By: James Swindells | Follow me on Twitter @jimswindells68
The Providence Bruins, the top AHL affiliate of the Boston Bruins, moved into their ninth weekend of play, sitting one point behind the Atlantic Division-leading Hershey Bears. Hershey secured the top spot in the division over the idle P-Bruins with victories over the Charlotte Checkers on Tuesday night and the Bridgeport Islanders on Friday night.
Providence traveled to Connecticut on Saturday night, attempting to regain its hold on the Atlantic Division with a matchup versus Bridgeport Islanders. The two squads finished the weekend with a Sunday matinee at The AMP in Providence.
Before the back-to-back games versus the Islanders, Providence made a roster move on Thursday when the Boston Bruins placed defenceman Victor Berglund on unconditional waivers to terminate Berglund’s contract. The 23-year-old native of Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, was the Boston Bruins’ seventh-round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Berglund played five games for Providence this season, posting one assist with a -5 +/- rating and four penalty minutes. Upon his release, Berglund signed with HIFK of Liiga, the top professional league in Finland.
SATURDAY AT BRIDGEPORT
Heading into Saturday’s meeting with Bridgeport, Providence had won four of its previous five games and held a 2-1-1-1 season record vs. the Isles. Providence head coach Ryan Mougenel gave Brandon Bussi (6-1-2, 2.31 GAA & .932 SV%) the start between the pipes, and Bridgeport countered with Jakub Skarek in the nets.
Providence faced early adversity when Jack Ahcan was penalized for a hooking infraction at 4:32 of the opening period. Bridgeport capitalized with a power play tally that gave the Isles an early lead just a minute into the Ahcan penalty. The Islanders won a puck battle to Bussi’s left and moved the puck out to the Providence blue line. A game of catch ensued between Chris Terry, Samuel Bolduc, and Ruslan Iskakhov, with Bolduc eventually setting up Terry for a one-timer on top of the faceoff circle to the left of Bussi. On Bridgeport’s first shot of the game, Terry’s blast beat Bussi cleanly, and the Isles opened up the night’s scoring just 5:34 into the game.
Bridgeport forward Kyle MacLean allowed Providence and their beleaguered power-play unit to get back into the game when MacLean was whistled for hooking at 11:10. Providence’s 28th-ranked power-play wasted little time on its man advantage and knotted the game at one apiece just 13 seconds after MacLean took his place in the penalty box.
Providence won possession of the faceoff following MacLean’s call, and the puck moved out to the point where Connor Carrick quickly set up Vinni Lettieri for a one-timer. The Isles’ Seth Helgeson blocked Lettieri’s blast from the Bridgeport blue line; Fabian Lysell promptly picked up the rebound off of Helgeson and snapped a shot past Skarek, who had committed to the initial attempt by Lettieri.
Both teams failed to convert on power play chances in the final seven minutes of an evenly played opening period and headed to the intermission tied at one. Bussi and Skarek both turned aside 11 of the 12 shots they faced, and they surrendered their goals while facing man-advantage opportunities.
The middle 20-minute session produced no scoring by either team as the game remained deadlocked at 1-1. The Isles failed to convert a carryover power play to start the period. Then Bridgeport’s Otto Koivula and Jeff Kubiak were called for minor penalty infractions just 52 seconds apart and gave the P-Bruins a 68-second 5-on-3 man advantage with just over 5 minutes to go in the middle frame. The P-Bruins PP unit struggles returned on the two-man advantage as they failed to convert, and both teams headed into the second intermission still tied at 1-1.
In the 37 minutes of gameplay following the first-period goal by Fabian Lysell, both Bussi and Skarek made numerous big saves that kept the score evened at one apiece. Bussi would turn away 25 shots in a row by Bridgeport until the Isles’ Paul Thompson finally solved Bussi with 8:36 to go in regulation time.
The Isles gained easy access to the P-Bruins zone as Arnaud Durandeau moved the puck to Parker Wotherspoon on the blue line. Wotherspoon would immediately find an undefended and streaking Thompson on the far side. Thompson blasted the one-time feed from Wotherspoon at the far faceoff dot and beat Bussi just inside the post to Bussi’s left, breaking the 1-1 tie with 8:46 remaining.
The Bridgeport lead lasted just 4 minutes as the P-Bruins mounted a furious attack in an attempt to get things evened up at two. Like Bussi, Jakub Skarek made big saves that provided the Isles with numerous timely saves as Providence worked to net their second score of the game. For all their struggles in solving Skarek, Providence would effectively put the Isles in the rearview mirror with their final two shots of the game.
