By Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson
Heading into week 16 the Providence Bruins currently sit at 20-16-6-1 (47 points) and 6-2-1-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for fifth in the Atlantic Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference. For the second weekend in a row, the Baby B’s managed to grab five of six possible points and are currently riding a seven-game point streak which has seen them go 5-0-1-1. This has catapulted them to the brink of a playoff spot. After a grueling five straight weeks of three-game weekends, the spoked P has a little bit of a reprieve having only two games this weekend.
The action kicks off on Friday, January 25, 2019, when the Eastern Conference-leading Charlotte Checkers roll into town to invade the Dunk. The weekend wraps up on Saturday, January 26, 2019, when a familiar foe, the Springfield Thunderbirds swoop in to play at the Dunk. It should be a great weekend of hockey for all involved and these are two games you do not want to miss.
Friday, January 25, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Charlotte Checkers (HOME)
The Friday evening match-up will mark the fifth time these two teams have faced each other, and things haven’t gone the Providence club’s way. In the first installment of the season series, the Carolina Hurricanes’ affiliate beat the Baby B’s 4-3 with the Bruins getting goals from the now departed Jan Kovar, Trent Frederic, and Jordan Szwarz. Meanwhile, goalie, Dan Vladar had a rough night in net turning away 20 of the 24 shots he faced. The second meeting did not yield better results for our boys in black and gold as the Checkers won 3-2 with the Bruins getting goals from Peter Cehlarik and Ryan Fitzgerald while goalie, Zane McIntyre played valiantly stopping 17 of 20 shots in the loss.
The third match-up between the two clubs saw the spoked P finally break through winning 2-1. They got goals from Peter Cehlarik and Jordan Szwarz. Zane McIntyre was superb in net turning away 25 of the 26 shots that were fired his way. Most recently the Baby B’s fell in OT to Charlotte 3-2 getting goals from Jordan Szwarz and Trent Frederic. Zane McIntyre was great in net again, turning away 44 of the 47 shots he faced, and he pitched in with the rare goalie assist.
The Charlotte Checkers come into the Friday game 30-10-4 (64 points) good for first in the Atlantic Division as well as the entire Eastern Conference. Formerly, the Albany River Rats, the Checkers have seemingly had the Baby B’s number since moving to Charlotte in 2010. Over the past five seasons, they have a record of 5-2-0-1 against Providence. Something that does bode well for the Baby B’s is they do have a winning record against the Hurricanes’ affiliate in that time frame at 2-1-1.
As with most match-ups, special teams will play a big part of who wins this game. The spoked P holds the advantage in not only power play 19.8% to 18.4% but also in the penalty kill 86.1% to 84.3%. Another key to this game is who is leading after two periods. When leading after two periods the Checkers are 19-0 but losing after the second period, they are 3-6-3. On the other side, Providence is 16-3-2-1 when leading after the second period and 3-13-2 when trailing after two.
Despite the large win differential, and the lack of recent success against Charlotte the Baby B’s have a good chance of winning this game. Their goals for and goals against stats look similar at 149 goals for and 125 goals against for the Checkers and 139 goals for and 126 against for the boys in black and gold. Look for a close battle this weekend.
Saturday, January 26, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Springfield Thunderbirds (HOME)
This game marks the eighth time 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 next 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.
Part five of the season series was a good one for the boys in black and gold. The Bruins beat the Thunderbirds 4-3 getting goals from Peter Cehlarik (2), Trent Frederic, and Paul Carey. Meanwhile, goalie Zane McIntyre continued to play well as he turned away 19 of the 22 shots he faced. The sixth part in the season series saw the Panthers’ affiliate beat the spoked P 3-2 in overtime. The Baby B’s were able to get goals from Gemel Smith, and Cameron Hughes with Dan Vladar giving a tremendous effort in net stopping 38 of the 41 shots he faced. The most recent showdown saw the boys in black and gold win 2-1 in a shootout getting goals from Karson Kuhlman, and Trent Frederic netted the winning shootout goal. Zane McIntyre was excellent in net turning away 23 of the 24 shots he faced.
The Springfield hockey club comes into this eighth meeting with a record of 20-14-6-4 (50 points) and 5-2-2-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for fourth in the Atlantic Division as well as fourth in the Eastern Conference. The Thunderbirds seem to have the Bruins’ number this year going 4-2-0-1 against our boys thus far. Something that bodes well for the Baby B’s though, is that they are 10-4-1 against the Panthers’ affiliate in the last five seasons at home and 20-10-3 overall.
