By: James Swindells | Follow me on Twitter @jimswindells68
The Providence Bruins, the Boston Bruins’ top AHL affiliate, moved into the week’s slate of games following the Thanksgiving weekend, where they collected five of the possible six points to retain their slim first-place Atlantic Division lead over the Hershey Bears. Providence closed out November with a trip to Connecticut to face the Bridgeport Islanders on November 30th and returned home for a two-game homestand with a Saturday matchup versus Springfield and a Sunday afternoon matinee against the Hartford Wolf Pack.
WEDNESDAY AT BRIDGEPORT
Providence head coach Ryan Mougenel gave the start in goal to Keith Kinkaid, and Bridgeport sent Jakub Skarek to the nets for his ninth start of the season. JD Greenway drew into the P-Bruins lineup as Boston Bruins’ top prospect Fabian Lysell sat out the matchup due to an illness.
Providence jumped out to an early lead when John Beecher got hauled down in the corner by Bridgeport’s Blade Jenkins. On a delayed penalty call to Jenkins, Greenway worked the puck from the corner to Skarek’s left, finding Samuel Asselin, whose shot on Skarek rebounded to Beecher, who took the rebound and deposited the puck behind Skarek for a 1-0 Providence lead at 3:16.
Providence’s one and only lead of the night would be short-lived as Bridgeport knotted the game at one just 36 seconds after the Beecher tally. On a faceoff inside the Providence zone, the Isles’ Andy Andreoff won the faceoff with Mark McLaughlin, and the Islanders moved the puck across the blue line from Seth Helgeson to Dennis Cholowski. Cholowksi’s one-timer from the Helgeson feed deflected through net-front traffic and leaked through Kinkaid’s pads. Ruslan Iskakhov pounced on the loose puck in Kinkaid’s crease and stuffed it into the net, evening the score at one.
Bridgeport went on its first man advantage of the game as JD Greenway was whistled for a tripping call at 6:07. In the back half of the Greenway penalty, Bridgeport took up residence inside the P-Bruins zone, cycling the puck between Cholowski and Robin Salo. Cholowski fed a wide-open William Dufour at the top of the left circle, and Dufour buried his one-timer giving Bridgeport the one-goal edge at 7:39.
Bridgeport would be the beneficiary of a pair of Providence penalties in the last five minutes of the opening period. Mike Reilly took a hooking call at 15:30, and Vinni Lettieri went off for a slashing call at 16:58 that put the P-Bruins on successive penalty kills to close out the first period. The Lettieri call would be successfully killed and prevented Providence from digging itself a deeper hole than the two-goal deficit it inherited during the Reilly penalty kill. In the final minute of the Reilly hooking call, William Dufour’s shot from the right point produced a huge Kinkaid rebound that Otto Koivula deposited into the net behind the unsuspecting Providence netminder.
Outside of the Beecher goal, the opening period for Providence was one of the worst 20-minute stretches the P-Bruins faced this season. Bridgeport outshot Providence 12-2 in the period and surrendered two Islanders’ power play goals that supplied the Providence two-goal deficit that signaled the end of Keith Kinkaid’s night.
Ryan Mougenel turned the goaltending reigns over to Brandon Bussi to kickstart a Providence comeback over the final two periods. Providence fared better in the middle period by keeping the Isles from expanding its lead, and Bridgeport supplied the P-Bruins with three power play opportunities. Providence failed to cut into the two-goal Islanders’ lead in all three chances. The three failed Providence man advantage chances sank the P-Bruins sputtering PP unit ranking to 30th in the AHL with a 14.8% success rate.
Following the scoreless middle period, Kai Wissmann finally gave Providence life with his first AHL goal. Gliding through the faceoff circles, Wissmann took a feed from Luke Toporowski; the uncovered Wissmann’s wrister cut the Isles’ lead to 3-2 with just under 16 minutes remaining.