With just under five minutes left in regulation, Luke Toporowski took possession of the puck behind Skarek’s net. While assessing his options, Toporowski found Jack Ahcan at the right faceoff circle. Ahcan took the feed from Toporowski and went cross-ice to a wide-open Connor Carrick. Carrick corraled the Ahcan pass and ripped a wrist shot past a prone Skarek to get the P-Bruins back to even with 4:41 to go.
Providence went back to work following Carrick’s game-tying goal and potted their second goal in 54 seconds to complete the third-period comeback. Lysell would be front and center again as he beat Skarek again for his second score of the night and his seventh goal of the season.
Josiah Didier, Georgii Merkulov, and Lysell would team up on Providence’s game-winning score as Didier led Merkulov into the Bridgeport zone with a pass to Skarek’s right. Merkulov collected the feed from Didier and shed the Isles’ Parker Wotherspoon as he skated behind Skarek’s net. As Merkulov emerged from behind Skarek, Lysell slipped into position at the right faceoff dot, took Merkulov’s pass, and beat Skarek between the legs, giving Providence their first lead of the night with 3:47 left in the game.
Bridgeport pulled Skarek immediately following the Lysell tally, and Brandon Bussi turned aside two scoring chances by the Isles’ Chris Terry. Providence held the fort as Bridgeport skated with the extra attacker in the final 1:43 and secured the night’s two points in the standings and extended their lead over Bridgeport to five points in the Atlantic Division.
Bridgeport outshot the P-Bruins 30-27. Brandon Bussi improved his record to 7-1-2 with a 2.28 GAA and .932 SV%. Vinni Lettieri maintained his point-per-game pace with an assist on Lysell’s first goal of the night. Jack Ahcan extended his point streak to six games with his helper on Carrick’s goal. The announced crowd of 2413 watched the P-Bruins improve to 3-1-2 vs. Bridgeport on the season.
3rd Star – Chris Terry (Bridgeport)
2nd Star – Connor Carrick (Providence)
1st Star – Fabian Lysell (Providence)
SUNDAY VS. BRIDGEPORT
The back-to-back matchup between Bridgeport and the P-Bruins moved to The AMP in Providence for a matinee on Sunday. Providence head coach Ryan Mougenel shifted netminding duties to Keith Kinkaid (4-2-2, 2.98 GAA, & .921 SV%) while the Islanders countered with former Boston College Eagle and 2011 William Jennings Trophy winner Cory Schneider. Providence defenceman Mike Reilly drew back into the lineup after missing the previous two games due to injury.
As with the matchup on Saturday night in Bridgeport, Providence faced another early deficit. Before Providence got behind the eight-ball, they had a power play opportunity 2:24 into the period with a chance to grab an early lead. The AHL’s 29th-ranked PP unit produced just one shot by Vinni Lettieri, and the first of four failed P-Bruins power plays set the tone for the game as Providence’s special teams would struggle in both phases.
Less than a minute after the successful Bridgeport penalty kill, Providence failed to gain possession after a faceoff between Lettieri and Aatu Raty. The Isles won several puck battles and gained control in the Providence zone. A blocked shot by William Dufour skittered to Samuel Bolduc at the blue line. Bolduc went across the blue line to defensive partner Paul LaDue who sent a wrist shot on net that Kinkaid redirected out to the left faceoff circle. Dufour took the Kinkaid rebound and sent a backhand pass to an uncovered Raty in the slot. Raty unleashed a wrist shot that Kinkaid never saw through netfront traffic, and Bridgeport had their first lead of the game just 5:14 into the game.
Oskar Steen would get Providence on the scoresheet just past the midway point of the opening period. With Bolduc backpedaling with the puck inside the Bridgeport zone, Steen closed the gap between Bolduc and Kyle MacLean and intercepted Bolduc’s pass intended for MacLean. Steen glided in on Schneider and snapped a shot over Schneider’s glove to even the score at one apiece.
Providence got the first and only lead of the game with 6:51 remaining in the first period on Georgii Merkulov’s fifth goal of the season. Merkulov’s go-ahead goal resulted from another poor decision by Bridgeport deep in their zone. Providence scaled the puck behind Schneider’s net; Schneider, looking to set the puck for LaDue, failed to notice Lettieri breaking in on the forecheck. Lettieri took advantage of LaDue easing up on his approach to the puck, scooped up the unattended puck, and quickly sent a centering pass to the wide-open Merkulov, who deposited the puck behind a scrambling Schneider.
