Ex-BC defenseman Cross makes most of AHL chance

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Ex-BC defenseman Cross makes most of AHL chance

PROVIDENCE - Tommy Cross admits that it was disappointing when he was dropped down to the East Coast Hockey League a few months ago. The former Boston College standout defenseman was stuck in a numbers game with a large group of defensemen vying for six spots with the Providence Bruins, and he was the odd blueliner out.

So after Cross played in a pair of AHL games after signing with Providence last April, but couldnt break training camp this fall. So, rather than Cross sulking when he went down to the South Carolina Stingrays, he threw himself into the hockey and stood out from the crowd. Cross put up 17 points in 22 games for South Carolina to put him in a tie with former Northeastern forward Tyler McNeely for the team lead in scoring, and included six goals scored for a defenseman not known so much for offensive prowess.

Some of it was skating in the wide open world of the ECHL, and some of the point barrage was simply due to good, old-fashioned puck luck.

It might be a little more wide open down there, and you might have a little more time and space, said Cross. But its also still a pro hockey league and I played 22 games in about 35 or 40 days. That was good experience for me.

It certainly wasnt a lot of highlight reel goals down there. It was being solid defensively with a lot of good first entry passes and we had a couple of good games. But anytime you go down a level of minor league hockey you want to do what they tell, and they told me to make plays with the puck. When you do that youre going to get points.

Of course, some of the high-level performance is also due to Cross immediately having something to prove when his season started in disappointment in South Carolina.

Nobody wants to get sent down or demotedor whatever, said Cross. But you also realize that its part of your development as a player. It was a matter of looking at myself in the mirror, and asking what I needed to do to get a call back to the AHL. You have to take the positives out of it, and the positive was that I got to play a lot of minutes in a lot of different situations.

I did as best as I could and now Im back here. Im just trying to use what I learned down there to help me out. Its still good hockey down there, but its not the AHL especially with the raised quality of players this year.

The consistently high level of play for Cross led to the defenseman getting called up by Providence for this weekend when injuries hit the defensemen corps, and he jumped right into the P-Bruins fray.

Providence took five out of a possible six points in three games, and Cross snapped off a pair of assists while featuring a heavy shot from the point position. Providence Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said much of Cross improvement comes in simply stepping onto the ice with more confidence and surety than he had while a job was on the line in training camp.

Hes played with a lot of composure, hes made some plays and hes done a good job of getting his shot through, said Cassidy. He played his off-side pretty well. Weve got a lot of left sticks and the game is changing pretty well so its tough to play your off-side. But he told us he did that growing up and he did a pretty good job over there.

Physically down low he was good. Its just some gap control stuff and just making sure he can play at the AHL level with some pace. But I liked him. Hes a better player now than when he went to the ECHL in October. Hes playing with a little confidence and swagger in his game. He showed that he can play in the league this weekend, and its a matter of consistency now.

If Cross keeps up that swagger and keeps playing games like he did this weekend, it could be a long, long time before he ever has to worry about any return trips to the South Carolina home of the Stingrays. That would be just fine with him.

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

BOSTON -- With three crushing losses in a row at a time when results are really all that matters, the Boston Bruins are reeling at the wrong time during the regular season. The B’s tried their best to win a game 0-0 with strong defense against a sleepy Chicago Blackhawks bunch on Friday night, but ultimately coughed up a Marian Hossa goal in the final minutes for a 1-0 regulation loss at TD Garden.

The defeat continued a swirl downward for the Black and Gold over the last week, and was a second straight shutout loss on home ice for the first time in almost 15 years. The losing stretch has also kicked up the chatter that Claude Julien is in trouble as head coach of the Bruins, and the hockey club’s underperformance up and down the lineup is ultimately going to cost the NHL’s longest tenured bench boss his job.

The Ottawa Senators have passed the Bruins in the Atlantic Division, and it’s only a matter of time before the Toronto Maple Leafs move by them as well with both Toronto and Ottawa holding six games in hand on Boston. Combine all of this with the B’s having missed the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons leading into this one, and it shouldn’t be at all surprising that Julien is squarely on the coaching hot seat.

The B’s bench boss was asked about his job security after the Chicago loss, and clearly didn’t appreciate the tough, but appropriate question.

“Well, I’m not into shock-journalism,” said Julien in a prideful tone. “So I’ll stay away from that question if you don’t mind.”

The Bruins posted their Saturday schedule shortly after Julien and the B’s players had addressed the media following the loss, and sure enough the embattled coach is scheduled to address the media post-practice as part of the regular practice day routine. So it doesn’t seem that a move with Julien is imminent this weekend despite another loss, but both the coach and the players know something is going to happen to shake things up with this team if they continue to struggle.

“Right now it’s a results based situation, so if you’re going to keep losing games then probably something’s going to happen,” said Torey Krug. “But right now we’re just pretty down emotionally after this game, so I don’t want to look at the big picture. I just [want to] focus on what’s going on in this room, and hopefully we can come back with a good effort the next game.”

A good effort might help Julien’s standing with the Bruins in the short term, but it’s impossible to imagine the B’s bench boss making it through the rest of the Bruins regular season given all of things working against him right now.