With Monday’s cancellation of all games for the next 20 days, running through the penultimate day of the calendar year, the NHL has officially Grinched all of its fanbases with no major league hockey to flank the holidays.
For Boston Bruins buffs, this means there will be no opportunity this year to go to the TD Garden and get energized for a game with an entertaining highlight video set to a Trans-Siberian Orchestra soundtrack.
It is a bummer, to say the least, but New England puckheads have ample opportunity to make like the Whos and let it be known that no one has stopped all hockey from coming.
Granted, the NCAA is beginning to wind down for finals and winter break, though not all Division I programs are done for the month. Meanwhile, seven AHL teams, including one in Rhode Island harboring the Bruins’ top professional prospects, are rolling along without interruption.
With that in mind, here are eight selected matchups and events, at least one taking place in each New England state, for Bruins fans and hockey fans in general to assuage their appetite over the next three weeks while they cross their fingers for NHL normalcy in the New Year.
Dec. 14: Springfield Falcons at Providence Bruins
Boston’s primary affiliate is one of the AHL’s hottest teams of late with a 5-0-1 run in its last six games. At the start of this week, the visiting Falcons boast the league’s best record overall at 14-4-4.
Springfield stopper Curtis McElhinney, who shut Providence out with 33 saves in their last encounter, leads the league with 13 wins and is among the top four in goals-against average and save percentage. Niklas Svedberg, who has won 10 of his 15 starts in the P-Bruins cage, is among the top 10 in every key category.
Dec. 14: Manchester Monarchs at Portland Pirates
The two northern New England adversaries and affiliates of the NHL’s two reigning Western Conference finalists collide for a key battle for headway in the congested Atlantic Division. The Pirates, featuring Oliver Ekman-Larsson, will later return a visit to Manchester, with the likes of Dwight King, Jordan Nolan and Slava Voynov, on Dec. 22.
Dec. 22: Providence Bruins at Connecticut Whale
In the AHL’s final day of action before a brief holiday break, Ray Bourque’s two sons, Chris of Providence and Ryan of Connecticut, will face off in one of the former sites of the old Boston-Hartford rivalry.
Dec. 26: Connecticut Whale at Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Yet another natural geographic feud will await the Whale on the other side of their Christmas respite with the first installment of a two-night, home-and-home set between the Rangers and Islanders farm teams.
Dec. 29: Northeastern at Harvard
As unbelievable as it might sound, there are bound to be some Hub-area puckheads who could use a change of pace from all things Boston College and Boston University.
The P-Bruins will also host the Sharks on Dec. 21 in the fifth installment of a remarkably tight season series that is always permeated with physicality. So far, the Sharks have claimed a 3-2 decision in regulation and two shootout victories before Providence halted its ill fortune with a lightning-round win at the DCU Center this past Saturday.
Dec. 29-30: The Catamount Classic
One of the NCAA’s many established two-day tournaments between Christmas and New Year’s is held on the campus of the University of Vermont at the Gutterson Fieldhouse. On tap for the 2012 Catamount Classic are the defending ECAC champion and Frozen Four semifinalist Union College Dutchmen, along with Merrimack and Princeton.
Dec. 30: New Hampshire at Dartmouth
The nonconference, intrastate battle will constitute one of the semifinals in the annual Ledyard Bank Classic at Dartmouth’s Thompson Arena.
With sparse action across the nation between now and then, odds are there will not be much change to either program’s position in the polls. As of this week, USA Hockey has the UNH Wildcats ranked second in the nation while the Dartmouth Big Green cannot gripe very much over their No. 11 assignment.
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