Friendship with Colby Cave helped Sabres’ Matt Irwin handle demotion

It was the summer of 2015, and after spending three seasons with the San Jose Sharks, defenseman Matt Irwin felt a strong desire to return to the East Coast.

Having attended UMass for two years and developed three seasons with San Jose’s AHL affiliate, the Worcester Sharks, Irwin felt comfortable in Massachusetts. When an opportunity materialized to the join the Boston Bruins as a free agent, he pounced on it, signing a one-year contract.

Irwin loved the idea of playing for an Original Six franchise. The Bruins’ rich history and rabid fan base excited him.

“Everything that went into it, at that point in my career, was kind of pointing me toward heading to the Bruins,” said Irwin, who signed a one-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 9.

Irwin’s very brief Bruins career started promisingly. He never expected he would be in the minors by mid-October, playing beside an affable rookie named Colby Cave and other prospects 51 miles away with their AHL affiliate, Providence Bruins.

An impressive preseason earned Irwin a spot in Boston’s opening night lineup. Then he registered an ugly minus-3 rating in his first outing. Two days later, he compiled a minus-2. The next day, the 0-2 Bruins waived him.

“I was stunned,” Irwin told the Times Herald by phone Tuesday from his offseason home in Victoria, British Columbia.

Irwin had spent the last three seasons in the NHL. He knew he had played…

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