By: James Swindells | Follow me on Twitter @jimswindells68
The Providence Bruins turned the calendar to November and began their second month of play with a three-game road slate starting Wednesday in upstate New York facing the Utica Comets. Providence wraps up the week with its third trip to Springfield to face the Thunderbirds on Saturday night and concludes on Sunday afternoon with its third matchup of the season with the Bridgeport Islanders.
In October, a trio of rookies, Fabian Lysell, Georgii Merkulov, Luke Toporowski, and seventh-year veteran Vinni Lettieri, led the P-Bruins offensively. Goaltenders Kyle Keyser and Keith Kinkaid had an excellent October, helping Providence compile 12 of a possible 16 points to secure a second-place standing, one point behind the Atlantic Division-leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
WEDNESDAY AT UTICA COMETS
Kyle Keyser (3-0-1, 1.71 GAA, .941 SV%) got his fifth start of the season in goal for Providence and was opposed by Akira Schmid (2-1-0, 1.68 GAA, .928 SV%) in his fourth start for Utica. Wednesday night’s tilt was the first of three on the season for Providence in Utica at the Adirondack Bank Center.
Vinni Lettieri produced the P-Bruins best scoring chance of the opening period when he picked off a pass by the Comets in the neutral zone, walked in on Utica goalie Akira Schmid and rang a shot off the post. Jack Ahcan would account for Providence’s only two shots on Schmid in the first half of the period.
Nolan Foote opened the scoring for Utica at 11:51, resulting from the Comets cycling the puck inside the Providence zone. Ryan Schmelzer worked the puck below the goal line, finding Foote uncovered, and wristed a shot past Keyser on the Comets’ first shot of the game. The majority of the period saw long stretches of play with no shots attempted by either team, and the Comets headed into the first intermission with a one-goal cushion.
Providence’s deficit expanded to two goals on former Providence College Friar, Brian Pinho’s fourth goal at 8:35 of the second period. Pinho’s goal was borne of a Providence defensive breakdown. Pinho slipped behind the P-Bruins coverage, finding himself face-to-face with Keyser, and snuck his shot between Keyser’s legs to double Utica’s lead.
Less than three minutes later, former P-Bruin Zach Senyshyn expanded Utica’s lead to three when Schmelzer, with his third assist of the game, found Senyshyn in the slot and backhanded a shot past Keyser. With less than half of the game remaining, Providence needed to find solutions to the three-goal hole they now faced.
White-hot Luke Toporowski began Providence’s comeback with 3:08 remaining in the second period. Samuel Asselin won a corner puck battle in the Comets’ zone, worked the puck to Toporowski in the slot, and found the back of the net for the P-Bruins first score. Pinho was assessed a minor penalty with 2:10 to go in the second period putting Providence on its first power play of the night. The equally white-hot Lettieri would cut Utica’s lead to one. With Pinho’s penalty nearly expired, Lettieri would race coast-to-coast, splitting the Utica defenders and beating Schmid on the rebound of his initial shot.
Providence controlled the final 20 minutes of play with a decided edge in territorial play but with no sign of the equalizing goal. Justin Brazeau would hit a post, and Providence failed to convert a power play attempt with just over five minutes left. Finally, with 2:41 remaining, Chris Wagner picked up the remnants of a Joona Koppanen deflection and tucked it in the net behind Schmid.
Both teams failed to break the deadlock in the five-minute overtime session and headed to the shootout to determine who would secure the extra point in the standings. Toporowski would strike on Providence’s first attempt, and on Utica’s third and final attempt, Graeme Clarke evened the shootout at one apiece. Both Keyser and Schmid turned away shots in the next seven rounds until Joona Koppanen beat Schmid, giving the P-Bruins the victory in the 11th round of the shootout. Providence leapfrogged Scranton to take sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division with the win.
SATURDAY AT SPRINGFIELD THUNDERBIRDS
Kyle Keyser would get the start vs. Springfield on Saturday night for head coach Ryan Mougenel but Keyser’s evening would end just 11:06 into the game when he left with a lower-body injury. Keyser would be replaced by Brandon Bussi, who was recently assigned to Providence after Boston recalled Keith Kinkaid after an injury to Jeremy Swayman.
