BOSTON — In the hours leading up to his Bruins debut, Noel Acciari went full radio silence.
This was, after all, his big chance to prove himself at the NHL level after a strong showing in the American Hockey League, and the 24-year-old forward wanted to limit the noise as best he could.
“Going into it was a little nerve-wracking,” Acciari said. “I mean, I had to put my phone on airplane mode. I just wanted to block out all the distractions and try to focus on what I could do to help out the team best.”
Deaf to what likely was a deluge of well-wishes from his Providence Bruins teammates and his family in Johnston, R.I., Acciari went on to deliver a very solid debut performance in Tuesday night’s 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames.
“I thought Noel handled himself real well,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Very responsible and gritty, and he seemed to be in the right place for the most part. I thought he handled himself well for a guy in his first game.”
The Providence College product logged a mere 8:31 of ice time — 1:33 of which came on the penalty kill — but made an almost immediate impact, with the Bruins finding the back of the net on his very first shift.
Acciari set up camp in front to occupy Flames defenseman Deryk Engelland, which freed up space for Landon Ferraro to receive a pass from Torey Krug and blast a shot past goaltender Joni Ortio.
“Our first shift out there, just something happened,” Acciari said. “I went to the net, and Ferraro just put it top shelf. It was a good feeling — first shift with them and first plus, which is really nice.”
“Them” was Ferraro and Brett Connolly, who teamed up with Acciari to form the Bruins’ new-look fourth line in their first game following Monday’s NHL trade deadline. The jettisoning of Max Talbot, Zac Rinaldo and Joonas Kemppainen to Providence and the decision to bump Connolly down from his usual first-line spot resulted in a speedier, more skilled fourth line than Boston has trotted out for much of the season, and the early returns look promising.
“Well, it didn’t take them long to get that first goal, right?” Julien said. “They stepped on the ice, and it was in the net. So, I think we got two guys there with some experience — Landon, who has been here now for a while, and Cons — and Noel was very reliable. So, I thought that line handled themselves well (Tuesday night).”
Acciari’s penchant for physical play give the line some necessary grittiness, and Julien’s comments before and after Tuesday’s win make it sound like the coach does not view the call-up as a brief cameo. The Rhode Island kid will be given a chance to earn a permanent spot with the big club.
P-Bruins players have struggled of late to do so, however. Outside of Acciari, the Bruins do not have a single player on their current roster who began the season in Providence, with Frank Vatrano, Alex Khokhlachev, Seth Griffith and Tommy Cross all being sent back down after NHL stints of varying lengths.
Acciari wasn’t worrying about that call Tuesday night, though — or any call, for that matter. As he addressed the media after the win, he’d yet to turn his phone back on.
“Nope,” he said. “I’ve got a little (postgame workout) now, and I don’t know if I will for a little bit. Just kind of let everything calm down.”
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@NHLBruins
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