By: James Swindells | Follow me on Twitter @jimswindells68
Following a week of preparation and practice for their 3-in-3 weekend, the Providence Bruins got back into game action on Friday night at The AMP. The P-Bruins played host to the top AHL affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes, the Charlotte Checkers. Friday night’s meeting would be the first of eight head-to-heads between the two Atlantic Division rivals.
Charlotte entered the AHL’s third weekend as the only team with a perfect record at 4-0-0. The Checkers are led in scoring by Anton Levtchi and Riley Nash, who played in Boston from 2016-2018, with six points in Charlotte’s four games. The Checkers’ special teams have been one of the biggest reasons for their quick start. Their power play is tied for second in the AHL, clicking at a 33.3% success rate, while their penalty-killing numbers have them tied for eighth in the AHL at 82.4%.
Providence looks to rebound from a loss in their last game, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last Sunday. The P-Bruins entered this weekend with a 3-1-1 record while finding themselves one point behind Charlotte and two points behind division-leading Scranton. Providence has yet to find the formula for success with their power play unit, as they have scored only four goals in 26 power play opportunities, placing them in the bottom quarter of the AHL at 15.4%. In contrast, the P-Bruins penalty kill unit has had early season success and sits 10th in the AHL at 81%.
Providence returns top prospect Fabian Lysell to the lineup after missing the last two games. Lysell, along with teammates Georgii Merkulov, Vinni Lettieri, and Joona Koppanen, currently are averaging over a point per game on the young season. Merkulov leads Providence with four goals, and the trio of Lettieri, Luke Toporowski, and Chris Wagner each has a pair of goals. The line of Koppanen, Wagner, and Justin Brazeau look to continue their strong start as they have been hard working on the forecheck and playing a 200-foot game that has made their line a problematic matchup for opposing teams.
Kyle Keyser (2-0-0, 2.00 GAA, .933 SV%) got the start in nets for Providence, and Alex Lyon (1-0-0, 4.02 GAA, .765 SV%) earned his second start of the season for the Checkers.
Providence would get an early opportunity to improve its power play numbers after Charlotte’s Gerry Mayhew went off for tripping at 5:48. The P-Bruins would find a tough go of things on their first advantage as they were limited to perimeter play while the Checkers clamped down and killed off Mayhew’s penalty. On the immediate entry into the P-Bruins zone after the PK, Mayhew and Aleksi Heponiemi would be denied on successive shots by Kyle Keyser. Mayhew on a wrap attempt to Keyser’s right and the resulting rebound chance by Heponiemi.
The P-Bruins would start to gain control of play in the period after a dustup between Providence’s Nick Wolff and Charlotte’s Connor Bunnaman. Bunnaman would take Wolff to task for his bone-crushing hit on Gerry Mayhew. Wolff and Bunnaman would receive matching majors for fighting, while Bunnaman would be assessed an additional minor and a 10-minute misconduct, and Providence would head back to the power play for the second time.
The Providence power play again failed to score on the man advantage. Alex Lyon would keep the game scoreless heading to the first intermission having turned aside 15 P-Bruins shots. Providence had used the Wolff hit and ensuing fight with Bunnaman to their advantage and seized total control of territorial play and numerous quality scoring chances. But Lyon had risen to the challenge keeping Providence off the board as the Checkers survived the second half of the opening period.
After a period in which they had little territorial play, Charlotte found things working more in their favor at the start of the second period. Clogging things up through the neutral zone and an effective forecheck paid off with the goal that broke the scoreless deadlock. Riley Nash moved through the neutral zone and into the Providence zone, where Aleksi Heponiemi crossed through Nash’s path on a line to Keyser and was fed a pass by Nash. Heponiemi found a sliver of daylight between Keyser and the post and stuffed the puck home.
Compared to the opening 20 minutes, Providence found itself with far fewer in-close scoring opportunities as Charlotte tightened things up defensively and kept most of the P-Bruins chances from outside and beyond the faceoff dots. Charlotte tightening the screws defensively, combined with Providence having to kill off three penalties in the final 10 minutes of the period, limited the P-Bruins, found minimal momentum for the majority of the second period, and headed to the third period facing a one-goal deficit.
