By: James Swindells | Follow me on Twitter @jimswindells68
The Providence Bruins moved into this weekend’s three-game homestand sitting atop the AHL’s league standings with a 10-1-1-1 record and a four-point Atlantic Division lead over the Hershey Bears. The 3-in-3 homestand kicked off with a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday night versus the Philadelphia Flyers AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
The Phantoms arrived in Providence as a 180-degree likeness of the P-Bruins with a 5-5-1-0 record and dwelling at the bottom of the Atlantic Division, 11 points behind Providence. Lehigh Valley, of late, has reversed its fortunes and currently holds a three-game winning streak, beginning with a north-of-the-border win over Laval and a pair of home victories over Springfield and Laval.
Bridgeport closed out the 3-in-3 with a Sunday matinee at The AMP. The Islanders came into the weekend five points behind Providence, sitting in third place in the Atlantic Division. The matinee matchup marked the fourth meeting between Providence and Bridgeport, with the P-Bruins holding a 2-0-1 record.
FRIDAY VS. LEHIGH VALLEY
Keith Kinkaid (2-1-1 2.70 GAA, .922 SV%), who recently returned to Providence after a short stint in Boston, received the start between the pipes. Mike Reilly finally found his way into the P-Bruins lineup after clearing waivers on November 10th. Reilly, in his first AHL action since October 14, 2017, with the Iowa Wild, was paired on the blue line with Victor Berglund.
Providence found itself mired in an early rut in which the Phantoms tested Kinkaid a dozen times. Kinkaid successfully kept Lehigh Valley at bay, turning aside all 12 shot attempts while the P-Bruins searched for signs of offense. Providence defenceman Victor Berglund headed to the penalty box at 13:17 on an interference call to further compound Providence’s first period struggles.
Providence’s penalty kill unit successfully killed off the Berglund penalty while surrendering only one scoring chance to the Phantoms. Fresh off of the outstanding PK effort, the P-Bruins broke the scoreless tie just 24 seconds after Berglund exited the penalty box.
John Beecher sent Mike Reilly on his way with a pass exiting the Providence zone. Reilly skating undefended into the Lehigh Valley zone, threaded a pass through two Phantoms defenders to find a streaking Oskar Steen, who redirected Reilly’s pinpoint pass over, the Phantoms’ goaltender, Samuel Ersson’s glove hand to open the scoring at 15:44. Providence went into the first intermission with a one-goal lead while possessing a 1:36 carryover power play to start the middle period, having survived the early Lehigh Valley onslaught.
The carryover power play produced only one shot on goal by Mike Reilly. Providence’s failure to extend the 1-0 lead on the power play showcased the struggles of the AHL’s 23rd-ranked PP unit. The P-Bruins penalty kill squad would go to work after Josiah Didier was whistled at 3:08 for interference giving the Phantoms their second go-round on the power play.
Lehigh Valley knotted things up in the final ten seconds of the man advantage when Tyson Foerster gained entry to the P-Bruins zone and sent a short pass to Tanner Laczynski; Laczynski completed the give-and-go to Foerster, who wristed a shot that beat Kinkaid on his glove side. The successive special teams’ failures by Providence gave Lehigh Valley new life in a game where the Phantoms had been the dominant squad.
The Phantoms took their first lead of the night nine minutes after the Foerster goal. Isaac Ratcliffe tipped a Wyatte Wylie pass behind Kinkaid at 14:08, giving the Phantoms the slim one-goal lead, which lasted until the final 30 seconds of a Cam York slashing call at 15:22.
The trio of Jack Ahcan, Vinni Lettieri, and Mike Reilly put on a puck movement display following the York slashing infraction. Fabian Lysell moved the puck out of the corner to Ersson’s right, and a game of catch ensued between the threesome. Lettieri sent a cross-ice pass to Reilly, who blasted a shot behind Ersson. Reilly’s goal with 3:06 left in the second period gave him his second point of the game and sent the two teams into the second intermission knotted at two.
Another unsuccessful Providence power play on a Kevin Connauton slash at 2:19 of the third period produced only one shot. Following their successful penalty kill, the Phantoms wrestled momentum away and never looked back.
Isaac Ratcliffe potted his second goal of the game at 8:12 to give Lehigh Valley their second lead at 3-2. The Phantoms then extended their lead to 4-2 at 15:56 on Elliot Desnoyers’ fifth goal of the season. Providence’s power play failed again in the game’s final two minutes with a 6-on-4 man advantage with Kinkaid pulled from his net. A dominant third period by Lehigh Valley secured the 4-2 victory and gave the last-place Phantoms their fourth consecutive win.
Providence maintained its four-point division lead over Hershey, with a Hershey loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The P-Bruins home record slipped to 5-2-1-1 at The AMP. Providence’s special teams’ units went 1-for-6 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill. Keith Kinkaid stopped 31 of 35 shots (.885 SV%). With Reilly’s season debut in Providence, no less than ten scouts from NHL teams were in attendance. The announced crowd for the first game of the weekend was 6826.
