AHL Suspends Season, Halts Providence Bruins Impressive 2nd Half

(Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins / Flickr)

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Unfortunately, the spread of the Covid-19 virus has taken a toll on the North American sports scene as many amateur, minor-pro, and professional leagues shut down operations to appropriately contain this global pandemic. BNG Senior Writer Max Mainville updated Bruins Nation shortly after hearing the official National Hockey League press release of the 2019-2 being suspended (Seen Here), well shortly after the  American Hockey League followed suit as seen below.

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

This egregious effort to cancel large gatherings is a no-brainer, in my opinion, but it does put a serious wrench in the gears of beloved sports fans and what goes on in day-to-day lives. As many Boston Bruins fans know, the team is in first place in the NHL. With a six-point lead over last year’s Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues, they pause their 2019-20 campaign as a favorite to return and hopefully capture the organization’s seventh league championship. The NHL Bruins top minor-pro affiliate the Providence Bruins have also reached impressive milestones this season with an outstanding second-half marching their way up the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference with playoff-type games leading up to the recent halt of the regular season.

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

The AHL team from the smallest state in the Union (United States) started a better part of the 2019-20 season in the middle of the Atlantic, but in the second half, the Providence club has really put the pressure on teams leading the way. A team such as the Hartford Wolf Pack, who ruled the early season, have taken a plunge since their parent NHL club the New York Rangers recalled phenom goaltender Igor Shesterkin. AHL Clubs like the Hershey Bears and Providence Bruins took advantage of the Wolf Packs downward spiral to be the new leaders of the Atlantic. If you follow the AHL on the regular, the Eastern Conference postseason outlook has been tight since the beginning of January, so you could already see organizations jockeying for Calder Cup Playoff positioning.

Before this sudden pause in the Providence regular season, the B’s were on a season-high 12 game point streak, which contributed to the recent successful rise up the AHL league standings but also a season-high 11 game winning streak. Another high point of the second half of this 2019-20 Providence Bruins season is the way the affiliate of the NHL B’s has played at home in front of the La Salle Square faithful. Before the recent consecutive winning success, the Providence club was a franchise dipping above and below the .500 mark for a better part of this season at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Downtown Providence, Rhode Island.

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

The Providence Bruins started the season off with a subpar home record of 7-8-0-1, but since the turn of the calendar year, have picked it up in front of the Providence faithful to produce a very respectable 10-3-2-1 record at the Dunk since the beginning of January 2020. Everything has been clicking nicely until today’s announcement, and as a media member under the credentials of the Providence organization, it’s going to be tough to see this what this minor-pro club has done this season to just stop and figure it out later. A huge chemistry speed bump, in my opinion, for everybody on this mission of a Calder Cup playoff run that I thought was coming this Spring.

The last time the AHL Providence franchise won season-ending bragging rights was in the 1998-99 campaign capturing a Regular-Season Title, Division Championship, Conference Championship, and raising the Calder Cup after beating the Rochester Americans in a seven-game series 4-1. I thought after watching this team and with the way goaltending from the backend was the catalyst to build on early on with the free-agent addition of Max Lagace. The 27-year-old Quebec, Canada native, was amongst the AHL league leaders when it came to highly ranked goaltenders. Lagace has been a solid depth netminder for the Bruins organization and might be Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney’s ace in the hole for another year of backup sustainability while on a cap-friendly contract.

Another member of the crease core in Providence is Dan Vladar, who I’ve always spoken high of has really turned his game around in the last season of his current three-year, entry-level contract. The former 2015 third-round draft pick is having his best pro season posting a 14-7-1 record with league-leading 1.79 goals-against-average, and .936 save percentage. The 22-year-old Czech Republic native is currently on a seven-game winning streak and, in that timeline producing an unbelievable 1.54 GAA and .940 Save%.

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

Providence stands as the Eastern Conferences best team with a 38-18-3-3 record and 82 points and tied for second place league-wide with the Iowa Wild eight points behind  AHL leading Milwaukee Admirals who’re leading the league in its 84th year of operation as the top minor-pro affiliate of the NHL. After how this team came together orchestrated by bench boss Jay Leach who many fans wanted to see fired every start of regular seasons unable to wait for the mid-season ramp up. Yes, in previous years, the Providence club would struggle severely due to the fact that the NHL Bruins were recalling players ripping apart any youthful chemistry facilitating the higher up parent club. In recent years the new calendar year has been a turning point for Leach and staff to get healthy players back in the lineup and have a stronger competitive season.

Regardless of my displeasure of this whole situation and where this Bruins minor club was going, I hope that all of our readers do the right thing for your families and friends to help the cause. We need our sport back, but we also have to get our healthy life cycle back in order so we can go to these awesome spectator sports venues in the near future. It’s unfortunate that I had to cancel planned trips to Providence to cover this team as a media member via the Providence franchise for our production team, but it’s also a great little city to hang out in. I will miss my regular visits to the Trinity Brew House for a Rueben Sandwich and cold Rhode Island IPA, and Murphy’s Providence for an interesting Irish menu feast. Be safe everyone and the Bruins prospect talk from our BNG team will continue to keep the interest going through tough times.

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

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 169 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

AHL Bruins Send Two To California As Providence Hits 2020 All-Star Break

( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

The annual American Hockey League All-Star festivities get underway this evening in Ontario, California with the 2020 Skills Competition and game tomorrow night from the Toyota Arena. This year’s mid-season event will be hosted by the Pacific Divisions Ontario Reign the top minor-pro affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings and sure to pack it’s 9,736 seat arena capacity with rabid hockey fans from near and far.

