By: James Swindells | Follow me on Twitter @jimswindells68
The Atlantic Division-leading Providence Bruins moved into the AHL’s fifth weekend, compiling an 8-1-1-1 record, good for 18 points. The P-Bruins looked to expand their three-point lead over the second-place Bridgeport Islanders with a weekend doubleheader versus the Charlotte Checkers, the AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers. Providence defeated Charlotte 2-1 in their only matchup on October 28th and handed the Checkers their first loss of the season. Providence has posted a 4-0-1 since the October 28th meeting, while Charlotte has gone 1-1-2.
Providence looks to continue their winning ways without their goaltending tandem of Kyle Keyser and Keith Kinkaid. Keyser is on the shelf with a knee injury since leaving early in a game vs. Springfield on November 5th. Boston recently recalled Kinkaid to backup Linus Ullmark after Jeremy Swayman suffered a lower-body injury on November 1st vs. Pittsburgh.
FRIDAY VS. CHARLOTTE
Brandon Bussi (2-0-0) got his second consecutive start following a 1-0 shutout of Bridgeport on November 6th. Alex Lyon (2-1-1) got the start for the Checkers.
Providence jumped out with an early attack on Charlotte that would pay off when Mark McLaughlin fed a pass to Jakub Lauko at center ice, Lauko sliced through the Checkers’ defenders, broke in alone on Lyon, and slid a backhander just inside the post to Lyon’s right giving the P-Bruins the early lead at 5:14. The goal was Lauko’s first of the season with Providence since being sent back to the “A” by Boston in a move necessitated by Charlie McAvoy returning to the lineup in Boston.
Josiah Didier was whistled for a tripping penalty at 12:20, and his infraction put Charlotte on the power play for the first time. Justin Sourdif capitalized on Didier’s penalty call at 13:53 with his first professional goal. Sourdif followed his initial shot, scooped up a rebound by Bussi, and deadlocked the game at one.
The deadlock was broken 1:38 later as John Beecher won a furious puck battle and quickly fired a shot that beat Lyon to the short side over his left shoulder. Providence went to the first intermission, having regained the lead and having held Charlotte without a shot since the Sourdif goal.
Providence looking to expand on its one-goal lead, found itself on the defense early in the second frame as they took two penalties in the opening six minutes. Brandon Bussi came up with big saves early in the period and on both of Charlotte’s power plays. The P-Bruins successfully killed off a hooking call to Fabian Lysell and a bench minor for too many men and went back to work, attempting to widen their lead.
Following the two penalty kills, Providence doubled their lead on a hard-working forecheck by Fabian Lysell. Lysell forced a bad clear attempt by Charlotte that Jack Ahcan corralled at the blue line and sent a pass to Georgii Merkulov at the right faceoff circle. Merkulov sent the puck cross-ice to a wide-open Lysell, who buried the puck behind Lyon, and Providence found themselves with a 3-1 lead just past the halfway point of the game.
Providence headed back to the penalty kill on a Justin Brazeau holding call at 15:29. Charlotte found power play success for the second time in the game when Aleksi Heponiemi set up behind Bussi’s net, found Connor Bunnaman to Bussi’s right and wristed a shot behind Bussi to cut the Providence lead in half to 3-2.
Charlotte’s Dennis Cesana took a slashing penalty at 19:59, ensuring Providence a power play on a clean sheet of ice when the third period started. Despite their successful penalty kills and tremendous saves by Bussi earlier in the period, Providence headed to the second intermission with the same one-goal lead it possessed after the first period.
The P-Bruins opened the third period with a flurry of chances on the carryover power play leading to a tic-tac-toe goal by Justin Brazeau. A beautiful series of passes set up Brazeau’s first goal of the season. Vinni Lettieri eventually found Brazeau on the top of Lyon’s crease and redirected the Lettieri pass behind Lyon to push the Providence lead to two.
The two teams traded off successful penalty kills through the back half of the period as Providence maintained its lead. Charlotte pulled Alex Lyon for the extra attacker with 2:51 to go. Providence took immediate advantage of the extra attacker as Luke Toporowski won a race to the puck and denied an icing call. Toporowski flipped the puck out of the corner and found Oskar Steen racing into the slot. Steen buried Toporowski’s feed into the empty cage and assured Providence two points.
Brandon Bussi finished the night by turning aside 37 of the 39 shots he faced. Providence’s special teams went 1-for-2 on the power play and killed three of their five penalties. The P-Bruins expanded their Atlantic Division lead over Bridgeport to four points. A crowd of 7464 saw Providence grow its home record to 4-1-1.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME
3rd Star – Brandon Bussi (Providence)
2nd Star – Georgii Merkulov (Providence)
1st Star – Fabian Lysell (Providence)
SUNDAY VS. CHARLOTTE
Brandon Bussi (3-0-0) returned to the nets again on Sunday to attempt the weekend sweep of Charlotte at the Amica Mutual Pavilion in Providence. Charlotte returned Alex Lyon (2-2-1) to the crease for the Checkers.
