By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor
MARLBOROUGH – The Providence Bruins entered this week knowing with certainty that they were about to skate in their final games of this atypical season played at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough.
That’s because the AHL had just announced it will not hold playoffs this spring due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Bruins disappointed to miss playoffs
News of the lack of playoff plans broke on April 29 just as the Bruins took the ice in Marlborough for their penultimate home game of the year.
That immediately stung according to Head Coach Jay Leach.
“It’s disappointing,” he said. “I’m really disappointed for the players. You don’t get these years back.”
The playoff cancellation hardly took the team by surprise, though. AHL players, coaches and fans speculated throughout much of this modified season that the league would not push a slate of postseason games.
Still, that didn’t soften the blow for Bruins players and the rest of the team community.
“We all knew where that was going to go,” Leach said, April 29. “But the finality of it certainly sinks in.”
As of May 2, Providence sat in first place in the small three-team Atlantic Division. Though they recently faltered, they once posted the best record in the entire league earlier this spring.
Their defense has continually ranked well against other teams in the US and Canada just as their offense has similarly led the league at times in terms of goals scored.
This strong season without playoffs comes after COVID-19 similarly disrupted what was a standout showing in Providence last spring.
When the pandemic hit and prompted the cancellation of the AHL season on March 11, 2020, the Bruins were leading the league’s Eastern Conference and preparing to make a run for their first Calder Cup AHL championship win since 1999.
Leach directly recalled that tough blow when further discussing this latest news.
“We never had a time where we weren’t trying to play for something,” he said, at the time looking ahead at three games left on the schedule. “We’re certainly still trying to play for pride here and the guys are doing a great job coming to work everyday. But it’s no secret that the big carrot at the end of the tunnel is what we all play for. We really haven’t had that for the last two years.”
Bruins finish season in Marlborough
Their season now complete, the team is entering the offseason and bidding goodbye to the New England Sports Center where it played home games this year due to COVID-19 related activities at its home arena, the Dunkin Donuts Center, in Providence.
Team operation will now soon move out of the NESC as, dating back to January of this year, team owner H. Larue Renfroe, who also owns the New England Sports Center, emphasized that this relocation was temporary.
“The team belongs at the Dunk, where we look forward to returning to next season and beyond,” he said at the time.