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

This will be an inaugural event for the AHL as this is the first time since the league added the Pacific Division that an All-Star hoopla has been out to the new seven-team division with the inception at the beginning of the 2015-16 season. Speaking of firsts, this is will be a new experience for a Boston Bruins organizational player as a pro hockey veteran and another whos on his way to NHL stardom in his first full season of North American pro hockey. The Providence Bruins will be represented by two of the team’s best players this season and hope you enjoy the update of both players and how they’ve contributed thus far in the 2019-20 campaign respectfully.

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

Paul Carey

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

The 31-year-old Weymouth, Massachusetts native has been a solid journeyman pro in his hockey career. By researching his player portfolio it seems like the Boston Bruins organization kept a close eye on him dating back to his days at nearby Boston College in the tough Hockey East Conference. Paul has had an off and on relationship in the minor-pro level when the Bruins are looking for skillful players but the never-ending need for leaders no matter in what league has a high standing value as well. Carey has been nothing but a professional waiting for his chance but in that leadership role, he’s provided enough offensive capabilities to keep a growing prospect’s mind captured with the increasing change in-game speed year-to-year. Paul’s speed is something to watch because most veterans who grid it out hard in the AHL don’t normally get better as they age.

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

This is the first full AHL season the 6′-1″ 201-pound versatile forward has been with the Bruins organization with both parties being involved in trades and free-agent signings dating back to March of 2015. The minor-pro journeyman career the signings of this hockey veteran have had solid returns when considering points-per-game and a solid backup plan to have in case the glass has to be broken in an emergency situation. So far this season he’s appeared in 45 games serving as the Providence Captain this year he’s contributed offensively with 17-13-30 numbers and is a workhorse in all three zones.

Paul has 100 NHL games under his belt contributing 8-8-16 numbers. Zero of his points came with his Bruins recalls but with the Providence Bruins on three separate occasions, in his short stays in Rhode Island, Carey has posted 41-29-70 and as I said grooming the future as he’s linemates with some pretty well know Boston prospects. His AHL career numbers have him at 123-149-272 in 391 games and currently has another season under his two-year, two-way contract so another year of mentorship can be expected and ready for more NHL chances next season as well. Carey’s been a great asset to Providence Bruins Head Coach Jay Leach with the bench boss along with staff and players mentioning him as a true leader of this club and isn’t a slouch when it comes to the competitive side of the game. If this was Mystery Alaska the movie, he’s John Biebe who was played by Russel Crowe as the grizzled veteran driving a team to success.

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

Carey is tied for the Providence lead in points this season and his first AHL All-Star appearance might be a fun one but a challenge to stay refreshed and dialed into a return to the regular season. The All-Star festivities will mean Paul will have skated for the fourth time in the last five days and seven times in the last ten days. The nine-year AHL pro should be ready to go and rest up when he rejoins his Providence team after the All-Star break and first game back on Friday night to end the month of January with a road game in Binghamton, New York against the top minor-pro affiliate of the New Jersey Devils the Binghamton Devils. Carey hopes to return and snap a three-game pointless streak after his All-Star appearance is over.

Depending on if the Boston Bruins finish strong, Carey is deserving of a game or two appreciation recall for his services as he’s seen a few times in his long career. He’ll definitely be in the mix of Black Ace players if the B’s do in fact go on a deep run again and serve as another solid replacement piece in an emergency situation.

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

Jack Studnicka

( Photo Credit:  Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images )

In his first North American professional season, the former 2017 second-round selection of the NHL Bruins is having an outstanding rookie season at the minor-pro level and is starting to fill out his frame. We’ve all known about Studnicka’s offensive capabilities as a Bruins prospect but what I like about his game this year gradually throughout the season is his aggressive nature as a highly-skilled threat. On several occasions, he’s not been that guy to take liberties on when other AHL teams are targetting him to get him and the team off their game and boby slammed an opposing nuisance. That bit of aggressiveness has put the Providence club at a disadvantage late in games but as he develops you know he’ll harness that in the future. To clarify I’m not suggesting that he’s some kind of fighter or savior to the narrative of this NHL Bruins team needs to add an enforcer but I do like to see how he handles himself and that part of the game as he continues to build muscle mass.

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

Since leaving the Ontario Hockey League where posted career numbers of 80-153-233 and career .92 points-per-game percentage he transitioned his game nicely as he seeks permanent placement in the NHL in the near future. Studnicka is an absolute sponge when it comes to learning and applies that very knowledge to produce an intelligent 200-foot game. Jack is a master of creativity in my opinion and a pleasure to watch live with the way he controls the game much like current Bruins center David Krejci.

This season Jack’s addition up the middle and occasionally elsewhere on a line has benefited both the player and the organization when it comes to development. Head Coach Leach has strategically placed Jack in situations where his game sways with his game on and away from the puck. A demotion to a lower line is not a bad thing for a player continuing to learn the craft of a man’s game at a higher level. In 44 games thus far in his rookie year with the AHL Providence club “Captain Jack” has contributed with 14-16-30 numbers and a .71 PPG% with 30 regular-season games remaining before a hopeful 2020 Calder Cup Playoff appearance and long postseason run.

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

As mentioned with his Providence teammate above, Studnicka could get another look in the remaining 31 games in the NHL B’s regular season. Although Jacks gone through some offensive struggles lately without a goal in his last 12 games he does have four points in his last four games and has displayed an incredible amount of creativity doing so with helpers to fellow linemates. His roller coaster offensive production is no indication of taking steps behind and if you really want to gauge his game for yourselves I highly suggest getting a regular season subscription to end the year and prepare for some AHL Calder Cup Playoffs by going to watchtheahl.com today!