Bridgeport put the game out of reach with the game-winning goal at 8:55 by Chris Terry. The goal resulted from a Providence turnover at the Islanders’ blue line corraled by Seth Helgeson. Helgeson sent a pass to Andreoff just inside the Providence blue line; Andreoff found an uncovered Terry racing down the far side; Terry took Andreoff’s pass at the top of Bussi’s crease, deked Bussi and tucked the puck inside the post to Bussi’s right.
Chris Wagner scored Providence’s third and final goal, cutting the Bridgeport lead to 4-3. Wagner’s eighth goal of the season did little but make the final score closer than the game had appeared, and with a Hershey 4-2 victory over Lehigh Valley ceded its first-place Atlantic Division and AHL best record to Hershey.
Bridgeport and Providence ended the game with 24 shots each. Keith Kinkaid’s short evening saw him stop 9 of 12 shots (.750 SV%). Brandon Bussi (5-1-2) took his first regulation loss of the season while stopping 11 of 12 shots (.917 SV%). A crowd of 1308 attended the Providence/Bridgeport matchup at Total Mortgage Arena in Bridgeport.
3rd Star – Chris Terry (Bridgeport)
2nd Star – Dennis Cholowski (Bridgeport)
1st Star – William Dufour (Bridgeport)
SATURDAY VS. SPRINGFIELD
Providence welcomed the Springfield Thunderbirds, the top AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues, to The AMP on Saturday for their fifth meeting of the season. In the previous four matchups, the P-Bruins holds a 3-0-1 record over the Thunderbirds, who occupy seventh place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division.
The T-Birds started Vadim Zherenko (3-2-1) between the pipes, and Brandon Bussi (5-1-2, 2.48 GAA, .929 SV%) returned to the nets as Providence started the AHL’s third month of play. Fabian Lysell would miss his second consecutive game with an illness. Joey Abate drew into the lineup in place of JD Greenway, who filled in for Lysell on Wednesday night in Bridgeport and Nick Wolff took Michael Callahan’s spot in the defensive corps.
The opening period went scoreless as both teams set a physical tone in which they accumulated 40 minutes of penalties. A pair of fights between Abate and Greg Printz, Jakub Lauko and Luke Witkowski highlighted the first period’s nastiness. Bussi and Zherenko turned aside all 24 shots they faced over the opening 20 minutes, and each team failed to convert on their only power play attempts.
The scoreless game lasted until the 2:46 mark of the second period when the P-Bruins got caught in a bad line change with the T-Birds possessing the puck. Matthew Highmore cut through Nikita Alexandrov’s path and left a drop pass for Alexandrov; Alexandrov picked up the drop pass and snapped a shot over Bussi’s right shoulder to put Providence in a one-goal hole.
Providence controlled the game’s flow following Alexandrov’s fifth goal of the season and outshot the T-Birds 12-5 in the middle period. Springfield managed to kill off a delay of game call to Witkowski and an interference call to Highmore as Springfield compounded the P-Bruins 30th ranked power play woes.
Opening the final period, Steven Santini took another delay of game penalty for Springfield, putting Providence on their fifth power play. The P-Bruins put together another inept man-advantage opportunity and were now scoreless in five attempts.
While Providence searched for the tying goal, Bussi kept Providence’s hopes alive with another stellar outing in goal. After the Santini penalty, Kai Wissmann and Nick Wolff took cross-checking penalties at 3:40, and Springfield went on a 5-on-3 power play. Bussi went to work on the Providence PK and successfully turned aside three stellar T-Birds scoring chances to keep Providence within striking range with 14 minutes remaining.
Former P-Bruins defenceman Brady Lyle went to the penalty box at 10:08 for an interference call and put Providence on the man advantage for the sixth time. The struggles of the P-Bruins PP unit finally ended as Vinni Lettieri broke through with his team-leading tenth goal of the season. Chris Wagner won the faceoff to start the man advantage for Providence to Georgii Merkulov and directed the puck back to Jack Ahcan. Ahcan moved the puck to a wide-open Lettieri in his office atop the faceoff circle to Zherenko’s right. Lettieri took the Ahcan feed and blasted his one-timer, beating Zherenko to knot the game at one goal apiece just seven seconds into the Lyle penalty.