3rd Star – Tyson Foerster (Lehigh Valley)
2nd Star – Mike Reilly (Providence)
1st Star – Isaac Ratcliffe (Lehigh Valley)
SATURDAY VS. LEHIGH VALLEY
Looking to avenge Friday’s loss to Lehigh Valley, P-Bruins head coach Ryan Mougenel made several lineup changes for Saturday’s rematch with the Phantoms. Georgii Merkulov, JD Greenway, Curtis Hall, Connor Carrick, Nick Wolff, and Michael Callahan all drew into the Providence lineup, while Brandon Bussi (4-0-0, 1.84 GAA, .947 SV%) received the start in goal.
Providence came out with a more physical lineup, paired with a red-hot Bussi in net, looking to rebound from the lackluster outing on Friday night vs. the Phantoms. With Providence controlling the pace of play, they would grab an early lead just six minutes into the contest.
Nick Wolff gained entry to the Phantoms’ zone and fed a pass to Jakub Lauko on Samuel Ersson’s right. Lauko went cross-ice to a wide-open Mark McLaughlin, who one-timed Lauko’s pass behind Ersson for his first goal of the season. Providence kept any form of a Lehigh Valley attack at bay over the first half of the opening period by surrendering only three shots on Bussi. Jack Ahcan took a high-sticking call at 12:27 and sent the Phantoms on the game’s first man-advantage.
Bussi stood tall under a relentless Phantoms power play and turned away four shots to keep Lehigh Valley off the scoresheet. The Lehigh Valley attack continued beyond the Ahcan penalty call and broke through two minutes after their unsuccessful power play.
Tanner Laczynski forced a P-Bruins turnover inside the Phantoms’ blue line, raced through the neutral zone past three Providence defenders, and lifted a backhand shot on Bussi that eventually leaked through to tie the game up at one. What momentum the P-Bruins gained early on was wiped out by the Ahcan penalty and the Laczynski goal, and without several standout saves by Bussi, the damage in the opening period could have been worse.
The middle frame saw Providence grab the momentum and go on their first power play at 4:38 when Jordy Bellerive went off for roughing. Phantoms’ goaltender Samuel Ersson came up with four saves during the Providence man advantage. Following the Bellerive penalty, Providence yielded momentum for most of the period and went 13 minutes before testing Ersson again.
Lehigh Valley broke the one-all deadlock when Tanner Laczynski forced a Providence turnover in the neutral zone and quickly fed Tyson Foerster, who found a streaking Jackson Cates. Cates slipped behind the Providence defense and slipped a shot through Bussi’s five-hole to give the Phantoms a 2-1 lead 8:15 into the middle period.
Bussi again kept Providence within reach of the Phantoms with one big save after another to keep the P-Bruins deficit at one as they looked to solve Ersson, who had been equally as impressive in net for Lehigh Valley. Providence went to intermission in the middle of a power play on an interference call to Isaac Ratcliffe that carried over 34 seconds into the third period.
Providence failed to score on the remainder of the Ratcliffe call, and the two teams spent the third period peppering Bussi and Ersson with a combined 31 shots. The two netminders frustrated both offenses for the duration of the third period. Ersson finally blinked and gave the P-Bruins the window needed to even things up at two.
With 6:43 remaining in the game, Georgii Merkulov sent a cross-ice pass to Jack Ahcan; Ahcan fired a shot on Ersson, who surrendered a rebound that Vinni Lettieri scooped into the net to knot the score at two. Bussi and Ersson sent the game to overtime, having stopped 68 of 72 shots in regulation time. Both netminders continued their eye-popping play in the five-minute overtime.
The frantic overtime got underway, with Lehigh Valley clanging a shot off the post just 45 seconds in. Bussi stymied the Phantoms with a brilliant glove save 15 seconds later as the two teams searched for the game-winner. Ersson one-upped Bussi with a point-blank save of Lettieri on the ensuing Providence rush. Lehigh Valley forced a turnover at their blue line; as the puck skittered into no-man’s-land, Bussi raced for the free puck and poked it away at the Providence blue line to avert a Phantoms breakaway. The madness of overtime failed to produce a winner, and both teams headed to the shootout to determine a winner.
Tanner Laczynski scored on Lehigh Valley’s first shootout attempt and netted the goal that secured the extra point in the standings for the Phantoms. Providence lost their second game in a row to the last-place Phantoms and would attempt to salvage the weekend homestand vs. Bridgeport on Sunday.
Providence’s power play woes continued, going 0-for-3 on the night. The P-Bruins PK unit went a perfect 4-for-4. Brandon Bussi saw his perfect season end with the shootout loss. Bussi stopped 44 of 46 shots (.957 SV%). Vinni Lettieri and Georgii Merkulov maintained their point-a-game paces. Merkulov with his 13th point in 12 games, and Lettieri with 15 points in 15 games. Saturday night’s game drew an announced crowd of 8097 to The AMP.