Major keys to the game will be whether the game is close or not. In one-goal games, the Baby B’s are 8-8-6-1. Meanwhile, the Thunderbirds are 5-6-6-4 under the same scenario. In two-goal games, the Bruins are 2-4 and their Atlantic Division foe is 5-3. Finally, in three-goal games the spoked P is 6-4 and Springfield is 5-3. Another key will be who is winning after the second period. As I said earlier the Boston Bruins’ top affiliate is 16-3-2-1 when leading after two. On the other side of the bench, the Panthers’ affiliate is 15-0-1. Whoever can jump out to an early multiple-goal lead stands a fantastic chance of coming away with two points Saturday night.
Who’s hot and Who’s not for the Bruins
Paul Carey: Carey was traded to Boston from Ottawa in a minor trade back on January 11, 2019. Since being traded for, the former Boston College Eagle and two-time NCAA Champion has been excellent for Providence. In five games for the Baby B’s he has netted four goals and dished out two assists for six total points. Combine this with what the gritty forward did for the Belleville Senators in 34 total AHL games he has stats of 9-24-33 this is a point per game total of 0.97 which is much higher than his AHL career total of 0.67 (88-127-215 in 321 games played), and higher than his NCAA total of 0.59 (45-41-86 in 147 games played).
Karson Kuhlman: Kuhlman has quietly put together a really nice first full season with Providence. The former University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs’ Captain and NCAA champion has been excellent recently for the Baby B’s. The young forward has scored a point in 11 of his last 13 games with stats of 6-7-13 in that time frame. This superb play has pushed his season totals to 9-13-22. This is a point per game total of 0.51 which is higher than his NCAA total of 0.48 (39-41-80 in 166 games played.)
Cameron Hughes: The young forward has seemed to run into a bit of a dry spell lately. The former University of Wisconsin Captain has found the score sheet just once in his past five games netting a goal against Springfield on January 13, 2019. This cold streak could be attributed to the fact that it’s the young forward’s first full season in Providence and sometimes it takes players times to adjust to the pro game. Still, he has a point per game total of 0.56 (10-14-24 in 43 games) which is relatively close to his college days of 0.66 (23-69-92 in 139 games played).
Joona Koppanen: The young forward was called up to Providence from ECHL Atlanta back in November. Since being called up to Providence he has played in 19 games finding the back of the net two times for two total points. The Finland native has not registered a point since January 4th, 2019. It is worth noting that he is only 20 years old, and this is his first full professional season in North America. It can take time adjusting to the different styles of play from the North American pro game to International play. The World Junior Cup Gold Medalist has a point per game total of 0.10 (2-0-2 in 19 games) which is significantly less than his Liiga days in Finland of 0.31 (2-12-14 in 45 games played).
My players to watch this weekend
Jordan Szwarz: The Providence Bruins Captain has been great for the team this season. He’s netted 14 goals and dished out 9 assists for 23 total points. Szwarz has been especially good against Charlotte and Springfield this season. In 10 games against the two teams this year he has stats of 5-3-8. This is a point per game total of 0.80. Remember, the 6 goals away from 20 on the year. Once he hits the 20-goal milestone, he will be the fifth player in Providence Bruins history with 20+ goals in three different seasons for the club. Also, a big congratulations to the Ontario native for playing in his 400th career AHL game over the weekend.
On the Blue Line
Urho Vaakanainen: I know this is a repeat of last week, but I really do not want his play to go unnoticed. The young defenseman has been excellent in six games since returning to the Providence lineup. In those six games, he has dished out five assists for five points while playing excellent defense for the Baby B’s. Vaakanainen is easily my favorite prospect that the Boston Bruins currently have. Look for him to have another big weekend as three of his seven points this season have come against Springfield.
Zane McIntyre: Like Vaakanainen I know this is a repeat, but again I cannot let the play of McIntyre go unnoticed. The veteran goalie is a huge reason why the Bruins have gone on a seven-game point streak. In his last six games, Zane is 6-0-0 turning away 115 of the 127 shots he has faced for a .905 save percentage and goals against average of 1.97. His play has solidified not only the goalie position for Providence but also the back end of the defense.
For the second weekend in a row, the Providence Bruins were able to grab five of a possible six points. This has catapulted them to the brink of a playoff spot. While, both games this weekend will tough, with how the Baby B’s are playing, I have the utmost faith that this team will grab at the very least two points this weekend. However, do not be surprised to see them snatch up all four points as they continue their climb up the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference Standings. 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!