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

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 163 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Bruins AHL Affiliate: Providence Bruins Weekend Recap (Week 14)

( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

The American Hockey Leagues Providence Bruins played their second three-game series of the 2019-20 regular season at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island over the weekend earning (Add Total Weekend Points Here). Heading into the weekend’s action the top minor-pro affiliate of the National Hockey Leagues Boston Bruins sat in the second position in the Atlantic Division with a 20-12-1-2 record with 43 points in 35 games played only trailing division-leading Hartford Wolf Pack by two points.

Looking at the big picture in the AHL’s Eastern Conference the Providence club was in the fourth spot with a .614 winning percentage and 5-5-0 in their last ten games. Although the B’s are in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference Calder Cup Playoff picture, the Ocean State team has struggled at home with a record of 7-6-0-1 while having a record away from the Dunk of 13-6-1-1. Leading the club in points so far this season leading into the weekend’s action has rookie and 2017 second-round pick Jack Studnicka leading the team with 14-12-26 numbers in 33 games. Veteran forward and Weymouth, Massachusetts native Paul Carey is second on the club with 14-11-25 totals in 34 games and rounding off the top-three is AHL rookie Robert Lantosi who’s contributed 9-14-23 numbers in 31 games.

Goaltending for the Providence team has been one of the key factors in the AHL clubs’ success with the addition of veteran netminder Max Lagace who signed a one-year, two-way free-agent contract over the 2019 offseason. Lagace has a record of 13-5-2 with a 2.44 goals-against-average, a .916 save percentage and leading the AHL in shutouts with five. Dan Vladar who struggled to get off on the right foot to start the 2019-20 campaign suffered a high ankle sprain early in the year returned to the crease on December 1st, 2019, and has been outstanding in his return thus far leading into the new 2020 calendar year. Vladar has a season record of 5-3-0 with a 1.67 GAA, a Save% of .940, and two shutouts on the season. Now let’s get you updated on the weekend games and how the Providence team did in the three straight contests at the dunk. Enjoy!

Friday, January 3rd, 2020, Hartford Wolf Pack vs. The Providence Bruins (Home)

( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

Trailing the visiting Hartford Wolf Pack by a mere two points for the top position in the Atlantic Division this was a huge game against an opponent that the Providence club has certainly had a tough time against all season. Leading up to the action on Friday night the visiting Wolf Pack club has outscored the B’s 21-9 in six previous matchups in the 2019-20 regular season and it was important the home team came out on the right foot against a Packs netminder that has absolutely had their number for a majority of those games.

In the first period, the Bruins got off to a good start against a Wolf Pack team that they’ve been jockeying back-and-forth all season for the Division Lead. Captain Paul Carey got the first Bruins goal of the game scoring a shorthanded goal, his 15th of the year which was unassisted at 6:51 of the opening period. Hartford would only need three minutes after the Carey goal to tie things up at one on a goal from Tim Gettinger who scored his 8th of the year. Shots on goal to end the opening frame had the home Bruins team at an 11-7 advantage leading into the second period which was a tight battle in the middle of the game without either team putting the puck past the games netminders.

Jumping to the third period the scoring would all go to the visiting Wolf Pack. Pack leading goal scorer Vinni Lettieri would add his 12th of the year at the 19:34 mark of the final frame and to seal the deal for the visitors, winger Gettinger would get his second goal of the game with an empty netter at the 19:55 mark to end the game. Shots on goal in this game had the Wolf Pack with a 31-28 shot advantage

Bruins goaltender Dan Vladar got the start in goal on this night stopping 28 of 30 shots on goal and was a major reason the Wolf Pack club didn’t add several goals to make things worse. Regardless of this loss, the Bruins third-round selection in 2015 continues to play well since his return to the B’s lineup and will most likely get the call on Sunday against the Charlotte Checkers with the way Providence Head Coach Jay Leach has the rotation going. The Bruins have lost their last two games and look to snap out of this funk against a hot Checkers club that’s won their last three games before heading to the state of Rhode Island.

Saturday, January 4th, 2020, Charlotte Checkers vs. The Providence Bruins (Home)

( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

The Bruins looked to change their recent misfortunes against an AHL team they’ve had recent success earlier this season. Providence has outscored the Checkers club 8-1 in the previous two games with one of the contests being a 36 save shutout in a 4-0 victory in Vladar’s return from injury. This night in game two of three on the weekend at the Dunk the end result would be very different.

After the Providence club commanded close to four minutes of the opening frame but that excitement was quickly deflated at the 3:59 mark when Checkers forward David Gust got the first goal of the game. Although there were times when the Bruins looked like they were getting back into the game the visiting Charlotte club just added more pressure holding the lead. At the 3:45 mark of the second period, the Checkers scored their second goal of the game on Steven Lorentz 9th of the season making things more difficult for the home Providence team.

The third period was a chippy affair as the Bruins started to show frustrations in being down on the scoreboard and were penalized four times putting themselves in a difficult situation. The Checkers club would score two goals in the final frame one from Julien Gauthier who scored his 15th of the season at the 1:54 mark of the third and sealing the deal on the night was an empty netter from Spencer Smallman who notched his third of the season at 16:48. The final tally on the shots on goal from both combatants had the visiting Checkers team finishing with a 43-25 advantage.

As mentioned above about the goaltending rotation, Providence Head Coach Leach did, in fact, go with Max Lagace in the second night of the weekend’s action. Lagace who’s been one of the best netminders in the AHL has had a recent run of bad luck giving up nine goals in his last three games and is on a three-game losing streak. Max stopped 39 of 42 Checkers shots on this night and did the best he could but ultimately the support in front of him didn’t do enough on the scoresheet to help out. Lagace suffered his sixth regulation loss of the year and will most likely have to wait until next Saturday, January 11th to try and snap his season-long losing streak.

