could win that spot. This would allow Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy to keep the dominant top line from last season of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak together. That line with a DeBrusk-Krejci-Heinen 2nd line would provide strong scoring throughout the top-six and a lot of flexibility in the bottom-six. Assistant coach Joe Sacco had this to say on the Krejci-Heinen combination as well as Lauko and defenseman Axel Andersson’s performance:

Further down in the lineup we find NHL veteran Daniel Winnik who’s been invited to camp on a professional tryout (PTO). Winnik’s been playing in the NHL for over 10 years and has played on 8 different teams, playing in 798 career games. He consistently has put up 20-30 points and been a strong bottom-six forward throughout his career. It’s a smart pickup by the Bruins who we’ll likely see getting significant NHL time this year, especially if injuries hit the forward corps as they have in the past few years. Cassidy and the Bruins have a lot of options in front of them at the moment ranging from young prospects just getting their first taste of NHL action to veterans with years of regular season and playoff experience under their belts. The lineup for opening night against the Washington Capitals on October 3rd is an unknown at the moment, making for an exciting run up to puck drop.

Bruins’ Preseason Game 1: Defense

Jeremy Lauzon

(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob

The Boston Bruins took the ice against the reigning Stanley Cup champions at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon in a preseason matchup. While the majority of the Bruins’ NHL starters found themselves overseas for preseason competitions in China, the team in Boston was able to showcase a number of their up-and-coming prospects.

Zdeno Chara was Boston’s only NHL regular along the blue line which allowed the likes of Jeremy Lauzon, Connor Clifton, and Axel Andersson to get some time in the spotlight. The Bruins defensive core for their game against the Washington Capitals was effective despite their inexperience.

Axel Andersson

Boston’s 2018 second-round pick is well known for his speed and ability to produce points. Last season, as a member of Djurgardens IF J20 of the SuperElit league, Andersson registered six goals and 25 assists in 42 games. The Swede had plenty of promise and displayed that on Sunday.

6-foot-1 Andersson was paired up with 6-foot-9 Chara when the puck dropped to signify the beginning of the 2018-19 campaign. The Jarna native quickly showcased his confidence with the puck and was able to create a number of opportunities for Boston’s forwards. In fact, the inked the sole assist on Jakub Lauko’s first-period goal. He kept the puck in the offensive zone, side-stepped an oncoming Capitals forward, and got the puck to an open forward – what more can you ask?

I suppose you can ask for some solid play in his own zone, which Andersson accomplished. As the youngest Bruin on Sunday afternoon’s roster, I was impressed by the Swede’s ability to stay poised along the end wall and wrap the puck around to his defensive partner to spark a transition. During an oncoming rush, Andersson was able to stand his ground. On the occasions that he got beat by an opposing forward, he was quickly able to recover and keep his man from getting to the hash marks. Andersson gave the Bruins plenty of reason to hand him 21:26 in time on ice.

Jeremy Lauzon & Connor Clifton

Lauzon and Clifton found themselves together on the second defensive pair. It was a very versatile duo, each countering each other’s weaknesses. Clifton, who tallied a goal as a right winger in the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo earlier this month, was not afraid of skating the puck into the offensive zone. He also never seemed to shy away from physical play, dishing out one of the biggest hits in the game.

Clifton was also strong along the boards and was able to win a number of 50-50 pucks in Boston’s defensive zone. Like Andersson, if Clifton was beaten, he was able to get back into position to thwart a clean scoring chance.

Lauzon, on the other hand, played a more stay-at-home game. He was strong along the boards as well, but most notably stayed solid in front of his own goaltender when guarding the slot. He didn’t see the opportunity to skate the puck through the neutral zone all too often but did receive time on Boston’s power play.

The 21-year-old showed the poise of a power play quarterback when given the chance. He registered two shots on the man-advantage and another two at even strength. Lauzon displayed nice hands when moving the puck along the blue line sending it deep into the zone to a winger. This was an encouraging sight considering Lauzon registered just a goal and six assists in 52 games last season – his first with the Providence Bruins. Other than Chara, Clifton and Lauzon led Bruins defensemen in ice time with a tally of 22:35 and 22:22 respectively.

Emil Johansson

Bruins 2014 seventh-round pick, Emil Johansson, also got some time along Boston’s blue line. He was paired with Mark Fayne for the preseason bout with the Capitals.

Emil Johansson

Photo: Andreas Sandstršöm

The 6-foot, 189-pound defenseman played a similar game to Andersson in terms of his mobility and abilities with the puck on his stick. He soaked up 17:19 in ice time, with 2:59 of that coming on the penalty kill. While the majority of Johansson’s 22 shifts hovered around a length of 45 seconds, on six occasions, he was caught on the ice for over a minute and remained solid despite his energy draining.

The Swede was even given the responsibility of logging time during the 3-on-3 overtime which quickly turned into a 5-on-3 man advantage for the Capitals. It was here where Johansson really proved his worth of not only being able to carry the puck but also be able to help kill crucial and daunting penalties.

