Banner Year: A Look-Back At The 1999 Providence Bruins

(Photo Credit RIHHOF.com)

By: Josh Houreas | Follow Me On Twitter @JHoureas

At the start of the 1998-1999 American Hockey League season, the Providence Bruins had been in the league for six seasons, after the Maine Mariners had packed their bags and moved to the capital of Rhode Island in 1992. While maintaining success early and often, the Baby B’s could not find themselves going further than the second round of the playoffs. In 1999. with the guidance of head coach Peter Laviolette (who had actually finished his playing career with Providence a season prior) the organization would experience a season unlike any other.

Providence opened the season with a 3-2 win against the Springfield Falcons. While the first month of the season was less than superior, Providence quickly rolled to a hot streak, where they only dropped points in three games the following month. Providence went from a 4-4-1-0 record to 14-6-1-1 in the span of thirteen games which included (and I’m not exaggerating when I say this) a 14-2 victory over the Syracuse Crunch.

On December 23 1998, Providence would receive an early Christmas gift as the start of an unbeaten streak that would last sixteen games was underway. This is *technically* the franchise record, but when only wins are considered, the record is 12, a record that would be set twenty one seasons later. (If you do the math that was this past season)

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At the Time of the AHL All-Star Game, the Bruins were represented by Randy Robitaille, Andre Savage, as well as backup goaltender Jim Carey. Honestly, when a team has a backup goalie representing the organization at the All-Star Game, there’s a VERY high chance that club will become highly successful in the following months, and that was exactly the case for the Providence Bruins.

Finishing with a record of 56-16-4-4 (the extra four is for a tie because before the NHL Lockout those existed) Providence had just accomplished the greatest season in franchise history, a statement that still stands to this day. Lead by players such as Randy Robitaille, who lead the team in points with 102, and Bob Beers, who you may know as one of the radio commentators on 98.5 The Sports Hub, the Bruins were on their way to the American Hockey League’s ultimate prize.

In the opening round of the Calder Cup Playoffs that year, Providence faced the Worcester Icecats. A 4-1 and 3-1 win in games one and two respectively gave Providence a 2-0 chokehold on the opening-round series. I say choke hold because, in the AHL, the opening round consists of only five games. Worcester wasn’t going to go down without a fight. The Icecats took the third game, the first at the Worcester Centrum (now known as the DCU Center) by the score of 5-3. Providence would flip the script at the Centrum taking game four and the series three games to one.

Hartford would be the next opponent standing in the way of the Calder Cup. Providence would gain momentum after a double-overtime win and would never look back. In a four-game sweep, Providence was halfway in their journey to the first-ever championship in franchise history. Game Three would be the turning point as the Bruins won another overtime thriller at the Hartford Civic Center by the score of 5-4.

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Next to face the surging Bruins were the Fredericton Canadiens and putting two and two together, these guys were the farm team of the hated Montreal Canadiens. The “Baby Habs” as they were known as finished their season with a record below .500 at 33-36-6-5. Nowhere near Providence’s numbers but honestly not even that respectable, I mean seriously? This team made the CONFERENCE FINALS with a losing record.

Just like the series before, Providence had taken a commanding three games to none lead and was one win away from their first Calder Cup Finals appearance. Fredericton would outscore Providence in games 4 and 5 by a combined score of 8-1. Providence needed an answer to the surge from Fredericton. Coming back to the Providence Civic Center, the home-ice advantage would give the Bruins the final leap into the championship series. With a thumping 6-1 win, the Providence Bruins had made it.

To think that the 1998-99 Providence Bruins were a complete rebuild from the season prior, wouldn’t be an understatement. In 1997-98, Providence finished with a dismal .313 win percentage, the lowest in franchise history. Now the club was a mere four wins away from the Calder Cup. The last team standing in the way was the Rochester Americans. Rochester finished with a much more respectable record compared to the Bruins Eastern Conference Final opponent, backed by Martin Biron, who would go on to have a very respectable career with the Buffalo Sabres.

In game 1 of the Final, Providence would take the momentum from their five-goal win from the Conference Finals to take the opener by the score of 4-2. Game 2 would see the same amount of goals scored, but only one team scored all 6. Providence was up 2-0 going into Rochester for the next two games.

While The Americans returned home, the momentum would stay with Providence after a triple-overtime win propelled the Bruins to their third straight 3-0 series lead in that seasons Calder Cup Playoffs. After Rochester had won game 4 to stay alive, Providence would come back home for game five with a chance to clinch the Calder Cup.

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It wouldn’t take long for Providence to prove why the team had been so dominant on home ice. Dominant meaning 10-0 on home ice including the Calder Cup Cup Clinching game. That last sentence isn’t a typo. The 1999 Providence Bruins DIDN’T LOSE A SINGLE GAME ON HOME ICE. Landon Wilson would help the Baby B’s draw first blood in game 5, and Providence would not look back. Four goals later, Rochester would go home knowing their season was over. The Bruins, lead by Peter Laviolette lifted the Calder Cup in front of over 5,000 rambunctious fans at the Providence Civic Center.

And if anybody deserved the last Calder Cup of the 20th Century, it was without a doubt the 1998-99 Providence Bruins.

(Photo Credit: thirdstringgoalie.blogspot.com)

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2 thoughts on “Banner Year: A Look-Back At The 1999 Providence Bruins

  1. Thanks Mark. Great recap from from a great season. Had the same feeling for that PBruins team as this year’s team. A lot if simulary with such a good blend of young players and veterans led by great coach.

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