Sunday, January 5th, 2020, Charlotte Checkers vs. The Providence Bruins (Home)

( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

The final game of the Bruins weekend at the Dunkin Donuts Center came to a screeching halt with another loss in front of the Providence crowd. The Checkers club was again just too much to handle for the B’s outscoring the home team 8-1 in two of the three games in this weekend set and are now on a four-game losing streak.

The Checkers owned all-three periods leading up to a 4-0 lead with their fourth goal on a Brian Gibbons empty-netter at the 17:26 mark of the third. Providence broke the shutout bid for Anton Forsberg on a goal from B’s rookie Robert Lantosi who scored his 10th of the season at the 19:04 of the final frame. Shots advantage in this game went to the visiting team for the third straight contest in the weekend’s action this time giving the Checker a 33-27 total at the end of 60 minutes.

The AHL Bruins get back to work on Saturday, January 11th, 2020, in Springfield, Massachusetts with a tilt against a hot Springfield Thunderbirds team. The Thunderbirds are currently on a four-game winning streak and only one point behind the Providence club to tie for third place in the Atlantic Division. Springfield is 11-7-1-0 at the MassMutual Center and 53-3-2 in their last ten games. The Bruins wrap up the week’s action on Sunday against the same Thunderbirds team to finish up a home-and-home on Sunday, January 12th, 2020, at the Dunk in Providence Rhode Island.

The AHL’s Atlantic Division is very tight as rivals are starting to play better gearing up fro Calder Cup Playoff runs. In this said “tight” division the Providence team has an 8-8 record since December 1st, 2019 and is slowly going in the wrong direction as they started the year as one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. With almost a full week of practice B’s Head Coach, Leach and assistants behind the bench should have an interesting week of work addressing key areas that opposing teams have exposed in their game. Still, a lot of season left and keep in mind that this Providence team has gotten hot in previous years around this time of year and made the postseason debuts so I’m not giving up on this club just yet.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 160 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Who Is Bruins’ Defenseman, Cooper Zech?

( Photo Credit: Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald )

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

NHL teams employ a variety of prospects. Team scouts are responsible for researching and assessing prospects throughout the world to determine a player’s draft position. Prospects who are highly scouted and considered the best of the best are selected at high draft positions. Others, however, endure more work in making an NHL roster because they are not drafted. These players are considered undrafted free agents (“UDFA”). Boston Bruins’ prospect Cooper Zech falls into this category.

The life of an undrafted free agent is predicated on calls from NHL teams looking to expand their rosters. A typical UDFA will play four years of college hockey or junior hockey in America or Canada. They’ll wait for tryout invitations after their eligible draft year(s) to show teams what they may have missed. A variety of reasons will affect a player’s draft position: progression of their development, strength, or size. The latter is the leading reason why most players go undrafted.

Most notable free agents who have been told they were too small for the NHL include Martin St. Louis, Adam Oates, Connor Sheary, and current Bruins player, Torey Krug. Oates and St. Louis have been inducted into the NHL’s Hall of Fame. St. Louis polished off his career with a Stanley Cup win in 2004, Sheary has two Stanley Cup rings with Pittsburgh, and Krug is eyeing a large payday next off-season. Cooper Zech’s initial pre-draft impression wasn’t any different. He had consistently been told his 5’9, 170-pound stature was too small for an NHL defenseman. Thankfully, that didn’t stop the left-handed shot defenseman from pursuing his dreams.

Cooper Zech started his unconventional road to the NHL with the North American Hockey League (NAHL). The NAHL is the only Tier II junior league sanctioned by USA Hockey, and acts as an alternative to the Tier I United States Hockey League (USHL). The USHL features young stars who have their sights set on an NHL roster and have been told by general managers they need more developmental time. These players are typically drafted, including current emerging star Bruins defenseman, Charlie McAvoy. Similar to the NHL draft, some players are not fortunate enough to play in the USHL, which creates an opportunity for the NAHL.

Zach Zech, Cooper’s older brother, played for the NAHL’s Odessa Jackalopes. With the help of his older brother, Cooper was given a try-out and the 17-year old Michigan native made his first junior hockey team in 2015.

Zech played two seasons in Odessa, notching 57 points. He left after 41 games in 2016-17 to play in the USHL with the Muskegon Lumberjacks for a 25-game stint. He moved on to a full season in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) with the Wenatchee Wild in the 2017-18 season. This particular season was huge for Zech’s development. He led all BCHL defenseman in points for the season (69 points) and playoffs (23 points). He was awarded BCHL’s Best Defensemen in 2018 and was an integral part of the Wild’s first BCHL championship.

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

Following his admirable year with the Wild, Zech looked for an opportunity to sign with an NHL team. NHL teams hold development camps to evaluate their prospects before the season kicks off and allows teams to invite undrafted prospects for a tryout. Coaches and management evaluate what areas of the game each prospect needs to work on, and shares that with the player to help in their development process.

The Washington Capitals became the first NHL team to invite Zech to their development camp, months after his season in the BCHL ended. He attended the Capitals’ camp, where his skill was recognized. He took part in 3-on-3 tournaments and even signed some autographs.

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

Unfortunately, like most UDFA’s who attend camps, he left Washington without a contract. He verbally committed to the Ferris State Bulldogs in the Western Conference Hockey Association (WCHA) for the 2018-19 season. He continued his torrid success at Ferris State, earning WCHA’s Rookie of the Year. He led all WCHA freshmen in points with 28 and became the first freshman to lead the Bulldogs in scoring since the 1987-88 season. His .78 points per game by a freshmen blue-liner led the entire nation.