Where Do The Bruins Stand In The Rebuilding Process?

(Photo credit: Steve Mitchell)

By: Chris Nosek | Follow Me On Twitter: @cnosek6342

Back in 2015, the Bruins promoted Don Sweeney to be their new General Manager and start a rebuilding process for the organization. Now that we are entering his third season in the role, it is time we start to evaluate where in the rebuilding process the organization lies. Is this rebuild going in the right direction and if not, what changes should be made to potentially “right the ship?” As fans, all we want is a team that is in the playoffs each year with a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. With the early success in the process this past season, many would say we should be competing for a cup this season or next. So how accurate is this?

First, let’s remember exactly what the team looked like when Don Sweeney took over the reigns from Peter Chiarelli back in 2015. Despite being only two seasons removed from its second trip to the cup finals over a three-year span the situation was a lot more tumultuous than it appeared. Peter Chiarelli had just traded Tyler Seguin and Johnny Boychuk, both of whom were expected to be big pieces in keeping the success of the organization moving forward. 

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 19: Johnny Boychuk #55 of the Boston Bruins takes the shot against the Montreal Canadiens at the TD Garden on December 19, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)(Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)

Seguin was a young, top-line center who proved he was versatile enough to also play on the wing as he did so next to Bergeron and Marchand with great success. Boychuk was a solid second-pairing defender who played well in his own end and brought some great physicality and a hard slap shot in the offensive zone. If these were the only two setbacks that Sweeney had to overcome the rebuild would not have been such a big deal and would be expected to be much shorter in time. Instead, he also inherited a disgruntled Dougie Hamilton, who made it known he wanted out of Boston and a completely alienated Alexander Khokhlachev. Khoko was so disgusted with the organization that he decided to go play in Russia rather stay in Boston.

With other veteran guys starting to dwindle in their play, it seemed like a daunting task for Sweeney to retool this franchise and keep it competitive. Sweeney and Neely soon made it clear that the plan was to stockpile draft picks and as much young talent as possible. Between the trades of Hamilton, Lucic, and Carl Soderberg; Sweeney was able to bring in a total of seven draft selections, and all but one of them would be in the first two rounds of the draft. He also brought in young players like Colin Miller, Jimmy Hayes, Sean Kuraly, and Martin Jones in these deals – all of whom were 25-years of age or younger. Jones, Kuraly, and Miller have all proved to be solid players, and overall these moves paid off for Boston – would have if they didn’t lose Miller in the expansion draft to Vegas or flipped Jones to San Jose. 

Photo: The Bruins surprised everybody when they took (left to right) Jakub Zboril, Zachary Senyshyn, and Jake DeBrusk with picks 13-15 at the 2015 NHL Draft. (Courtesy of Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)(Photo credit: Dave Sandford)

After all his wheeling and dealing was done, Sweeney ended up with the 13th, 14th, and 15th overall draft picks in 2015 along with three picks in the 2nd round. This one draft resulted in the Bruins taking home 10 players in; Jakub Zboril, Jake Debrusk, Zach Senyshyn, Brandon Carlo, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Jeremy Lauzen, Dan Vladar, Jesse Gabrielle, Cameron Hughes, and Jack Becker. So far with Carlo and Debrusk proving to be solid NHL players and Zboril, Senyshyn, Lauzen, Gabrielle, and Fosbacka-Karlsson all developing nicely, this season will be the most important for this Bruins rebuild. Right now there aren’t enough spaces for all those players to make the NHL club this season, but over the next 2-3 seasons a lot more spots will open up for them to step in.

Although he wasn’t named to the general manager position until 2015, Don Sweeney was the assistant GM and mostly oversaw the development of the young players. Taking a huge role in the 2014 draft, Sweeney was a big reason why this team ended up drafting; David Pastrnak, Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork, and Emil Johansson. Heinen and Pastrnak play two of the biggest roles on the team right now, and Donato and Bjork have shown flashes of brilliance but needed a little more time to develop their bodies. All four are projected to be on the roster for the 2018-2019 season, and this type of drafting success is exactly what ANY team could hope for.

Although this current rebuild is not yet complete, it is looking like Don Sweeney could turn what could have been a five-year rebuild process and done it in only three seasons. This preseason we will give us answers on the growth and development for the remaining draft class from 2014 and 2015. Next season will show us how the remaining players from the 2016 and 2017 class will project; with successes coming from those draft classes more players could make the jump quicker than expected. Charlie McAvoy is already a top-tier defender in the NHL and Jack Studnick, Urho Vaakanainen, and Trent Frederic all look like they could be ready for the NHL in the next year or two.

The experience this team gained from losing in the Eastern Conference Final last season will prove tremendously valuable moving forward, and while we can only truly call the rebuild complete when we see them back in the cup final again it looks like they may fall short for another season or two, but once they get back we will see them there for many seasons to come. Casual fans of this team need to really start paying attention to what this team does on draft day because before they know it, Don Sweeney will be considered one of the top General Managers across the NHL.