Providence came out of the locker room and immediately went to work erasing Charlotte’s lead. In the first minute of play, Toporowski and Lettieri drove into the Charlotte zone on a 2-on-1, and Lettieri saw his effort snuffed out by Lyon to keep Providence off the scoreboard. On the next entry into the Checkers’ zone, Vinni Lettieri drove the right perimeter, skated behind Lyon’s net, and found Fabian Lysell sitting in the slot, who promptly tucked Lettieri’s pass behind Lyon to knot the game up at one apiece.
Providence had found life and would spend the next 14 minutes of gameplay trading scoring chances with the Checkers. Lyon and Keyser would make key saves that would keep the game tied at one. With just 4:13 left in the third period, Toporowski broke in with Oskar Steen on a 2-on-1. Toporowski drove the left side of the Charlotte zone and slid a pass to a wide-open Steen, who wristed a shot just inside the post to the right of Lyon. Providence just had to burn off the remaining clock and bank the two points they now had in their sights.
Charlotte pulled Lyon with 2:21 to go and forced a critical faceoff in the Providence zone with 2:13 left. Joona Koppanen lined up to take the draw and, after jumping the puck drop twice, was assessed a delay of game penalty for his faceoff violation. The P-Bruins would now spend all but the final 13 seconds of the game shorthanded, and Charlotte would put on a full-on assault with six skaters in an attempt to send the game into overtime. The penalty kill unit of Lettieri, Mark McLaughlin, Josiah Didier, and Dan Renouf had what amounts to the penalty kill of the season. Keyser turned aside four Checkers’ shots during the power play and had two point-blank saves on Patrick Giles and Zac Dalpe. The helter-skelter ending secured two points for Providence and handed Charlotte their first loss of the season. The P-Bruins victory also saw them leapfrog the Checkers in the standings and currently sit in second place, just two points behind Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Fabian Lysell (7 points) and Vinni Lettieri (6 points) continued their white-hot starts. Kyle Keyser stopped 29 of 30 shots (.967 SV%) and remains undefeated at 3-0-0. Providence’s power play continued its early season struggles, going 0-for-2 vs. Charlotte and 4-for-28 (14.3%) on the season. A crowd of 6019 filled The AMP as Providence improved its home record to 3-1-1.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME
3rd Star – Aleksi Heponiemi (Charlotte)
2nd Star – Fabian Lysell (Providence)
1st Star – Oskar Steen (Providence)
The P-Bruins head to western Massachusetts on Saturday night and face off against the Springfield Thunderbirds at the Mass Mutal Center at 7 PM. Both teams meet again on Sunday afternoon at The AMP to wrap up the weekend with a 3 PM puck drop.
Providence Bruins Home Game Ticket Information
If you want to get ready for the 2022-23 Providence Bruins regular season home games at the Amica Mutual Pavilion, tickets are available exclusively through purchasing a 22-23 Providence Bruins Season Membership.
Fans can choose from Black Level (20 games), White Level (10 games), or FlexTix Season Memberships. To become a member and reserve seats, please visit providencebruins.com/memberships or contact CJ Tsoumakas at 401.680.4738 or email@example.com.
Single-game tickets can be purchased at the Providence Bruins’ official website at providencebruins.com.
Watch the Providence Bruins Home and Road Games Via Live Stream on AHLTV
Also, if any Boston or Providence Hockey fans want to watch the NHL Bruins’ top minor-pro affiliate in action, please go to theahl.com and get an affordable AHLTV package that suits your viewing needs. You can access every team in the AHL in the regular season and playoffs for $104.99, Full AHL regular season access with no playoffs for $84.99, or you can pay monthly for only $22.99, and there’s single-day access for only $7.99.
AHLTV also offers individual team packages of $64.99 for single-team Home and Away games in the regular season, $44.99 for the single-team away games, and finally, $44.99 to watch your team play at home for the upcoming regular season.
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