Both teams searched for the game-winning goal after Lettieri’s game-tying goal with 9:45 to go. With a tenacious forecheck supplied by Luke Toporowski, Justin Brazeau, and Lettieri, Providence netted the game-winner with 2:55 left in the game. Brazeau fought for position at the top of Zherenko’s crease, and Lettieri won a corner puck battle, sending the puck to Toporowski behind Zherenko’s net. Toporowski found Brazeau out front, put the puck on his backhand, and beat Zherenko, completing Providence’s third-period comeback.
Defenceman Mike Reilly left the game in the second period with an injury and did not return. Providence outshot the Thunderbirds 34-26. Brandon Bussi improved to 6-1-1-1 on the season with a 2.31 GAA and .932 SV%. With his goal and assist, Vinni Lettieri improved to 20 points on the season and returned to a point-per-game pace. The P-Bruins PP unit went 1-for-6 on the night and improved to 28th in the AHL at 14.9%. Providence’s PK unit was a perfect 4-for-4. The announced crowd of 7232 at The AMP saw the P-Bruins leapfrog the idle Hershey Bears to take first place in the Atlantic Division and the AHL’s overall best record.
3rd Star – Nikita Alexandrov (Springfield)
2nd Star – Justin Brazeau (Providence)
1st Star – Vinni Lettieri (Providence)
SUNDAY VS. HARTFORD
Providence and the Hartford Wolf Pack met for the first time in the 2022-23 season as both teams wrapped up the first weekend of play in December. Hartford (5-8-1-4) resides 16 points behind Providence at the bottom of the Atlantic Division standings.
Keith Kinkaid (3-2-2, 3.25 GAA, .910 SV%) received the start vs. the Wolf Pack. Fabian Lysell missed his third straight game due to an illness, and defenceman Mike Reilly who left Saturday’s game, missed the matinee vs. Hartford due to injury. Victor Berglund, Michael Callahan, and Connor Carrick replaced Reilly, Dan Renouf, and Kai Wissman in the lineup.
With the opportunity to maintain or extend their division lead over the Hershey Bears, Providence played the opening 20 minutes looking like the inferior Hartford Wolf Pack. Little to no sustained offensive pressure, a massive edge by Hartford in quality shot attempts, and total shots on goal teamed with a six-minute stretch where the P-Bruins cut a non-stop groove to the penalty box.
Hartford looked to take hold of the momentum given to them by Providence when Nick Wolff and Michael Callahan took minor penalties just 21 seconds apart, giving the Wolf Pack a 1:39 two-man advantage just past the midway point of the opening period. Keith Kinkaid coolly turned away four Hartford shots during the 5-on-3 to keep things scoreless.
Having killed off the Hartford power play, the P-Bruins returned to the penalty box 1:20 after Wolff and Callahan’s penalties expired as Luke Toporowski headed off for a tripping call at 13:53. Kinkaid once again was Providence’s best penalty killer as he denied two more Hartford opportunities to repeat his feats of the previous 5-on-3 PK.
Providence closed out the period with their own power play when the Wolf Pack’s Brandon Scanlin was whistled for holding at 17:14. Providence fared no better on their lone PP attempt of the period as Dylan Garand stopped both P-Bruins shots he faced. Both teams returned to their locker rooms deadlocked in a scoreless tie. Hartford, with a clear edge in play, outshot Providence 14-5 as Kinkaid held the fort and gave his teammates a chance to make the necessary adjustments at intermission to turn things in their favor.
A very physical first period turned into an ever more physical affair in the middle frame. But before the knuckle-throwing started, Providence finally started gaining an edge in play with a tenacious forecheck that was sorely missing in the opening 20 minutes. As it usually does, the forecheck produced positive results as the P-Bruins won a puck battle behind Garand’s net; the puck eventually worked its way to the point where Michael Callahan directed the puck to Josiah Didier. Didier blasted the puck to Garand’s right, and Providence was off and running with a 1-0 lead 7:33 into the second period.
