( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

By: Ryan Duffy | Follow Me On Twitter @Rduffy26

On Saturday night, the Charlotte Checkers (42-24-5-1) scored late in regulation and defeated the Providence Bruins (36-22-4-6) 2-1 on Rhode Island Comic-Con weekend. Troy Grosenick was incredible and made 45 stops after returning to the Providence roster earlier that day. With the win, the Charlotte Checkers clinched the Atlantic Division title and have earned a bye for the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. The score was 0-0 for most of the game, with both goaltenders standing on their heads.

Charlotte got the game’s first scoring chance just three minutes into the opening frame. Checkers forward Cole Schwindt got behind the P-Bruins defense on an odd-man rush and took the puck hard to the net. As Schwindt cut to the net on his backhand, Grosenick sealed off the near-side post and denied him. Later in the first period, Providence went to the penalty kill with Steven Fogarty in the box for tripping. Providence allowed zero shots on Charlotte’s first power-play attempt and nearly scored shorthanded in the final seconds of the penalty kill.

Samuel Asselin dropped the puck to Matt Filipe as they broke into the Checkers zone on a two-on-two. As soon as Filipe received the drop pass, he made a tremendous one-on-one move to cut from right to left, but he was denied by the Checkers netminder Gibson. Providence minutes later would go back on the penalty kill with Georgii Merkulov in the box. The Checker’s power play was much more noticeable and tested Grosenick heavily as he had to make multiple stops with traffic in front of the goal. The Checkers nearly struck first on the same penalty kill as Connor Carrick took a one-timer from the left circle and rang the crossbar. 

Providence nearly grabbed the lead on another fast break for the P-Bruins early on in the middle frame. John Beecher came flying into the offensive zone on a 3-on-2 and made an impressive saucer pass to Justin Brazeau’s back door. Brazeau quickly shot the puck high on the Checkers goalie, and Gibson made the stop with his mask lunging forward. More than halfway through the second, Providence struggled to gather offensive zone time until the closing minutes of the period. Despite a small surge from Providence late in the second, both teams went to their respective locker rooms scoreless after 40 minutes of play.

In the third period, the Checkers were noticeably better and outshot Providence 11-1 halfway through the period. As the clock dwindled to the eight-minute mark remaining in regulation, the Checkers struck first with Zac Dalpe’s 30th goal of the season. The play started after a faceoff to the left of Grosenick, and Providence won the puck behind their goal. Aleksi Heponiemi went to the corner, retrieved the puck, and quickly fed Dalpe for a one-timer that squeaked through Grosenick, and the Checkers never looked back.

With close to two minutes remaining, Ryan Mougenel pulled Grosenick for the extra attacker. As Grosenick left the net, Checker’s defender Gustaf Olofsson ripped a shot from the opposite side of the ice and scored on the empty net for the 2-0 lead. Olofsson’s empty-netter would surprisingly be the game-winner, as Jack Studnicka would break Gibson’s shutout with eight seconds remaining in regulation for a 2-1 final.

Throughout the hockey game, Providence struggled to stay out of the box and took a total of six minor penalties. Although their penalty kill was strong, Troy Grosenick could have been the first star at the night’s end as he bailed Providence out with multiple unbelievable stops. Providence has four games remaining in the regular season, and they are back in action today at the MassMutual Center in Springfield against the Thunderbirds at 2:05 PM.