By Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson
Heading into week 14 the Providence Bruins currently sit at 16-16-5 (37 points) and 5-5 in their last 10 games good for seventh in the Atlantic Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference. The Baby B’s have a full docket of games this weekend starting out with some home cooking on Friday, January 11th when the Hartford Wolf Pack invade the Dunk again.
Next up, as Yogi Berra would say “it’s like déjà vu all over again” when the boys wearing the spoked P travel to Springfield, Massachusetts to take on the home team Thunderbirds at The MassMutual Center on Saturday, January 12th. Finally, the weekend ends back where it started on Sunday, January 13th when the Springfield Thunderbirds follow our boys in black and gold back to the Dunk. One thing to keep an eye out for is both teams that the Bruins play this weekend are ahead of them in the standings. Win all three games, and we could see our boys climb the division and conference standings.
Friday, January 11th Providence Bruins vs. Hartford Wolf Pack (HOME)
The Sunday game marks the seventh time the two teams have faced off this season. The first match-up saw the Wolf Pack beat the Bruins 4-2 with Providence getting goals from Austin Fyten and Mark McNeill while goalie Zane McIntyre was pulled in the first period after stopping 7 of 10 shots faced. Dan Vladar finished the game turning away all 8 shots he would see. The second meeting between the two teams saw a better result with Providence winning 4-3 in overtime. The Baby B’s got goals from Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic, and Cody Goloubef (OT GW), and goalie Zane McIntyre looked much better stopping 15 of 18 shots faced.
The third leg of the season series saw the Pack come out victorious, winning 4-3. The Providence club got goals from Zach Senyshyn, Colby Cave, and Anton Blidh. Goalie Dan Vladar had a busy game stopping 26 of 30 he faced. In game four these two clubs both fought hard, but Hartford came out on top 4-3 in overtime. The boys wearing the spoked P got goals from Karson Kuhlman, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Kyle Cumiskey. Goalie Zane McIntyre turned away 18 of 22 shots faced in the losing effort. In the fifth meeting this year the New York Rangers’ affiliated blanked Providence 3-0. Goalie Dan Vladar played well in the game stopping 30 of 33 shots faced. More recently, the sixth meeting of the year could not have gone better for the spoked P, winning the game 5-1. The Bruins got goals from Peter Cehlarik (2), Emil Johansson, Gemel Smith, and Jordan Szwarz. Goalie Zane McIntyre looked excellent in net stopping 15 of 16 shots he faced.
The seventh part of this season series should be a difficult task for the Baby B’s. The Wolf Pack come into the game 17-16-2-2 (38 points) and 6-3-1 in their last 10 games good for sixth in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins have had a mixed back of luck against the Rangers’ affiliate overall this season going 2-3-1. However, the Providence club has been good against them historically going 12-4-1-1 against Hartford at home over the past five seasons and going 19-13-4-2 overall in that time frame. First-period scoring is going to be a major key in this game for clubs. When leading after the first period, Providence is 9-5-2 this season, and Hartford is 8-1. The other big key for the Bruins will be keeping center Peter Holland off the score-sheet. He is the leading scorer for the Pack with stats of 12-23-35. If our boys in black and gold can come out of the first period with a lead, while also keeping Holland from scoring they have a great chance of grabbing two points.
Saturday, January 12th (AWAY) and Sunday, January 13th (HOME) Providence Bruins vs. Springfield Thunderbirds
These games mark the fifth and sixth times the Bruins and Thunderbirds have faced off this season. In the first meeting, Springfield beat Providence 6-3 with the Bruins getting goals from Zach Senyshyn, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Colby Cave. Meanwhile, goalie Zane McIntyre was a little off his game stopping 14 of 20 shots. The second meeting between the two teams saw a different score with the same result. The Florida Panther’s affiliate beat the Baby B’s 4-2 with the Bruins getting goals from now-departed Martin Bakos and Jan Kovar, while current goalie Zane McIntyre looked much better stopping 17 of 20 shots in net.
The third game of the season series saw the Bruins finally break through and get a win beating the Thunderbirds 5-4. The boys in black and gold got goals from Mark McNeill, Karson Kuhlman, Peter Cehlarik, Jordan Szwarz, and Connor Clifton while Dan Vladar stopped 22 of 26 shots he faced. The most recent installment of the season series did not go according to plan for the spoked P as they fell to the Springfield club 5-3. Bruins got goals from Zach Senyshyn, Gemel Smith, and Jordan Szwarz. Meanwhile, goalie Dan Vladar was a little off his game despite facing a barrage of shots stopping 34 of 39 he faced.
