By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277
The American Hockey Leagues Providence Bruins played their second three-game series of the 2019-20 regular season at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island over the weekend earning (Add Total Weekend Points Here). Heading into the weekend’s action the top minor-pro affiliate of the National Hockey Leagues Boston Bruins sat in the second position in the Atlantic Division with a 20-12-1-2 record with 43 points in 35 games played only trailing division-leading Hartford Wolf Pack by two points.
Looking at the big picture in the AHL’s Eastern Conference the Providence club was in the fourth spot with a .614 winning percentage and 5-5-0 in their last ten games. Although the B’s are in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference Calder Cup Playoff picture, the Ocean State team has struggled at home with a record of 7-6-0-1 while having a record away from the Dunk of 13-6-1-1. Leading the club in points so far this season leading into the weekend’s action has rookie and 2017 second-round pick Jack Studnicka leading the team with 14-12-26 numbers in 33 games. Veteran forward and Weymouth, Massachusetts native Paul Carey is second on the club with 14-11-25 totals in 34 games and rounding off the top-three is AHL rookie Robert Lantosi who’s contributed 9-14-23 numbers in 31 games.
Goaltending for the Providence team has been one of the key factors in the AHL clubs’ success with the addition of veteran netminder Max Lagace who signed a one-year, two-way free-agent contract over the 2019 offseason. Lagace has a record of 13-5-2 with a 2.44 goals-against-average, a .916 save percentage and leading the AHL in shutouts with five. Dan Vladar who struggled to get off on the right foot to start the 2019-20 campaign suffered a high ankle sprain early in the year returned to the crease on December 1st, 2019, and has been outstanding in his return thus far leading into the new 2020 calendar year. Vladar has a season record of 5-3-0 with a 1.67 GAA, a Save% of .940, and two shutouts on the season. Now let’s get you updated on the weekend games and how the Providence team did in the three straight contests at the dunk. Enjoy!
Friday, January 3rd, 2020, Hartford Wolf Pack vs. The Providence Bruins (Home)
Trailing the visiting Hartford Wolf Pack by a mere two points for the top position in the Atlantic Division this was a huge game against an opponent that the Providence club has certainly had a tough time against all season. Leading up to the action on Friday night the visiting Wolf Pack club has outscored the B’s 21-9 in six previous matchups in the 2019-20 regular season and it was important the home team came out on the right foot against a Packs netminder that has absolutely had their number for a majority of those games.
In the first period, the Bruins got off to a good start against a Wolf Pack team that they’ve been jockeying back-and-forth all season for the Division Lead. Captain Paul Carey got the first Bruins goal of the game scoring a shorthanded goal, his 15th of the year which was unassisted at 6:51 of the opening period. Hartford would only need three minutes after the Carey goal to tie things up at one on a goal from Tim Gettinger who scored his 8th of the year. Shots on goal to end the opening frame had the home Bruins team at an 11-7 advantage leading into the second period which was a tight battle in the middle of the game without either team putting the puck past the games netminders.
Jumping to the third period the scoring would all go to the visiting Wolf Pack. Pack leading goal scorer Vinni Lettieri would add his 12th of the year at the 19:34 mark of the final frame and to seal the deal for the visitors, winger Gettinger would get his second goal of the game with an empty netter at the 19:55 mark to end the game. Shots on goal in this game had the Wolf Pack with a 31-28 shot advantage
Bruins goaltender Dan Vladar got the start in goal on this night stopping 28 of 30 shots on goal and was a major reason the Wolf Pack club didn’t add several goals to make things worse. Regardless of this loss, the Bruins third-round selection in 2015 continues to play well since his return to the B’s lineup and will most likely get the call on Sunday against the Charlotte Checkers with the way Providence Head Coach Jay Leach has the rotation going. The Bruins have lost their last two games and look to snap out of this funk against a hot Checkers club that’s won their last three games before heading to the state of Rhode Island.
Saturday, January 4th, 2020, Charlotte Checkers vs. The Providence Bruins (Home)
The Bruins looked to change their recent misfortunes against an AHL team they’ve had recent success earlier this season. Providence has outscored the Checkers club 8-1 in the previous two games with one of the contests being a 36 save shutout in a 4-0 victory in Vladar’s return from injury. This night in game two of three on the weekend at the Dunk the end result would be very different.
After the Providence club commanded close to four minutes of the opening frame but that excitement was quickly deflated at the 3:59 mark when Checkers forward David Gust got the first goal of the game. Although there were times when the Bruins looked like they were getting back into the game the visiting Charlotte club just added more pressure holding the lead. At the 3:45 mark of the second period, the Checkers scored their second goal of the game on Steven Lorentz 9th of the season making things more difficult for the home Providence team.
The third period was a chippy affair as the Bruins started to show frustrations in being down on the scoreboard and were penalized four times putting themselves in a difficult situation. The Checkers club would score two goals in the final frame one from Julien Gauthier who scored his 15th of the season at the 1:54 mark of the third and sealing the deal on the night was an empty netter from Spencer Smallman who notched his third of the season at 16:48. The final tally on the shots on goal from both combatants had the visiting Checkers team finishing with a 43-25 advantage.
As mentioned above about the goaltending rotation, Providence Head Coach Leach did, in fact, go with Max Lagace in the second night of the weekend’s action. Lagace who’s been one of the best netminders in the AHL has had a recent run of bad luck giving up nine goals in his last three games and is on a three-game losing streak. Max stopped 39 of 42 Checkers shots on this night and did the best he could but ultimately the support in front of him didn’t do enough on the scoresheet to help out. Lagace suffered his sixth regulation loss of the year and will most likely have to wait until next Saturday, January 11th to try and snap his season-long losing streak.
Sunday, January 5th, 2020, Charlotte Checkers vs. The Providence Bruins (Home)
The final game of the Bruins weekend at the Dunkin Donuts Center came to a screeching halt with another loss in front of the Providence crowd. The Checkers club was again just too much to handle for the B’s outscoring the home team 8-1 in two of the three games in this weekend set and are now on a four-game losing streak.
The Checkers owned all-three periods leading up to a 4-0 lead with their fourth goal on a Brian Gibbons empty-netter at the 17:26 mark of the third. Providence broke the shutout bid for Anton Forsberg on a goal from B’s rookie Robert Lantosi who scored his 10th of the season at the 19:04 of the final frame. Shots advantage in this game went to the visiting team for the third straight contest in the weekend’s action this time giving the Checker a 33-27 total at the end of 60 minutes.
The AHL Bruins get back to work on Saturday, January 11th, 2020, in Springfield, Massachusetts with a tilt against a hot Springfield Thunderbirds team. The Thunderbirds are currently on a four-game winning streak and only one point behind the Providence club to tie for third place in the Atlantic Division. Springfield is 11-7-1-0 at the MassMutual Center and 53-3-2 in their last ten games. The Bruins wrap up the week’s action on Sunday against the same Thunderbirds team to finish up a home-and-home on Sunday, January 12th, 2020, at the Dunk in Providence Rhode Island.
The AHL’s Atlantic Division is very tight as rivals are starting to play better gearing up fro Calder Cup Playoff runs. In this said “tight” division the Providence team has an 8-8 record since December 1st, 2019 and is slowly going in the wrong direction as they started the year as one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. With almost a full week of practice B’s Head Coach, Leach and assistants behind the bench should have an interesting week of work addressing key areas that opposing teams have exposed in their game. Still, a lot of season left and keep in mind that this Providence team has gotten hot in previous years around this time of year and made the postseason debuts so I’m not giving up on this club just yet.