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

Zech’s remarkable pre-NHL journey did not go unnoticed. Following his season at Ferris State, the Boston Bruins offered him a two-year AHL contract. An AHL contract is a deal between the player and the AHL team, not the NHL club. The difference between Cooper and a player like Zach Senyshyn who’s on an NHL entry-level contract and can play in the AHL, meaning he’s not on an AHL contract. Therefore, if the Bruins ever want to call up Zech, they would have to sign him to an NHL deal.

Zech joined the Providence Bruins for 12 regular season and 4 playoff games in 2019. He racked up 6 points in these 16 games, two of which were scored in the playoffs. Most notably, Zech scored a game-tying goal, which was eerily similar to Krug’s goal against the Minnesota Wild in a comeback 5-4 OT victory on November 23, 2019. Zech has often been compared to Krug, not only for his size but for his offensive ability and power play prowess.

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

He entered the 2019 off-season looking to make an impression at the Bruins development camp and pre-season games. In his NHL debut preseason game against Philadelphia, Zech registered five shots on goal, a hit and a block in 17:35 minutes of ice time. He also appeared on the Bruins power-play unit. The Bruins cut Zech during their training camp, sending him down to Providence for the year to continue his development. He hasn’t skipped a beat this season, racking up 6 points in 17 games, while also receiving the recognition he’s deserved by the Bruins’ media.

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

The Bruins will have to wait to figure out what they truly have in Cooper Zech and if it can translate to the NHL. He has been compared to players like Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk, mostly due to size but also for his elusive defense and power playability. He has a knack for the net and has only once in his storied career registered a negative plus/minus season. He’s been a bright spot on the Providence Bruins roster and his coaches have noticed. Jay Leach, current Providence Bruins Head Coach, praised Zech during a brief post-game interview with The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa. “His ability to make something out of nothing was there. And as always, his ability to compete and be the hockey player was always there.”

The Bruins have a plethora of defensemen vying for a spot on the roster. They also need to figure out how to financially include Krug in their future plans. Once next season hits and Zech is at the end of his AHL contract, it would not be surprising if the Bruins offer Cooper his first NHL-entry deal.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 158 that we recorded on 12-15-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content! 

Conway’s Professional Climb Gets Rewarded In Providence Shootout Win

( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

The National Hockey Leagues Boston Bruins have a sneakingly good way of scouting talent especially with the vast amount of New England colleges and universities within driving distance. Regardless if an NCAA player was successful or not the Bruins scouting staff have found suitable players to fill gaps whether at the NHL level or with depth signings for those “show me first” American Hockey League contracts.

In the past, we’ve heard about the Bruins scouting staff practically circle the skies above like hawks waiting for the opportunity to pounce on the next hidden gem that might want to sign their first professional free-agent deal. Noel Acciari, Karson Kuhlman, Kevan Miller, Torey Krug, and Frank Vatrano all made an impact at one time in the NHL and were added by the due diligence and keen eyes of B’s management. Now small moves like these are minimal risks but they are in fact worth taking and the Bruins might’ve struck again with a recent signing who developed his game not only in North America but overseas in England of the United Kingdom.

Forward Scott Conway has taken an interesting route to professional hockey as a player born in Basingstoke, Great Britain. Conway’s father Kevin had a successful Ontario Hockey League career posting 268 points in 175 career games making appearances with the Oshawa Generals, his hometown Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, and Kingston Canadians. After leaving the Canadian Major Junior ranks Kevin would turn pro in the now-defunct International Hockey League playing with the Toledo Goaldiggers and Salt Lake Golden Eagles posting 44-41-85 numbers in 121 games played in the IHL.  Seemingly due to his body size, further advancement in the North American professional levels looked like a dead end, so it’s believed the 5′-10″ 179-pound took a popular route to keep playing landing him in Europe.

Kevin made a huge impression upon his arrival in England. During the 1980s the game was growing at a significant rate and leagues such as the British Hockey League were the cornerstone of growing the game in an otherwise difficult area with indoor facilities at a minimum. Kevin’s first season in England was spent with the Ayr Bruins where he posted an astonishing 129-98-227 numbers in only 35 games. Conway would go onto play in several different leagues while he continued to play in the United Kingdom.

Per EliteProspects.com he posted 522-430-952 numbers in the BD1 League in 152 games, posted 372-363-735 numbers in the aforementioned BHL League in 208 games, posted 60-63-123 numbers in 125 games in the BISL League, and finally posted 89-97-186 numbers in 85 games played in the EPIHL League. Father Conway was star and cult member of the Basingstoke Bison where his number 10 jersey is retired per the EliteProspects website and was inducted into the British Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004-05 as a dual citizen of Canada and England.

With all of Scott’s father’s success in the game of hockey no matter where he played in the world, that knowledge and experience was filtered down to his son who also played his youth years in England but with pro ambitions of his own heading to North America to reach professional goals might’ve been the smartest thing to do in his development. The college route seemed to be important for Scott and family so a few seasons in the Tier 1 EHL, NAHL, and USHL all got Conway prepped and ready for his freshman year at Penn State to start the 2014-15 campaign. After one season and contributing 10-16-26 numbers in 34 games, he would leave the Nittany Lions for the British Columbian Hockey League Penticton Vees junior club where he had his best year of hockey with 56-60-116 numbers before leaving to go back to the NCAA ranks with a different team.

Conway would then take his collegiate talents to Providence, Rhode Island and spend three seasons with the Providence College Friars under the watchful eye of longtime Head Coach Nate Leaman. While with the Friars, Scott posted 50-51-101 numbers in 153 career games and after joining the Providence Bruins after his NCAA commitment was over with the Friars he finished up the 2018-19 regular season in the AHL seeing now playing time to finish the year. Conway was later signed to an AHL only deal back in early July of 2019 as a free agent and attended the AHL Bruins training in late September. He would get passed over of a roster spot forcing Providence General Manager John Ferguson Jr. to place the forward in the ECHL with the Bruins “AA” minor-pro affiliate the Atlanta Gladiators to start the 2019-20 campaign.