Providence would jump out to an early 1-0 lead on Fabian Lysell’s third goal on a breakaway goal that beat Springfield goaltender Vadim Zherenko just 1:44 into the game. The P-Bruins would maintain the slim advantage for the majority of the period, and both teams would each kill off a penalty during the period. Springfield would control play following Lysell’s goal and spent the remainder of the period trying to solve Bussi.
Mathias Laferriere would snap the T-Birds drought with 2:00 left in the first period. Tyler Tucker ripped a shot on Bussi from between the face-off circles that squirted out to an uncovered Laferriere, who buried the rebound opportunity to cut the P-Bruins lead to one. Just 59 seconds after the Laferriere tally, Matthew Highmore evened things up at two when Josh Leivo emerged out of the corner to Bussi’s right and found Highmore all alone, who had time to find an opening in Bussi and sent the T-Birds into the first intermission having erased Lysell’s goal and now had themselves a one-goal lead.
Coming out of the first intermission, Luke Toporowski found the back of the net three minutes into the second period. Jack Ahcan carried the puck into the T-Birds zone and sent a pass Kai Wissmann’s way, who fed Toporowski gliding into the slot, and Toporowski sent his fifth goal past Zherenko, knotting the game up at two.
Providence would snap the tie with four minutes to go in the second period as Joey Abate would score his first professional goal. Abate won a puck battle inside the Springfield blue line, fought through a T-Birds defender, and fired a shot past Zherenko, potting the game-winning goal. Providence would fend off Springfield in the third period, and Brandon Bussi would get his first victory of the season in Providence, finishing the night with 25 saves. The P-Bruins looked to cap off a perfect weekend in a Sunday matinee matchup in Bridgeport vs. the Islanders.
SUNDAY AT BRIDGEPORT ISLANDERS
Providence entered Sunday’s game without goaltender Kyle Keyser who left Saturday’s tilt vs. Springfield with an upper-body injury. The P-Bruins gave Brandon Bussi the start vs. Bridgeport, who would start former Boston College Eagle and Jennings Trophy winner, Cory Schneider.
Providence would find tough sledding in the first period as they could only mount two shots on Schneider. Their lone shots would come from defencemen Kai Wissmann and Jack Ahcan, and Providence’s shots would be separated by almost 15 minutes of gameplay. Bridgeport directed seven shots at Bussi, of which, only one would come from inside a high-danger area. The Islanders also failed to convert the period’s only power play attempt on an interference call on John Beecher at 14:15.
Providence continued its stingy defensive ways in the second period as they kept the Islanders at bay by keeping most of the Bridgeport opportunities out of high-danger areas. The P-Bruins showed more offensively in the second period as they were able to muster 12 shots on Schneider in the second period. After 40 minutes, Jack Ahcan led the P-Bruins with four shots. Both teams killed their lone penalty calls in the period as the scoreless tie looked to be broken in the final 20 minutes of play.
Brandon Bussi continued to stonewall Bridgeport in the third period as Providence looked to finally break the deadlock. They received the first opportunity when Bridgeport’s Robin Salo was whistled for holding at 5:08 sending the P-Bruins to the power play. The short-lived man advantage saw just one shot on Schneider by Samuel Asselin as Bridgeport would draw a hooking call on Vinni Lettieri at 6:07.
Providence would kill off the Islanders’ 1:01 power play on Lettieri’s hooking penalty with Bussi turning aside two Islanders’ chances on their power play. With 8:17 remaining in the defensive scoreless duel, Bridgeport’s Seth Helgeson was called for a two-minute high-sticking infraction and the P-Bruins went on the power play for the third time. Vinni Lettieri worked the puck from the left-side perimeter out to Connor Carrick at the point who gained control of the puck and proceeded to blast the puck past Schneider with 8:54 remaining in the game.
Carrick’s first goal of the season would lock up the victory and give Bussi his second career shutout while turning away all 24 Islanders’ shots. Providence completed a perfect road trip (3-0-0) and finished the week atop the AHL’s Atlantic Division(8-1-1-1) with a three-point lead over Bridgeport.
The P-Bruins resume play with two home games next weekend at The AMP versus the Charlotte Checkers. The first meeting of the weekend series is set for Friday, November 11th at 7:05 PM and the two teams wrap the weekend up with a matinee game on Sunday, November 13th slated for a 3:05 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.
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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.
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