Just 79 seconds after Didier’s second goal of the season, Jack Ahcan became the recipient of another puck battle win by the tandem of Vinni Lettieri and Justin Brazeau. Brazeau worked the puck to Ahcan on the sideboard, and Ahcan rifled a shot on Garand that trickled its way through the Hartford netminder and spilled over the goal line to double Providence’s lead to 2-0.
Hartford’s Cristiano DiGiancinto and Providence’s Connor Carrick kicked off the period’s rough stuff when they found themselves tangled up behind Kinkaid’s net. Things escalated quickly, and as the two squared off, Nick Wolff took exception to DiGiancinto’s actions and jumped into the fray as the scene devolved into chaos. Amazingly, Wolff would not be assessed a penalty as both Carrick’s and DiGiancinto’s penalties would wash out. A DiGiancinto ten-minute misconduct would be the only penalty to hand either team a disadvantage.
As Wolff jumped on the ice to start his next shift, he found a willing fight partner in 6-foot 7-inch Wolf Pack winger Matt Rempe. The two engaged in a rock ’em sock ’em battle that saw Rempe come out on top at battle’s end but not before Wolff connected with a couple of good shots to Rempe before Wolff was wrestled to the ice.
With Carrick, Wolff, DiGiancinto, and Rempe occupying space in their respective penalty boxes, Providence continued turning the screws on the Wolf Pack. At 13:01, Jakub Lauko extended the P-Bruins lead to 3-0. John Beecher working on the forecheck, forced an errant pass by the Wolf Pack’s Matthew Robertson. Joey Abate picked up Robertson’s mistake and quickly moved the puck to Lauko, who ripped a wrist shot past Garand.
Providence’s third goal had come on its fifth shot of the period and ended Garand’s afternoon as Louis Domingue would replace him. The second period ended with Hartford in a three-goal hole even though they held a 28-13 advantage in shots on goal. The Wolf Pack would have plenty of chances in the closing 20 minutes to erase the three-goal deficit they faced, but Keith Kinkaid would stonewall Hartford throughout the final period.
Providence killed off a Victor Berglund holding penalty at 2:44 as Hartford failed to produce a single shot on Kinkaid. Luke Toporowski would double Hartford’s chances to get on the scoreboard when he took a double-minor penalty at 13:09, giving the Wolf Pack a four-minute window to cut into the P-Bruins lead. With two seconds remaining on the second Toporowski minor penalty, the Wolf Pack finally solved Kinkaid. Kinkaid initially stopped Matthew Robertson’s point shot, but as the puck deflected off the post to Kinkaid’s right, he inadvertently knocked the puck past the goal line giving Robertson his first goal of the season. Providence managed to burn off the last 2:53 of the period and secured the win to sweep their weekend homestand.
Providence was outshot by the Wolf Pack 47-22. Keith Kinkaid stopped 46 of 47 shots (.979 SV%) and improved his record to 4-2-2 with a 2.98 GAA and .921 SV%. Vinni Lettieri recorded an assist on Jack Ahcan’s goal to maintain his point-per-game pace. Ahcan’s goal was his first of the season. Providence’s PK unit killed all eight of Hartford’s power plays and improved their AHL ranking to 9th with an 83% successful penalty kill rate. The P-Bruins PP unit went 0-for-2 vs. Hartford and ranked 28th in the AHL at 14.6%. With their win vs. Hartford and coupled with a Hershey loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Providence extended its Atlantic Division lead to three points over Hershey. An announced crowd of 6884 attended the Sunday matinee at The AMP. Providence will return to action on Saturday, December 10th, when they visit Connecticut and face the Bridgeport Islanders, and on Sunday, December 11th, for a 3 PM matinee matchup with the Islanders at The AMP in Providence.
3rd Star – Jakub Lauko (Providence)
2nd Star – Josiah Didier (Providence)
1st Star – Keith Kinkaid (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 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.
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