The Springfield club comes into the two-weekend games with a record of 16-12-5-3 (40 points) and 3-4-3 in their last 10 games good for 5th in the Atlantic Division. You could say the Panthers’ affiliate has brought the lightning and the thunder against Providence this year. The Baby B’s are 1-3 against them so these two games will be anything but easy. Something that does bode well for our boys in black and gold is over the past five seasons they have records of 9-4 at home and 9-6-2 on the road for an overall record of 18-10-2. A major key to these games is going to be special teams.
The Thunderbirds have one of the best power plays in the league ranked first in the Eastern Conference and second in the entire American Hockey League at 25.3%. Meanwhile, the Bruins have one of the best penalty kill units in the league ranked second overall in the Eastern Conference and third overall in the entire American Hockey League. With both clubs being elite in the facet of the game it’s something that has the potential to turn a game over on its head quick. The other thing to look out for is Springfield’s balanced offensive attack. They have five players with 24+ points on the season. Playing an all-around good defensive game is something the Baby B’s must do if they want to win.
Who’s hot and Who’s not for the Bruins
Gemel Smith: Gemel Smith was acquired from Dallas via waiver claim by Boston earlier in the year. Since being sent down to Providence, he’s been excellent in 9 games with stats of 5-2-7 including 4-0-4 in his last three games. The former OHL product has a career AHL point per game average of 0.48 (40-53-93 in 195 games), but in his small sample with the Bruins, it’s 0.78. Let’s hope he continues his hot play throughout the rest of the season.
Jordan Szwarz: The Bruins’ Captain has played very as of late. Especially over the weekend which saw him have stats of 2-1-3. Overall this season Szwarz’ point per game total is 0.63 (12-7-19 in 30 games) which is up from his career AHL total of 0.59 (102-131-233 in 394 games.) This has helped the spoked P greatly this year, and it is part of the reason why they named him captain in the first place.
Zach Senyshyn: The speedy forward did have stats of 1-1-2 over the weekend, however, they were his first points since December 12th. The OHL product has been a streaky player since coming to Providence. Sometimes it does take some time to adjust to the pro game. One positive note, the young forward’s point per game total this season is 0.47 (11-4-15 in 32 games) which is higher than his AHL career of 0.42 (23-18-41 in 98 games).
Mark McNeill: The gritty forward found himself in the middle of a hot streak last week and was in the hot category, it seems as though he’s cooled off a little bit having not registered a point in his past four games. Though it should be noted, that the WHL product is still scoring at a higher point per game total this season 0.68 (4-13-17 in 25 games) than his AHL career of 0.57 (93-117-210 in 368 games), but it is closer to his WHL totals of 0.88 (97-146-243 in 276 games).
My players to watch this weekend
Peter Cehlarik: Cehlarik has been excellent for the Providence Bruins this year with stats of 7-17-24. However, he’s been especially good against Springfield and Hartford in 10 games against the two clubs he has stats of 3-5-8 good for a point per game clip of 0.80. Look for him to have another big weekend.
On the Blue Line
Jakub Zboril: The young defenseman returned to the lineup last weekend after missing almost a month with an injury. Not only did Zboril play well defensively, but he also contributed offensively getting on the score-sheet with 0-2-2 numbers in three games. Look for him to continue to get stronger as he puts the injury behind him.
Zane McIntyre: This is a repeat from last week, but it cannot be stated enough how good McIntyre has been at home this season. Last weekend the young netminder improved to 7-0-1 at home with a .929 save percentage and 1.86 goals against average. With two of the games, this week at the Dunk look for Zane to have another big weekend.
The Providence Bruins had a very good week 13. They were able to come away with four points and inch closer in the standings. With both teams they play this weekend ahead of them in the standings it’s another perfect opportunity to continue that climb. The Baby B’s have been good at home this season, and with two games at the Dunk, I would look for at least another four-point weekend. If they can pull that off, it would go a long way to climbing into playoff contention. We will catch up with you next week to let you know how the team fared but feel free to send any questions or comments to me on Twitter. I hope everyone enjoys the games this weekend and Go, B’s, Go!