By: James Swindells | Follow me on Twitter @jimswindells68
On Friday evening, the Providence Bruins kicked off their 31st season as the top AHL affiliate of the Boston Bruins when they hosted their Atlantic Division rival, the Bridgeport Islanders, at the Amica Mutual Pavilion in Providence. The P-Bruins, led by second-year head coach Ryan Mougenel, ended the 2021-22 season posting a 36-25-5 record, totaling 83 points, and a third-place finish in the Atlantic Division. Bridgeport would sweep the P-Bruins two games to none in their best-of-three first-round playoff series in May.
Providence has four players on its 2022-23 season-opening roster, Luke Toporowski, Fabian Lysell, Joseph Abate, and Kai Wissman making their professional debuts in the AHL. Defenceman Josiah Didier returns for his fourth season in Providence and his second season as captain of the P-Bruins.
The Islanders are led by head coach and former P-Bruins defenceman Brent Thompson who is currently the longest-tenured coach in the AHL at ten years. Bridgeport, the top minor league affiliate of the New York Islanders, has a trio of prospects, forwards Aatu Raty and William Dufour, and defenceman Robin Salo, all of whom are projected to arrive at the NHL level by the 2023-24 season.
In his first season with the P-Bruins, Keith Kinkaid was given the start in net for Providence, and Jakub Skarek manned the cage for the Islanders. The first half of the opening period saw even play from both teams as each team killed off minor penalties in the first ten minutes. Providence defenceman Kai Wissman took a minor penalty for hooking at 11:35, which sent the P-Bruins back to the penalty kill for the second time in the game. Vinni Lettieri took advantage of a turnover by Bridgeport in the neutral zone and sent Mark McLaughlin in for a shorthanded bid on Islanders’ goaltender Jakub Skarek who turned the McLaughlin chance away. Providence killed the remainder of the Wissman minor penalty and looked to build momentum gained from the successful penalty kill.
The P-Bruins proceeded to build a sustained attack inside the Islanders’ zone. Providence’s unrelenting pressure resulted in Georgii Merkulov’s first goal of the season at 13:59. Connor Carrick found Merkulov in the slot and released a quick shot on Skarek. Merkulov proceeded to slam home the rebound left by Skarek, and the P-Bruins were off and running with the game’s first goal.
Providence doubled their lead just 1:27 later as Justin Brazeau led Fabian Lysell with a nice pass through the neutral zone; Lysell found himself in space, turned on the jets and broke in on Skarek, and wristed a shot under the glove side of Skarek. The 2-0 deficit Bridgeport faced would further increase on the following shift for the P-Bruins.
Just 34 seconds after Lysell’s first professional goal, Joona Koppanen sent a pass behind the Bridgeport net to Brazeau, who quickly sent the puck on his backhand to Chris Wagner, who received Brazeau’s pass on his backhand and tucked the puck inside the right post as an unsuspecting Skarek struggled to recover moving left to right. In a matter of 2:02, the P-Bruins had turned a scoreless game into a three-goal hole for the Islanders, and Providence went to the locker room, having seized all momentum in the latter half of the first period.
The Islanders came out of the locker room to start the second period, looking to chip away at the Providence lead, and quickly regained some momentum when P-Bruins goalie Keith Kinkaid whiffed on a midair dump-in by Bridgeport. The puck tumbled into the corner, which Kyle McLean retrieved and blindly passed the puck through his legs to Cole Bardreau, who put a quick shot on Kincaid, surrendering a big rebound which Jeff Kubiak slipped into an open net at 4:17. The Islanders had cut the Bruins’ lead to two and would proceed to outplay Providence for the remainder of the second period.
The Islanders would get an abundance of quality scoring chances after Kubiak’s tally, and the only thing that would come between the Islanders from further chipping away at Providence’s lead was Keith Kinkaid. Kinkaid would turn away 12 of 13 shots in the second period, and the Providence netminder’s performance after Kubiak’s goal would be the night’s standout. Providence would go into the second intermission, clinging to their 3-1 lead, with Bridgeport pushing the pace and controlling play through all three zones.
Bridgeport would resume their attack on Kinkaid in the third period as the Islanders’ attack would come one wave after another. Providence would be outshot 19-8 in the third period, but Kinkaid would continue to stonewall Bridgeport at every turn. The only shot that would get past Kinkaid in the third period would be from the Islanders’ Paul LaDue, who would ring a shot off the post at 14:45 while Providence was killing off a hooking penalty to Fabian Lysell. Providence would again survive down the stretch as Bridgeport would run out of time and chances.
Keith Kinkaid would finish the night by turning away 42 of 43 shots with a .977 save percentage. Fabian Lysell’s first professional goal would be the eventual game-winner in the first period. Justin Brazeau had a multi-point night with two assists by setting up Lysell and Chris Wagner. Jack Ahcan and Joona Koppanen led the P-Bruins with four shots apiece. Providence’s powerplay would go scoreless on six opportunities and kept Bridgeport from scoring on their four power plays. The opening night crowd at the Amica Mutual Pavilion was announced at 9051.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME
3rd Star – Keith Kinkaid (Providence)
2nd Star – Justin Brazeau (Providence)
1st Star – Fabian Lysell (Providence)
Providence looks to go undefeated on the AHL’s opening weekend when they travel to western Massachusetts on Sunday afternoon, facing off with the Springfield Thunderbirds at the Mass Mutual Center with puck drop at 3:05 PM.
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 Gold Level (Full Season), Black Level (20 games), White Level (10 games), or FlexTix Season Memberships. To become a member and reserve seats for Opening Night, please visit providencebruins.com/memberships or contact CJ Tsoumakas at 401.680.4738 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 the watchtheahl.com website 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 always 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.