by Christopher Krenn | AHL On The Beat
Being selected to participate in the AHL All-Star Classic is an opportunity that not many are afforded. Three AHL divisions (the Atlantic, Central and North) have eight teams, while one (the Pacific) has seven. At the AHL All-Star Classic, each division is represented by just 10 skaters and two goaltenders.
The Providence Bruins had two players selected to represent the Atlantic Division at this year’s event in forwards Paul Carey and Jack Studnicka. Both players participated in the event for the first time in their careers.
“It was a really good time,” said Carey. “It was nice to go play some hockey in a sunny climate. Jack and I had a great time representing the Atlantic Division and the Providence Bruins. It was fun to meet a lot of the other guys from out west, share the ice with them and soak it all up.”
Carey is a veteran of the AHL, a 31-year-old who has played nearly 400 games in the league. A fifth-round selection (135th overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft by the Colorado Avalanche, Carey has made a name for himself as a prolific player in the AHL, scoring 123 goals and adding 149 assists for 272 points in 391 career contests.
The P-Bruins captain is tied for the team lead in points with Studnicka, recording 30 points in 45 games this season. The Weymouth, Massachusetts native leads the team with 17 goals on the year. Being from Massachusetts and now living in Rhode Island, Carey was obviously excited to experience a couple days of California winter.
“I’d say the weather was the best part about being out there. It was nice to get away from the Northeast winter for a little bit,” said Carey. “Taking in my first All-Star Game was just a really fun experience. The red carpet was a great way to start it. Going out for the skills and seeing how good the guys are in this league plus putting on a show for the fans was really awesome. The game was a really good time as well. I liked the round-robin style.”
Some players are first-time All-Star selections in their eighth season and some get selected as rookies. Studnicka is playing his first full season of professional hockey and was excited to be selected for the event. A second-round selection (53rd overall) by the Boston Bruins in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the Tecumseh, Ontario native has scored 14 goals and added 16 assists in 44 games for Providence this season. His 30 points rank sixth among all AHL rookies.
“It was a really good time,” said Studnicka. “It was a good experience for my first AHL All-Star Classic. It was nice to get to know the best around the league and be on the ice all at the same time.
“It was really cool that it was in California,” added Studnicka. “It was nice to get some sun. The Skills Competition was a ton of fun. It was great that we were all on the ice at the same time just watching all those events with so many talented players.”
The All-Star Classic serves as a weekend for the players to have a good time and get to know some of the other players around the league on a personal level. The weekend includes being teammates with players that are normally opponents, some up to 14 times a year.
“It’s nice to put names to faces,” said Studnicka. “Obviously, there’s some really good guys around the league that you’re normally competing with. It was nice to be on their side.”
Carey also enjoyed the opportunity to get to know some of the other players around the league.
“It’s definitely different when you look around the room and see guys you play over 10 times a year sitting next to you,” said Carey. “It’s a good chance to meet these guys outside the rink and get to know them personally rather than as an opponent. I’m sure when we go to play them in the upcoming months it will be kind of funny to see these guys that I know so well now.”
Now that the break is behind them, Carey and Studnicka both know that the playoff push is on and the next 30 games will be critical for the P-Bruins.
“These are the dog days of the season here and we need to put together as many wins as we can,” said Carey. “We’ve shown that we can score goals, win games, and come back when we need to.
“I think one thing that’s important for us moving forward here is learning how to close out games when we’re in the lead. We’re going to need to play a little bit more structured and better defensively moving forward.”
Studnicka agreed with Carey’s remarks, knowing that the team can have success when they play the way they know how to play.
“We just have to play to our identity,” said Studnicka. “I think in the first half we got away from that at times.
“When we play the way we know how to, we have a lot of success. We just have to keep doing that, be better at closing out games, and continue to play to our identity.”