Providence, R.I. -- A raucous crowd of 6483 loyal fans traveled down I-95 to Providence's Dunkin' Donuts Center, where a cache of young players, some of whom have appeared in the Black & Gold of the Boston Bruins, currently ply their wares for the Providence version of the Bruins.
They were for a pleasant surprise once they looked at their game day lineup.
For reasons obvious to even the most casual fan, no player listed in the program was more important, organizationally or metaphorically than Providence's most recent arrival, forward Phil Kessel -- number 19 in your P-Bruins score sheet.
The young forward played very well and with emotion in his first effort for the B's organization since December 11 after being successfully treated for testicular cancer. He is currently on a three game conditioning stint in the American Hockey League.
Throughout the game Kessel wowed the crowd a number of times, showing off his NHL-caliber speed and agility. Several times the feisty forward came extremely close to highlight reel goals.
Just under a month after undergoing surgery Kessel was easily the most electric skater in the building, quickly become a fan favorite and showed an ability to raise the crowd our of their seats. Meanwhile, goalie Hannu Toivonen, also on a conditioning tour with the Baby B's, was quietly the games early MVP and saved all 17 shots he saw through 40-minutes.
Unfortunately, however, with the score knotted at 0-0 after two sessions, it was anyone's game going into the third period. And a defensive miscue during a 5-on-3 penalty, caused by uneven ice in the unseasonably warm weather, led to the first score of the game from Worcester's Graham Mink with 5:47 remaining in the third period.
Another P-Bruins penalty led to another Sharks goal from Matthew Darche at 15:47.
But with Kessel on the ice and Providence on the power play, former Bruin Nathan Dempsey put the Baby B's on the scoreboard with a blast from the point at 17:53.
As a result of the late home team goal, the final two minutes of regulation were frenetic, but Providence was unable to turn the tide completely, and dropped the game 2-1.
The real winners were the fans, however -- as they saw uplifting performances from two of Boston's most impressive young talents. The first being Toivonen, who made 25 saves on 27 shots.
The young goalie saved all of his own praise for Kessel.
"Personally I think it's pretty unbelievable how he's dealt with it," said Toivonen. "What a great example for all of us, on the ice, and off the ice.
"It's remarkable that (such a) young guy, 19…his desire to get back on the ice, and get back playing, it's one of those things that (leaves) you speechless."
Kessel, normally pretty quiet, kept to that rule in the post-game media scrum, but what he did say will be music to anyone's ears.
"I was happy to be out there," said Kessel. "I wish I could play this weekend (with Boston).
"I am in shape and feel like I could help the team."
What Kessel doesn't realize, is that he already has helped -- all of us.