PROVIDENCE, R.I. – ‘Do we still call you Jumbo Joe?’ Bruins prospect Joe Colborne was asked after the media scrum scattered following his pro hockey debut at Dunkin’ Donuts Center tonight.
“It’s up to you guys,” the 6-foot-5, 215-pound center said as he headed back into the Providence Bruins’ dressing room to bask in the glory of the club’s victory that he sparked with a pair of assists.
When Colborne was Boston’s first-round pick in 2008 he let slip that he shared a nickname with former Bruins center Joe Thornton. He’s worked for two years at Denver University to get even bigger. In his first game as a pro, Colborne came up huge for the P-Bruins in their 3-1 victory over Worcester, as were fellow debuting blue-chippers Max Sauve (2 goals) and Steve Kampfer.
“I had quite a bit of nerves there in warm-ups and the first shift,” said Colborne, just a few weeks removed from his collegiate career. “But once you get the first check in and you kind of get into the game and you kind of go back to what I’ve been doing my whole life. It was everything I thought it would be, and getting the win made it that much nicer.”
Colborne, who started the night centering a line with Jeff LoVecchio and Mikko Lehtonen, threw a check on his first shift. And then on his first power play he helped set up Sauve’s first goal of the night. Sauve tipped home Jeff Penner’s shot to get the P-Bruins into the lead. With Providence ahead, 2-1, in the third, Colborne again set up Sauve, this time with a direct feed from the left wing to the middle for a streaking Sauve.
“He made me look pretty good out there. I was just feeding him passes and letting him do that,” Colborne joked.
All kidding aside, “Jumbo Joe” made a big impression on Providence coach Rob Murray.
“Joe played well. I thought he probably played his best hockey in the third period,” said the bench boss. “He won some puck battles on the wall. The creativity’s going to be there with him, but it’s the little intangibles that you often here (coach) Claude (Julien) talk about in Boston, about winning pucks on the wall and getting pucks in and out, and the compete level. And I thought it was there for him tonight for sure.”
Savue’s English might not be pro-caliber yet, but his patented speed was again on display. He started the night on Zach Hamill’s left wing with Jordan Knackstedt completing the trio. Sauve, who showed flashes of his potential during the Boston Bruins’ exhibition schedule – even scoring a goal – was flying again in his first game with the P-Bruins.
“He showed some real nice skill on both (goals) really,” said Murray of Sauve. “His breakaway speed to get away on the second goal and the nice hands on the tip on the first goal.”
Although he admitted to nerves, Sauve said the experience with Boston last fall was a help in getting him ready to dive back into pro hockey.
“A little bit. I know the game and I know, a little bit, the system,” he said.
Acquired just a few days before the NHL trade deadline last month, Kampfer hadn’t had the luxury of participating in any activities – development camps or exhibitions – with the Boston organization. So he really wanted to impress and did everything asked of him.
“He was really good. … What I liked, he stepped up twice tonight and hit a guy on the rush and hit him hard,” Murray said. “But just hit battle level down low was excellent. And his strength on the puck. Even on the power play, he made some nice crisp plays across the blue line.”
As one would expect, Kampfer was also nervous. But paired with Penner, he was able to settle down and keep his game simple. He played in all situations like Colborne and Sauve, and quickly learned that he was no longer playing for the University of Michigan.
“I think the guys are a lot stronger than they were in college,” he said. “That was something that I noticed. You go into the corner, and I’m used to pushing the guy off the puck. And these guys are big men, and going into the corner you’ve got to be a lot stronger and that’s something I’ve got to work on.”
In addition to being a former Wolverine, the 5-foot-11, 197-pound Kampfer bears a striking resemblance to current Boston backliner Matt Hunwick, a collegiate teammate from a few years ago. Kampfer said that it’s a no-brainer for him to emulate Hunwick.
“We’re the same size, same build,” said Kampfer. “I’d say he’s kind of stronger and faster than I am. He skates like a gazelle out there. It’s something that you always look up to a player like him, same size and speed.”
It was only one night, one game. As Colborne pointed out, it’s easy to feel great on Friday night, but he and his teammates will know better what the pro game is like Sunday after playing a third game in three days. But with that first game under their belts, Colborne, Sauve and Kampfer can now look ahead to even bigger accomplishments.
*The P-Bruins have also been getting contributions from a couple college free agents they recently signed to ATOs. Forward Devin Timberlake, fresh off of four years at Brown, scored a goal and was a plus-1. He now has two goals in two games. Brian Roloff, just signed out of Vermont Friday, notched an assist and posted a plus-1 rating in his pro debut. Both players could earn consideration for a future with the Bruins if they play well, according to assistant general manager Don Sweeney.
*The news isn’t good for goaltender Kevin Regan, who last summer underwent hip surgery. He has been shut down for the rest of this season because of an injury to his other hip. The South Boston native might have to undergo yet another surgery. He is scheduled to be a restricted free agent again this summer.