3rd Star – Vinni Lettieri (Providence)
2nd Star – Samuel Ersson (Lehigh Valley)
1st Star – Tanner Laczynski (Lehigh Valley)
SUNDAY VS. BRIDGEPORT
Providence looked to salvage half of the weekend’s six possible points by securing two points vs. the Bridgeport Islanders in a Sunday matinee at The AMP. Head coach Ryan Mougenel returned to Keith Kinkaid in net for the P-Bruins. Mike Reilly and Chris Wagner drew back into the lineup after getting a night off on Saturday vs. Lehigh Valley.
The opening period saw a half dozen minor penalties called and a trio of rapid-fire goals scored in the span of 2:01 and 26 combined shots by both teams. Both teams brought their physical games to the forefront from the opening puck drop and would sustain for the game’s duration.
Bridgeport’s William Dufour took a slashing penalty at 8:20 and what followed was two minutes of dizzying hockey. Providence headed to their first of six man advantages in the game. Just under a minute into the Dufour penalty, Fabian Lysell sent a pass to the white-hot Vinni Lettieri, who one-timed the Lysell feed from his office, beating Isles’ goalie Jakub Skarek to open the scoring.
Providence’s lead would be short-lived as William Dufour, freshly sprung from the penalty box, took advantage of Jack Ahcan’s mishandling of the puck on the faceoff following the Lettieri goal and broke in on Keith Kinkaid. Dufour beat Kinkaid cleanly, and only seven seconds after Lettieri’s tally, the game was knotted at one.
On a failed clearing attempt from their zone, Bridgeport surrendered the go-ahead goal 54 seconds after Dufour’s sixth goal of the season. Chris Wagner initiated things with a tip to Mark McLaughlin, who moved the puck quickly to Connor Carrick on the far side. On a direct line to Skarek’s net, Wagner tipped Carrick’s slot pass behind Skarek for his sixth goal of the season and Providence’s second lead of the game at 2-1.
The back half of the first period saw both teams go shorthanded twice, but neither team capitalized on their power plays, and the P-Bruins took their one-goal lead into intermission.
As with the first period, the middle frame saw both teams continue cutting paths to their respective penalty boxes. Neither team succeeded with the man advantage in the period, and Kinkaid and Skarek stopped the 20 combined shots they faced. Providence held onto their slim lead and possessed a 27-19 edge in shots on goal after 40 minutes.
In the final 20 minutes of regulation, both teams managed to stay out of penalty trouble as Bridgeport focused on finding a way to get the score back to even. Over the first eight minutes of play, Kinkaid turned away one solid Bridgeport scoring opportunity after another. Kinkaid stonewalled chances by Simon Holmstrom, Andy Andreoff, Aatu Raty, Chris Terry, Jeff Kubiak, and Kyle McLean in the first seven minutes of the third period. Erik Brown finally solved the Kinkaid riddle at 7:51. Cole Bardreau won a puck battle in the corner to Kinkaid’s right, tossed the puck to the net front, and Brown, on a second effort, jammed the puck through Kinkaid.
Brown’s second goal eventually sent the game into overtime as both teams would battle for the extra point in the standings. In the overtime session, the P-Bruins had two sterling chances to end the game positively. From just inside the P-Bruins zone, Georgii Merkulov flipped a backhander that Jack Ahcan picked up in stride outside the Bridgeport zone; Ahcan corraled the puck and broke in on Skarek who denied the Ahcan scoring chance.
A little over a minute later, Fabian Lysell shook off two Bridgeport defenders and turned on the jets, creating a 2-on-1 with Joona Koppanen. Lysell held the puck and shot on Skarek, Skarek fought Lysell’s chance off, and the puck squirted to Koppanen; Koppanen picked up the rebound and backhanded a shot that found the post. Vincent Sevigny scooped up Koppanen’s rebound and pushed the puck into the neutral zone. Aatu Raty took the Sevigny pass and broke in alone on Kinkaid. Raty went backhand, then forehand with the puck and deposited it past the prone Kinkaid to give the Isles’ the 3-2 victory.
Bridgeport’s victory leapfrogged them into second place in the Atlantic Division, just three points behind the P-Bruins. Over the three-game weekend homestand, Providence managed only two of the possible six points. The P-Bruins hit the road for three games in upstate New York this week. Providence travels to Rochester on Wednesday night to face the Amerks and conclude the week with a two-game series against the Syracuse Crunch.
Vinni Lettieri continued his point-per-game pace with his first period goal. Keith Kinkaid stopped 36 of 39 shots (.923 SV%). Providence’s power play connected on only one of its six attempts, and its penalty kill unit went a perfect 5-for-5. The weekend’s final game drew a crowd of 7167 to The AMP.
3rd Star – Erik Brown (Bridgeport)
2nd Star – Connor Carrick (Providence)
1st Star – Aatu Raty (Bridgeport)
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 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 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.