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

Conway didn’t use the demotion to hang his head and sulk but used the opportunity and acted like a seasoned veteran and swallowed his pride and reported to Atlanta with surprising results. Scott got to work right away on the scoresheet and was the ECHL’s hottest player offensively posting 7-0-7 numbers in his first five games. One of those games he posted his first career hat trick in a Gladiators victory over the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. After this give game goal streak, it was just a matter of time before he and other Atlanta players that we’re producing at the lower level were going to get at least a look in Rhodes Island or road trip contest.

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

Scott was recalled to the AHL’s Providence club on October 28th per theahl.com website transactions page. His transition to the higher level and pace of the game was slow to start but I thought he did very well adjusting and gaining more confidence from B’s Head Coach Jay Leach. In his third career AHL game, he got a helper in a Providence 4-1 win over struggling Bridgeport for his first-ever professional offensive contribution.

Last night the undrafted signing who worked his way through the developmental levels starting as a young man in the country of England finally made his dream come true notching his first career AHL goal. His first goal came from an unselfish effort from teammate and 2017 second-round selection Jack Studnicka who’s also been hot as of late posting 3-2-5 numbers in his last five games. The shorthanded goal for Conway came at the 14:26 mark of the first period which was the first goal of the game that was held at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in front of a crowd of 7,626.  Studnicka with a Class Act move to get the rookie his first career goal puck for the effort.

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

The Providence club would go onto beat the best team in the AHL last night with a 4-3 shootout victory. The B’s had a commanding 3-1 lead late in the third period but let the foot off the gas to get the Hartford Wolf Pack team back into the game with two goals in exactly a minute of time. No goals were scored in the extra session and in the shootout forwards Jack Studnicka and Robert Lantosi were the Providence goal scorers sealing the shootout victory. Both teams are back in action tonight as the B’s travel to Hartford, Conn. as a visitor to the Wolf Packs home XL Center in the insurance capital of the world.

Check out our new Black N’ Gold Prospect Podcast episode 5 that we recorded on November 13th, 2019! Our BNG Prospects Pod can be found on the same RSS Feed as our original Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast, which can be found on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Senyshyn’s Future in Boston Unclear

NHL: Preseason-Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins

(Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

By Carrie Salls | Find me on Twitter @nittgrl73

It feels like Zach Senyshyn has been in the Bruins organization forever. The last of three first-round picks made by the Bruins in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Senyshyn was also the last of the group to earn a call to show what he can do on the NHL level. Although, like Senyshyn, draft classmate Jakub Zboril has seen very little time with the big club, Zboril’s chance came a bit sooner than Senyshyn’s. The other 2015 first-rounder, Jake DeBrusk, is entering his third season in Boston.

As far as Senyshyn is concerned, his biggest chance to make a name for himself so far came at the end of the 2018-2019 season, after the Bruins had clinched a playoff spot and were looking for options to rest the team’s stars and keep them healthy for the postseason. His first NHL goal was scored in that brief stint, but even that milestone was an inauspicious one for the 22-year-old winger. Senyshyn scored an empty-netter in the waning minutes of a game against the Minnesota Wild.

Still, it was a goal, scored in the NHL with his parents on-hand. And, it should not be overshadowed by the fact that Senyshyn seemed to relish his opportunity to show the Bruins’ brass what he can do. He approached his brief time in the NHL with poise, not letting the moment or his nerves get the better of him, and had a few quality chances and made an impact when he was on the ice.

That being said, big questions remain as to whether Senyshyn is ready and able to break into the NHL roster for the beginning of the 2019-2020 season. As part of the seemingly constant debate on who should play on David Krejci’s right wing, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney did offer some hope earlier this summer that Senyshyn could be thrown into the mix.

Much of Senyshyn’s future in the Bruins organization will depend on what role the coaches and front office want him to fill. If he is relegated to the hard-minutes, grinder role that it seems Providence coach Jay Leach would like to see from the Ottawa native, that could make “Senny’s” road to the NHL a bit bumpier. The Bruins have stocked up on bottom-six players in the past couple of years, all while already boasting arguably the best fourth line in the league.

With Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner, Joakim Nordstrom, veteran David Backes and newcomer Brett Ritchie already providing Boston with hard-hitting options for those roles, and, perhaps most importantly to Senyshyn’s future, with several years of NHL experience already under their belts, it seems unlikely Senyshyn will break through that way unless an injury bug hits the team’s third and fourth lines.

How Sweeney sees Senyshyn potentially fitting into the search for a reliable second-line right ring, be it as a player that could slot into that position himself or a replacement for Danton Heinen or another player who would be moved there, remains to be seen. Senyshyn certainly has the speed to make an impact somewhere in the middle of the lineup, as well as the physical skill to make him an asset further down in the mix.

Although he is moving into the fifth season since being drafted by the Bruins, Senyshyn chose to return to the Ontario Hockey League for a couple of years after he was drafted and has actually only played two full seasons in Providence. In that time, he has racked up a total of 50 points. His points total fell slightly to 24 in the 2018-2019 season from 26 the year before, but he potted more goals this past season, with 14, compared to 12 the previous season.

Of course, a third season in Providence, at least to start the upcoming campaign, could only help Senyshyn’s development. However, he is coming into the final year of his entry-level contract. With restricted free agency looming, this season may be Senyshyn’s last chance, whether in camp or during a call-up, to prove that he deserves to stay in Boston for the long haul.

