By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor
MARLBOROUGH – The Providence Bruins continue to play their 2021 abbreviated season in Marlborough due to ongoing COVID-19 activities at their home arena.
Two and a half months into the semester, though, team personnel are speaking frankly.
The arrangement is draining, they say.
Bruins adapt to long commutes to Marlborough
As the Bruins hit the ice at the New England Sports Center, they’re still practicing at a separate facility in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
That fact had head coach Jay Leach saying, after a game April 16 that, in reality, no game feels like a home game this year.
“We don’t practice at home or play at home,” he said.
In a normal season, the Providence Bruins play their home games at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Downtown Providence. They then practice either on that same ice, or at the Schneider Arena on the campus of Providence College just under three miles away.
The close proximity of those arenas has prompted many players, coaches and other team personnel to set up their lives in the Providence area. They’ve bought homes or rented apartments. In some cases, they’ve brought their families to the city or its immediate suburbs.
COVID-19, however, ushered testing and vaccine operations into the Dunkin Donuts Center. The entire Providence College campus, meanwhile, shut down, leaving Schneider Arena also off limits.
Now, the Bruins are practicing at the Lynch Arena in Pawtucket before driving nearly an hour north to Marlborough for games at the NESC.
“I think it goes a little bit unnoticed, but the fact that we drive every day to another rink, it can get challenging for players,” Leach said. “…Every day, they’re coming in to one rink and then they’re leaving to go to another rink.
From a coaching perspective, Leach said, this poses challenges.
The Bruins have done relatively well this season. They had posted a 14-4-1 win-loss-OT loss record through April 16 and stood in first place within the small but competitive Atlantic Division. Their .763 win percentage was the second highest in their entire league. And their mere 41 goals against had theirs marked as one of the best defenses in minor league hockey.
Even so, the team has weathered tough losses.
The Hartford Wolf Pack routed the Bruins just this month with a 6-1 defeat. That followed a similarly tough 4-0 loss at the hands of the Wolf Pack back in February.
Leach did not mince words in analyzing those losses as they happened.
Reflecting on the season and its struggles on April 16, though, he had sympathy for the position his entire program finds itself in.
“You’re just going to have days that stink,” he said. “There are just going to be days that stink. Sometimes it’s best to just let that go and start fresh the next day.”
Bruins beat Utica Comets, eye final weeks of season
Handling long commutes, the Bruins will soon round out their schedule with just three games scheduled in the month of May.
In the meantime, the team soared past the Utica Comets April 16 on a 6-2 final score.
The explosive offensive performance featured goals from six different scorers, including Eduards Tralmaks, who recently joined the Bruins after spending his junior hockey days playing in the immediate area for the Boston Bandits organization.
Our Providence Bruins notebook is an ongoing roundup of activity for the Providence Bruins hockey team as they play their 2021 season in Marlborough due to COVID-19. Check back weekly for updates.