By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson
Week 14 of the AHL season and week one of 2020 are here. The Providence Bruins skate into it 20-12-1-2 (43 points) and 5-5 in their last 10 games. This is good for second in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference. The Providence club is coming off a week that saw them beat the Springfield Thunderbirds 4-3 before falling to the Hartford Wolf Pack 4-1. The Bruins will start off 2020 at home for three games in three days after ending 2019 with a five-game road trip.
The hockey action starts on Friday, January 3, 2020, when the Hartford Wolf Pack invades Providence, Rhode Island, to take on the Bruins at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. The action continues on Saturday, January 4, 2020, when the defending Calder Cup Champion Charlotte Checkers come to town to take on the Providence club at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. The weekend wraps up on Sunday, January 5, 2020, when the Providence Bruins take on the same Charlotte Checkers at the Dunk in Providence, Rhode Island.
Friday, January 3, 2020, Providence Bruins vs. Hartford Wolf Pack (HOME)
The Friday matchup will mark the seventh of 10 meetings the two teams will have this year. In the first meeting, the Bruins would fall 2-1. Providence got their lone goal from Jack Studnicka. Goalie Kyle Keyser was up to the task in net stopping 23 of 25 shots that were fired his way. The second battle saw the Bruins win 4-3 in a shootout. They got goals from Scott Conway, Jack Studnicka, and Robert Lantosi. Max Lagace was able to stop 35 of the 38 shots he faced.
The third game saw the Bruins fall 5-2. They received goals from Ryan Fitzgerald and Jack Studnicka. Netminder Kyle Keyser was able to stop 24 of 28 shots he faced. The fourth battle saw the Providence Bruins fall 4-1. They got their lone goal from Cameron Hughes. Goalie Max Lagace stopped 18 of 22 shots he faced.
The fifth matchup was a bad one, the Bruins would lose 3-0. Goalie Max Lagace was up to the task in net stopping 18 of the 20 shots he faced. The most recent game saw the Providence Bruins lose 4-1. They got their lone goal from Joona Koppanen. Max Lagace had a rough night in net stopping 26 of 30 shots fired his way.
The battle with the Hartford club is going to be challenging. The Rangers’ affiliate comes into the game 19-8-2-5 (45 points), including 6-4 in their last 10 games. This is good for first in the Atlantic Division and first in the Eastern Conference. Even though it’ll be a tough game, there is hope for the Bruins.
Over the past five seasons, our boys in black and gold have gone 22-16-4-2, including 14-6-1-1 at the Dunk. The Wolf Pack has seen success this season thanks to a stifling defense. They’ve given up only 89 goals in 34 games. That means they are only giving up 2.61 goals a game. Providence, on the other hand, has scored 114 goals in 35 games. That’s 3.25 goals a game. It’ll be a great battle between the two teams.
Saturday, January 4, 2020, and Sunday, January 5, 2020, Providence Bruins vs. Charlotte Checkers (HOME)
The weekend series between the Providence Bruins and Charlotte Checkers will be the third and fourth of eight meetings the two teams will have. In the first meeting, the Providence Bruins would win 4-1. They got goals from Brendan Woods (2), Scott Conway, and Robert Lantosi. Max Lagace was excellent in net stopping 28 of the 29 shots fired his way.
The second matchup saw the Bruins shutout the Checkers 4-0. They got goals from Brendan Woods, Urho Vaakanainen, Pavel Shen, and Jack Studnicka. Dan Vladar was a wall, stopping all 36 shots he faced. The Providence Bruins are 8-5-1 against Charlotte over the past five seasons. This includes 3-2-1 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
Last season, the Charlotte Checkers were dominant. They would beat the Bruins in four games in the first round of the playoffs on their way to their first Calder Cup Championship. This season has been a bit of a different story. The Hurricanes’ affiliate skate into the match up 16-13-3 (35 points) and 7-3 in their last 10 games. This is good for sixth in the Atlantic Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference.
Something that led to their dominant season last year was their defense. Their defense only surrendered 189 goals, while they scored 255. That’s a +66 goal differential. This season has been the opposite. The Charlotte club on the year has scored 94 goals while giving up 87. That’s a plus-seven goal differential. This isn’t very good if you want to sustain longterm success.
To put those numbers into perspective, the Providence Bruins have played in three more games than Charlotte. They’ve scored 114 goals while giving up 90. That’s a +24 goal differential. The Providence club has been better this season than Charlotte, and these are two games that they should absolutely win.
Who’s Hot and Who’s Not
Joona Koppanen: Joona Koppanen has had a good season for Providence thus far. He started the year spending time in the ECHL with the Atlanta Gladiators. In 25 games since being with Providence, the young forward has netted seven goals and dished out six assists for 13 total points. This includes a two-game point streak that saw him score a goal and dish out an assist. Koppanen joined the Bruins three years ago after spending the beginning of his career in Finland. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2016 NHL Draft.
Robert Lantosi: Robert Lantosi continues his stellar first season with the Providence Bruins. In 31 games this season, the young forward has netted nine goals and dished out 14 assists for 23 total points. This includes three goals and four assists for seven total points in his last seven games. He came to Providence on an AHL deal after spending the beginning of his career in his home country of Slovakia. If he keeps up this play, we could see him land an NHL deal soon.
Peter Cehlarik: Peter Cehlarik has had a good season overall for Providence. In 27 games, he’s netted nine goals while dishing out 13 assists for 22 total points. Despite this, the veteran forward has not registered a point in his last four games. Even though he is on a mini cold streak, I would expect Cehlarik to break out of the funk soon.
Trent Frederic: Trent Frederic has had an up and down season for Providence. In 32 games, he’s found the back of the net four times and dished out 13 assists for 17 total points. Despite this, he hasn’t registered a point in his last four games. Another thing he needs to reign in a little bit is his penalties. He already has 93 penalty minutes on the year. He had 67 all of last year. Hopefully, the former Universit of Wisconsin Badger can turn it around soon.
My Players To Watch This Weekend
Jack Studnicka: Jack Studnicka has had an excellent first season in Providence. In 33 games, he’s netted 14 goals and dished out 12 assists for 26 total points. The young forward has also netted four goals and dished out an assist for five total points over his last seven games. Studnicka’s special teams play has really stood out this year. He’s netted three power-play and five shorthanded goals this year.
On The Blue Line
Jakub Zboril: Jakub Zboril has had a good season for Providence Bruins. In 32 games, he’s netted two goals and dished out eight assists for 10 total points. The young defenseman is going to have to step up the next few games. Vaakanainen missed the last few games with an injury, and Lauzon was called up to Boston. I would expect Zboril to be a focal point for the defense this weekend.
Max Lagace: Max Lagace has had an excellent first season with the Providence Bruins. The veteran netminder came to Providence after spending the past few seasons in the Vegas system. Lagace is 13-5-2 with a .916 save percentage and a 2.44 GAA. He’s also recorded a league-high five shutouts.
The Providence Bruins are in an excellent position as we head into the new year. They sit firmly in a playoff spot. I would expect the Providence club to sustain and build upon their success from the first half of the year. They’ve traditionally been better in the second half of the year. If they can continue that trend, we are going to be in for a spectacular end to the season. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and new year! Feel free to send me any comments or questions on Twitter. As always, GO, BS, GO!