A Look Back: Bruins Prospect Frederic Notches 1st Pro Hatty

( Photo Credit: Circling The Wagon / Team Shred Photography )

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twiter @BlackAndGold277

As a huge Boston Bruins prospect guy, I was looking at some of the B’s talent at the developmental levels particularly at the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins during the 2018-19 regular season campaign. Looking at first-year American Hockey League pro and B’s 2016 first-round selection Trent Frederic and his best game offensively in April of 2019 when he notched three in a 5-3 road victory against boarding state rival Springfield Thunderbirds.

Frederic’s three goals all came in the second period from the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts and was a courageous effort to really put the team on his shoulders to get a victory over a birds team they see 12 times a year.  Frederic had a solid year learning the pro level rigors from Providence Head Coach Jay Leach and Assistant Trent Whitfield, and although didn’t have explosive numbers offensively with 14-11-25 numbers in 55 career games, his impact on the ice certainly overshadows his lack of finishing with point production, but that’s a work in progress nonetheless.

Below Is Frederic’s first career Pro Hat Trick and please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey Youtube channel!  We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE For Link To Our Youtube Channel

Also, give a listen to the latest Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast that was recorded on June 26th with longtime friend and Bruins diehard Heather Ingerson! We have episode 135 planned for the weekend after the American 4th of July so stay tuned for that as we update you on the recent NHL Bruins free agent signings.

Bruins Prospects Cehlarik And Kuhlman Sent To Providence

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

The National Hockey Leagues Boston Bruins have made a few additions to the roster via trades in the last week to beat today’s 3pm EST. trade deadline and with those moves come sacrifices to facilitate roster availability. Today after making a trade with the New Jersey Devils which brought veteran forward Marcus Johansson the Bruins announced that prospect forwards Peter Cehlarik and Kardon Kuhlman have been returned to the Providence Bruins the clubs top minor-pro affiliate in the American Hockey League.

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

Peter Cehlarik

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

The 6′-2″ 203-pound Slovakian native has certainly racked up the miles this season traveling from Providence, Rhode Island to the Massachusetts State Capitol when recalled. Well, the former 2013 third-round selection of the B’s (90th Overall) is back on his way down south to join his AHL team where he’s spent a majority of this hockey season.  Cehlarik has played in 14 games for his parent NHL club and has chipped in offensively with 4-2-6 numbers in that timeframe and has 10-19-39 totals with Providence in 39 appearances.

Cehlarik is one of my favorite prospects lately for his versatility as a big rangy forward, but the way he’s developed in the AHL and always at the highest priority when emergency recalls or loan assignments happen. Peter has seen this type of up and down movement on the regular and should report to Providence with his head high and ready to get to work.  Although today was most likely an off-day because of the three games Providence played this past weekend, he should be involved in practice for the rest of the week and be ready before the team plays the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in downtown PVD on Friday night.

If Peter actually remains with Providence for the remainder of the season, he will be a huge upgrade with 20 games to play as the B’s look for their seventh straight Calder Cup Playoff appearance, and they would certainly welcome back his hard work and leadership capabilities. He’s had a decent career in the AHL obviously producing more when it comes to points at the lower level.  He has 90 points in 123 career games in the AHL and 5-5-10 in 31 games for the NHL Bruins.

Karson Kuhlman

( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images )

Bruins NCAA scouting staff quickly took notice of Kuhlman’s speed and creativity with rumors of B’s having eyes going back to his Junior year at the University of Minnesota-Duluth possibly earlier as he posted 80 points in 166 career games. His best year by far of his collegiate career in the land of ten thousand lakes and growing up in nearby Esko, Minnesota was his senior year when he captained his Bulldog team to an NCAA Men’s Division 1 National Championship. After his final season which brought him his highest career goal total of 13, the Boston Bruins came down quickly from circling above like a hungry predator up in the air and signed him as an undrafted free agent to a two-year entry-level contract worth $140K in the AHL and $750K at the NHL level.

In his first season with the Providence club the 5′-11″ 185-pound forward has appeared in 50 games and has 12-13-25 numbers in that timeframe. Before his first-ever NHL recall, the 23-year-old went through a slight struggle only producing 2 points in six games. What I believe got the attention of head coach Jay Leach and ultimately a message to higher members in the Bruins management was his fantastic play through his career-high point streak where he produced 7-7-14 numbers in the previous 14 games before the aforementioned struggle before his recall and NHL debut.

In his first four NHL games, I thought the speedy forward played well and certainly caught the eye of Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy who put him in multiple situations and earning more confidence from the bench boss with increased minutes. His second career NHL game will be one he’ll never forget as the young forward got his first NHL goal against the Los Angeles Kings. When talking about his minutes, it was really good to see that he went from under ten in his NHL debut to a little over 14 minutes in his final game against St. Louis before leaving for Providence.

Kuhlman’s addition moving forward with Providence is going to be important for both sides as he’ll continue to develop and be a key member in coach Jay Leach’s offensive arsenal with 20 games remaining to help seal a playoff spot. His speed and hockey IQ are something to watch when he possesses the puck, but he does a lot of great things off the puck that I was very surprised at with his transition from the NCAA to the AHL in his rookie season.

Check out the available tickets from our advertising partner SeatGiant for your next Boston Bruins game. Click the link below, and when purchasing any event ticket, from the NHL, NBA, MLB, NFL to concerts and shows, please use discount code BNGP to save a little money. Thank You!

Click Here For The Boston Bruins 2018-19 Regular Season Schedule and Ticket Info From SeatGiant.com

Click Here for The Providence Bruins Schedule and Ticket Info From SeatGiant.com

Providence Bruins Sign Lee Stempniak to Professional Tryout

lee-stempniak

photo credit: Brian Babineau / NHL / Getty Images

By: Mandi Mahoney | Check me out on Twitter @phonymahoney

Providence Journal hockey writer and Rhode Island hockey expert Mark Divver announced today that the Providence Bruins signed forward Lee Stempniak to a professional tryout (PTO). Despite the fact that Stempniak has been practicing with the Bruins’ NHL squad since before the start of the season, this is an American Hockey League transaction only.