Kyle MacLean and Connor Carrick headed off for matching roughing calls at 14:01, but Carrick would earn an additional tripping minor that sent Providence on the PK for the first time in the game. Providence’s recent successes on the PK would elude them as the Isles successfully converted two power play opportunities to finish the first period and close out an opening 20 minutes with plenty of quality scoring chances by both squads.
Otto Koivula knotted the score at two with his fifth goal of the season at 15:32, accounting for Bridgeport’s first power play tally in the latter stages of the period. Mike Reilly put Bridgeport back on the power play at 16:36 after being whistled for a cross-checking infraction. William Dufour notched Bridgeport’s second successive PP goal with only five seconds left on Reilly’s penalty. During a wild scramble in Kinkaid’s crease, Paul Thompson failed to tuck a loose puck past Kinkaid. The Isles won the ensuing corner puck battle and started cycling the puck through the Providence zone. With the P-Bruins PK unit wearing down, Raty found an uncovered Dufour in the left faceoff circle, who blasted a cross-ice feed from Raty past Kinkaid and sent the Isles to the first intermission with a 3-2 lead.
The middle stanza saw another flurry of scoring chances by both teams as they piled up 29 shots in the period. Cory Schneider stopped all 15 Providence shots he faced and kept the P-Bruins at bay until Andy Andreoff extended the Bridgeport lead to 4-2 at 13:39. Andreoff found himself the beneficiary of a puck deflected off of Jack Ahcan’s skate on a centering pass by Chris Terry. Andreoff deposited the puck behind Kinkaid before he had an opportunity to react to the redirected puck, and Bridgeport had cushioned their lead to two goals at 13:39.
In the second period’s final minute, a helter-skelter series of events unfolded after a faceoff between Raty and John Beecher. Raty pinned Beecher to the ice, and Beecher scrambled to his feet to engage Raty. As Raty and Beecher wrestled, MacLean raced to Raty’s rescue and jumped on Beecher, starting a chaotic scene deep in Bridgeport’s zone. When the dust settled, Raty found himself out of harm’s way and the only combatant not heading to the penalty box. MacLean was assessed a five-minute major that gave Providence the man advantage and a window in which they could close the gap on the scoreboard. After failing to take advantage of the opening 54 seconds of MacLean’s major penalty, Andreoff went to the penalty box at the 20:00 mark and gave the P-Bruins a 66-second 5-on-3 man advantage to start the final period.
With a fantastic opportunity to creep back into the game, Providence spent most of their time with the two-man advantage struggling to set up inside the Bridgeport zone and wasted away the Andreoff penalty. MacLean’s major penalty had 2:06 remaining as Andreoff exited the penalty box, Providence’s struggles continued through the last of MacLean’s time in the penalty box, and Bridgeport successfully killed off the calls to MacLean and Andreoff.
Andreoff ended any hopes of another third-period comeback by Providence when he netted his second goal of the game with 8:40 remaining to give the Isles an insurmountable 5-2 lead. Sunday’s matinee was a classic example of special teams playing a significant part in the outcome of a game, as Bridgeport’s special teams excelled. In contrast, Providence’s season-long struggles on the power play continued, and their PK unit failed to contain the Bridgeport power play after a recent successful stretch of games.
With the Hershey Bears’ shootout loss to Cleveland on Sunday, Providence sits two points behind Atlantic Division-leading Hershey. Providence outshot the Islanders on Sunday 42-35. Keith Kinkaid’s record slipped to 4-3-2 with a 3.20 GAA and a .914 SV%. Vinni Lettieri’s point-per-game pace continued with an assist on Merkulov’s goal. The P-Bruins power play went 0-for-4 and ranked 29th in the AHL with a 14.4% success rate. Providence’s PK unit went 2-for-4 on Sunday vs. Bridgeport and slipped to 16th in the AHL with an 80% successful kill rating. The Sunday matinee drew a crowd of 7120 to The AMP. The P-Bruins have a home-and-home matchup starting on Friday, December 16th, in Providence and Saturday, December 17th, in Allentown, PA, vs. the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the top AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers.
3rd Star – William Dufour (Bridgeport)
2nd Star – Aatu Raty (Bridgeport)
1st Star – Andy Andreoff (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 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.
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