Fresh out of the locker room, Providence was under a relentless attack mounted by the Checkers from the first puck drop. Bussi faced 13 shots over the first half of the opening period and turned all 13 aside. While Bussi made several saves to keep things scoreless, Providence was hard at work trying to establish an offensive flow.
Providence finally broke the scoreless tie 9:20 into the first period when Kai Wissman drove into the Charlotte zone and, with time and space, found Vinni Lettieri at the far left faceoff dot. Lettieri one-timed the Wissman pass for his seventh goal of the season, and Providence found the momentum to slow the Charlotte attack.
Providence would expand their lead to two just 45 seconds after the Lettieri tally when Jakub Lauko forced a turnover at the Charlotte blue line. Lauko turned on the jets and drove towards the net and roofed a nice backhand shot over the left shoulder of Alex Lyon, and put the Checkers into a two-goal hole at the halfway point of the opening stanza. Backed by Bussi’s 17 saves, the P-Bruins survived the Checkers’ early onslaught and took a two-goal lead into the first intermission.
Providence opened the second period by tacking another goal onto the Charlotte deficit. Connor Carrick sent a stretch pass to Oskar Steen at the Checkers’ blue line. Steen fought through the Charlotte defenders’ stickwork as Lyon committed to Steen’s first move, and Steen potted the puck past the prone Lyon to extend the lead to 3-0. Even facing a three-goal deficit, Charlotte once again controlled the majority of offensive chances throughout the second period. But Brandon Bussi stood to the task and kept the Checkers off the scoreboard as the shots piled up.
Michael Del Zotto cross-checked Joey Abate at 3:54, and Dan Renouf took exception to Del Zotto’s hit on Abate and squared off with the Checkers’ Patrick Giles. The Del Zotto call put the P-Bruins on their first power play of the game. The Providence power play failed to produce a goal, and Charlotte continued to test Bussi with a barrage of scoring chances.
Charlotte finally broke through the Bussi wall on their 30th shot attempt of the game. Georgii Merkulov took a slashing penalty at 14:15, and Anton Levtchi took just 13 seconds to capitalize on the man advantage to slice the P-Bruins lead to 3-1.
The P-Bruins extended the lead to three again with Chris Wagner’s fourth goal of the season with 1:11 remaining in the middle period. Joona Koppanen drove toward Lyon, and the puck skidded into the crease, Oskar Steen poked at it, and Wagner eventually tucked it into the net. The referee behind the net immediately waved off the goal, and the on-ice officials huddled to discuss the call. After a minute of deliberation, the no-goal call was reversed, and the P-Bruins headed into the second intermission with a three-goal margin.
A Josiah Didier carryover penalty allowed Charlotte to turn things around early in the third period. That opportunity proved fruitless, but Providence gift-wrapped another power play opportunity with a bench minor for too many men at 2:19. Then, 31 seconds into the 5-on-4, Chris Wagner took a tripping call and handed the Checkers a 5-on-3 advantage for the next 1:29. With 15 seconds elapsed in the 5-on-3, Aleksi Heponiemi won the ensuing faceoff back to Del Zotto who wound up and blasted a shot behind Bussi to cut the Providence lead to 4-2. Providence managed to kill the remainder of the penalty to Wagner to hold the two-goal lead.
Following some back-and-forth play, Charlotte’s Henry Bowlby beat Bussi with 10:37 to go in the game and cut the Providence lead to 4-3. Charlotte kept the heat on the P-Bruins over the next six minutes until Levtchi took a holding call, effectively killing the momentum Charlotte had built while climbing back into the game. Charlotte pulled Lyon with 1:09 remaining, and Chris Wagner sent the 6507 in attendance home happy with his second goal of the game.
Brandon Bussi stopped 39 of 42 shots and kept a perfect 4-0-0 record intact. Bussi is third in the league among qualifying AHL goaltenders, with a 1.84 GAA.
The foursome of Vinni Lettieri (7-6-13), Georgii Merkulov (4-8-12), Fabian Lysell (4-7-11), and Luke Toporowski (5-5-10) leads Providence in scoring.
The P-Bruins are 7-0-0-1 over their last eight games and hold a 5-1-1-1 record at The AMP. Providence finished their perfect weekend and extended their division lead over the Bridgeport Islanders to four points. Much like their parent club in Boston, the P-Bruins possess the AHL’s best record at 10-1-1-1.
Providence resumes play on Friday when they start a three-game homestand. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms come to The AMP on Friday and Saturday at 7:05 PM for their first matchup with Providence this season. The P-Bruins will wrap the weekend up with a Sunday matinee vs. the Bridgeport Islanders at 3:05 PM.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME
3rd Star – Henry Bowlby (Charlotte)
2nd Star – Oskar Steen (Providence)
1st Star – Chris Wagner (Providence)
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.