By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12
PROVIDENCE – The Providence Bruins fell to the Belleville Senators by a final score of 4-3 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Sunday afternoon. The loss came as the second in a row for Providence as the team fell in a shootout to the Laval Rocket at the Dunk on Saturday night during Pink in the Rink Weekend. Maxime Lagace got the start in net for Jay Leach’s group while Filip Gustavsson went for Belleville.
“It’s certainly disappointing,” Leach said of only getting one point out of the weekend after the loss. “We’ve certainly got our work cut out for us moving forward.”
The P-Bruins got out to a hot start in this one as Jakob Lauko took a feed from Zach Senyshyn, who danced though a couple Sens defenders, and shoveled a shot from the high-slot past Gustavsson, giving Providence a 1-0 lead just over three minutes into the opening frame. Alex Petrovic, who had himself a solid night, picked up the secondary assist.
Belleville answered quickly, though, as Jonathan Aspirot beat Lagace from long-range for his first professional goal to tie things at one apiece about three minutes after Lauko’s third of the year. Aspirot’s tally accentuated what was already a strong start for Belleville as the Sens had their way with the P-Bruins on the forecheck during the early proceedings of the first period.
Ryan Fitzgerald broke the tie for Providence with 8:10 to go in the first as Chris Breen’s shot with a purpose found Fitzgerald’s stick for the redirect into the back of the net. The Baby B’s were not able to enjoy the lead for long as a breakdown in coverage led to Michael Carcone blasting a one-timer into the wide open cage to tie things at 2-2.
Stuart Percy went to the box, giving Providence a power play late in the period, but the Bruins’ inability to capitalize was a huge lift for Belleville as Drake Batherson drove into the Providence zone on the rush after the penalty kill and zipped a slapper passed Lagace to give Belleville a 3-2 lead. It was the third goal Lagace had given on just six shots.
“I’m not going to blame Max on all of it, but I’m sure he’d like to have one or two of those back,” Leach continued. “Sometimes in these games we need a bit of a wakeup call, so he was more of a sacrificial lamb for us today.”
“[The decision to pull him] was almost like ‘look, this guy’s been great and he just had two shutouts for you–he’s now pulled–so it’s time to wake up.’ Certainly not going to put it on him.”
Kyle Keyser would get the nod in the second period after a shaky first from Lagace. About midway through an evenly-matched second, Providence forward Robert Lantosi went down in quite a bit of discomfort and eventually would head to the dressing room holding a towel to his face–he would return to finish the game, though.
Even though Lantosi would appear to be fine, his injury certainly was not ideal for the P-B’s as the team was already shorthanded up front as Anders Bjork and Peter Cehlarik are with the big club in Boston while Brendan Gaunce is out with a concussion.
The Bruins would ratchet up the pressure in the second as Keyser held the fort in his own end, highlighted by a sprawling save to keep Providence in it. With 4:00 remaining in the middle stanza and with Providence on a 5-on-3 power play, Petrovic sent a nifty cross-ice saucer pass to captain Paul Carey, who one-timed his fifth of the year by Gustavsson to bring the game back to even.
The tie would stand after two periods, but not before Lauko almost gave Providence the lead as his snapper found its way through Gustavsson’s paraphernalia before a Belleville defender was able to sweep the puck off the goal line.
Early in the third period, Trent Frederic and Robert LaBate would exchange pleasantries and eventually, fists in what was a spirited bout. LaBate may have had the advantage during the early going of the fight, getting Frederic to do his best headless horseman impression in the spirit of Halloween as his sweater was pulled over his head, but after the officials, surprisingly, did not step in, Frederic landed several haymakers, earning the knockout on LaBate.
The tempers and animosity would flare following the fight as Urho Vaakanainen would take exception to a Sens forechecker after a stoppage in play and Cooper Zech would take a hard cross-check from Vitalii Abramov later on.
Keyser would be tested frequently during the third as he made an impressive save on a point-blank one-time bomb look easy. However, after two initial saves from the Bruins’ goaltender, Abramov had the puck squirt out to him in front as he jammed it into the yawning cage to put the Sens up 4-3.
“On that last [goal] Keyser made about two real good saves at first before it even goes in, so we can’t really expect much more out of him on that,” Leach noted.
Although the P-Bruins had a solid push late in the game, Abramov’s tally would prove to be the game-winner. Keyser made 20 saves on 21 shots in relief of Lagace while Gustavsson came up with 28 saves in his own right.
“[Since the call-up] Keyser’s been real good,” the Providence bench boss spoke of his rookie goaltender. “He’s real athletic and he fights to see every puck . . . He’s given us a chance to win every night.”
The overall result is certainly disappointing, but there were still some impressive individual performances for Providence in this one, starting with Keyser. Senyshyn easily had his best game of the season while Petrovic had a two-assist night. With his goal, Fitzgerald now has five points (3G, 2A) over his last five contests, too. Also, Carey extended his point-streak to four games.
“I thought he was outstanding,” Leach said of Senyshyn’s performance. “If he can play like that it’s a great stride. [It’s] great for us and certainly great for him.”
Keyser was called up early on in the year for Providence after Dan Vladar went down with an injury. The goaltender in his first professional season was supposed to start the year in Atlanta, Boston’s ECHL-affiliate, but was pulled back to the Baby B’s before he even got a game in with the Gladiators.
“That’s pro hockey for you. You have to expect the unexpected at all times,” Keyser described. “You have to be ready to run whenever they call your name.”
“For me, it’s about staying focused and staying in the present. Whenever I’m called upon, I’ve just got to go out and do my own thing.”
Providence will return to action this Wednesday as the team will travel to Rochester for a tilt with the Americans, Buffalo’s AHL-affiliate. The action is slated to get underway at 7:05 pm–stay tuned for Tim Richardson’s preview for the week!