Stempniak, a National Hockey League journeyman, has played for ten different NHL clubs, which is tied for second-most in the league’s history. In a trade deadline deal on February 29, 2016, Stempniak was traded to the Bruins in exchange for a second and fourth-round draft pick. It was the third year in a row that Stempniak was dealt at the NHL’s trade deadline, as he was known to be a good addition to bring needed scoring punch to teams’ lineups. In his 19 regular season games for Boston, he scored three goals and assisted on seven, totaling ten points as a Bruin. Boston would go on to miss the playoffs that season, unfortunately, and despite a good showing in his 19 games, Stempniak would not be re-signed by General Manager Don Sweeney.

Stempniak signed with the Carolina Hurricanes in the summer of 2016 and scored 40 points in 2016-17 while playing all 82 games of the season. Last season, however, did not go so well for Stempniak, as he was plagued by injuries, missing 45 games. Ultimately, he scored three goals and notched six helpers for a total of nine points in 37 games for Carolina last year. Given the rough season he had, the 35-year-old wing was hard pressed to find any takers during free agency last summer, despite scoring 469 points in 909 career NHL games. Stempniak has called Boston home since graduating from Dartmouth in 2005.

This is a good move for Providence to gain some NHL and veteran experience for their lineup, however, it is an AHL tryout only, so Stempniak will not be taking an NHL roster spot with the Bruins unless he’s signed to a National Hockey League contract. Stempniak was invited to camp last year and had a good preseason with the Bruins, along with fellow bottom six forward Daniel Winnik. He was not signed, however, as the Bruins were stacked with a plethora of youngsters who would likely be filling out the bottom six for the Black and Gold. Obviously, it would not have been advantageous to the organization to dress a player of advancing age rather than continue to develop their youth.

Per Providence Head Coach Jay Leach, Stempniak will suit up for the P-Bruins at home tonight against the Toronto Marlies, and Sunday against the Springfield Thunderbirds, which will also be played at home, at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. One would think the Bruins are unlikely to sign Stempniak to an NHL contract since he’s been practicing with them for a half year at this point, but there is a distinct  possibility that the New York native could be looked toward for help in their bottom six, as the Bruins are in dire need of secondary scoring, and Don Sweeney has yet to make any trades this season. If Stempniak can capitalize on the opportunity and doesn’t look outmatched in the AHL, it would not be totally crazy for him to see NHL action again.

Interested in going to a Providence Bruins or Boston Bruins game? Take a look at the upcoming schedule and ticket availability from our advertising partners over at SeatGiant. Click the links below and please use discount code BNGP to save a little cash! Thank You!

Click Here For The Providence Bruins Schedule and Ticket Info From SeatGiant.com

Click Here For The Boston Bruins Schedule and Ticket Info From SeatGiant.com  

Providence Bruins Name Team Captain

( Photo Credit:  BostonBruins.com / NHL.com )

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

After longtime Providence Bruins defenseman departed from the Boston Bruins organization there’s been a vacancy at the role of the definitive team captain. Cross, who held the captaincy honor for the last three of his six seasons with the top minor-pro affiliate of the National Hockey Leagues Bruins. The Providence club is certainly doing things the right way with addressing the vacancy, and after six games in the 2018-19 American Hockey League campaign so far it seems Bruins Head Coach Jay Leach and supporting cast have found their guy.  Earlier today veteran forward Jordan Szwarz was named the team’s thirteenth captain in franchise history.

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

Szwarz, a 5′-11″ 201-pound versatile forward was originally drafted in the fourth round by the Phoenix Coyotes (Now Arizona Coyotes) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft from the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec. After a successful Canadian Junior career with the Ontario Hockey Leagues Saginaw Spirit where he appeared in 262 games posting 82-122-204 numbers. The now 27-year-old Ontario, Canada native has spent the last two seasons with the Providence club contributing 43-60-103 numbers in 121 games played with the Rhode Island franchise. His career in the AHL consists of 215 points in 368 games and when called up to the show he’s played 47 games in the NHL and has 4-3-7 numbers in 35 games with the Coyotes (4-0-4), and 12 games with the Boston Bruins (0-3-3).

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

Jordan came to Providence camp before the 2016-17 season on a professional tryout agreement but would later sign a one-year two-way contract with the NHL Bruins in November of 2016. After signing with the Boston he would play the 2016-17 season with the Providence club. In his first year with Providence, he led the club in scoring with 54 points in 65 games earning another contract extension from the Bruins in March of 2018. Another impressive increase for Szwarz is his dollar value at the minor-pro level for a veteran who’s entering his eighth year in the AHL. From his minor-pro contract of $65K per season in the Coyotes system to $350K playing on a two-way contract with the Providence club this season.

Szwarz is off to a slow start to the 2018-19 campaign with one assist in six games, but slow starts have been an enigma for the Providence club in recent years as they seem to find team chemistry in the month of December. Even though this team has its troubles in the early going, the team has been a Calder Cup Playoff team for six straight seasons reaching the Eastern Conference Finals once, second round appearance twice, and three first-round best-of-five exits.

Although it’s early in the regular season, hopefully, this Providence team with the tutelage of Head Coach Jay Leach and Assistant bench boss Trent Whitfield can find what it takes to get the message embedded into the heads of these developing players and supporting veterans alike. The Bruins get back to work for game two of the weekend tonight at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island and try to erase the memory of last night’s overtime loss to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut.