Men's ice hockey assistant captain Bobby Farnham '12 and goalie Mike Clemente '12 will not have to move far off College Hill to take the next step in their playing careers. Farnham and Clemente signed amateur tryout agreements this week with the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins and will be on the roster for the Bruins' remaining 16 games this season. The few weeks offer a chance to impress the team enough to earn a future contract, either with the Bruins or another NHL club.
After the men's hockey team's season came to a close Sunday against Quinnipiac, Farnham and Clemente were able to sign professional contracts as college free agents. Farnham signed Wednesday. The next day, Clemente did the same. Both are already practicing with the team and could possibly be in uniform for the team's game tonight against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the Dunkin Donuts Center.
"It's pretty exciting," Clemente said. "It's crazy, especially because the four years have gone by so fast and it's the next step in our hockey careers. It's even better that we're staying in Providence and we don't have to leave school. It's just a perfect situation."
The two will not have to drop any courses or leave campus, but will have the unique challenge of balancing the academic work of their final semester with the newly added schedule of full-time professional athletes.
Both players said it was coincidental that the opportunity presented itself for both of them to join a team that plays just a mile away from the Brown campus. If the Bruins' goalie Tuukka Rask had not been injured recently, which changed the personnel needs of the organization, the opportunity in Providence may not have been available, Clemente said.
"I had no idea where I was going to end up, and I honestly didn't think it was going to be in Providence," Farnham said. "But then I heard that Providence might be the best fit since they needed forwards, and, as it turns out, we're right here. I don't think there's any personal preference involved, though."
"It's just whoever can fill the need," Clemente said. "A lot of things have to line up for it to work, and it's really just by luck that they needed both of us."
Farnham finished third on the team in points with 21 this season and has been a consistent presence on the ice, playing in every game save two in the last four seasons. A Massachusetts native, Farnham is joining a Bruins' organization he has been a fan of since he was a kid.
"For me, I think it's awesome that we get to stay close by and play within an organization that I grew up watching," Farnham said. "It's pretty special, and I'm excited to just be a part of it."
Clemente has been a familiar man behind the mask at Meehan Auditorium, starting the majority of Brown's games in net for the past four seasons. This year, Clemente had a 2.68 goals against average and .907 save percentage, and he finished his career second all-time in saves in University history. No goalie has started more games in a Brown uniform than Clemente.
Both Clemente and Farnham said playing hockey professionally has been something they dreamed of since childhood, but had only considered a real possibility recently.
"It's always been a lifelong goal of mine," Clemente said. "It was probably during this summer that I started realizing that something could happen when the season ended."
From their first few practices with the P-Bruins, both acknowledged the new atmosphere playing in a bigger arena with new teammates and also pointed out the jump in level of play between the ECAC and the AHL.
"It's just a little different," Clemente said. "Everything's just a little bit quicker and they just have some skill and ability that you don't see as much at the college level."
Farnham and Clemente join a trend of Bears making the jump to the pros. Two years ago, Aaron Volpatti '10 signed with the Vancouver Canucks and joined their AHL affiliate the Manitoba Moose before moving up to the NHL club. Last season, Harry Zolnierczyk '11 signed with the Philadelphia Flyers, and, after spending time with the Adirondack Phantoms, has played in 36 games with Philly. Though he did not sign with an NHL organization out of college, Ryan Garbutt '09 has worked his way through several minor leagues and made his NHL debut for the Dallas Stars in February.
Another Brown hockey player from the class of 2012 is expected to finalize a professional spot soon. Captain Jack Maclellan '12 has been impressive the past two seasons as a Bear, leading the team in both goals and assists this season and earning a spot on the Hobey Baker Award watch list. According to the Providence Journal, Maclellan is close to signing a contract with the Nashville Predators, but nothing has been finalized yet.