By: James Swindells | Follow me on Twitter @jimswindells68
Before their Christmas holiday break, the Providence Bruins (16-4-4-2) headed to North Carolina for a back-to-back series versus the Charlotte Checkers. Providence, the top AHL affiliate of the Boston Bruins, resides in second place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division behind division-leading Hershey and 11 points ahead of Charlotte. The two-game set at Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte would be the second and third games of an eight-game road trip for the P-Bruins.
THURSDAY AT CHARLOTTE
Providence head coach Ryan Mougenel started the red-hot Brandon Bussi (8-1-2-1) between the pipes, and the Checkers started Alex Lyon (6-7-1). Providence would be without rookie forward Fabian Lysell; Lysell is currently playing for Team Sweden at the 2023 World Junior Hockey Championship being held north of the border in Moncton, New Brunswick, and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Bucking the recent trend of getting behind early in games, Joona Koppanen gave the P-Bruins a 1-0 lead with his third goal of the season at 13:43. Koppanen won a faceoff to the right of Alex Lyon; the puck was flipped behind Lyon’s net by Justin Brazeau. Brazeau won a puck battle behind Lyon and found Koppanen out front; Koppanen took the Brazeau feed and slammed it behind Lyon, giving Providence a rare quick start.
Besides the Koppanen goal, the first period was a mix of missed opportunities by the P-Bruins power play unit and a pair of fights involving Alex-Olivier Voyer and Joey Abate, separated by 58 seconds. Providence’s 27th-ranked PP unit failed to convert on two first-period power plays, and Brandon Bussi kept the Checkers off the score sheet as the two teams went to the first intermission, with Providence clinging to a one-goal lead.
The second period was much tamer than the opening 20 minutes of the night. Bussi once again succeeded in keeping Charlotte scoreless as he stopped all ten shots he faced. Providence’s 16th-ranked PK unit successfully killed off a Koppanen slashing penalty at the midway point of the game. Providence’s power play struggles were fully displayed when Charlotte’s Dominic Franco received a four-minute high-sticking double minor penalty 57 seconds after Koppanen exited the penalty box. The P-Bruins totaled three shots during the Franco double minor penalty as the Checkers PK unit and Lyon made good on their attempt to keep Providence from extending their lead as the teams went into the final period.
Providence’s PK unit went to work early in the final period when Curtis Hall received a delay of the game penalty at 3:16. Charlotte failed to secure the game-tying goal while producing only one shot on Bussi during the Hall penalty. Providence, while killing the Hall penalty and fending off Charlotte in their attempt to score the equalizing goal, produced only two shots on Lyon in the first half of the third period. Josiah Didier then put the P-Bruins’ PK unit back to work at 11:40 after he was assessed a tripping penalty.
After failing to score on their three previous PP opportunities, Charlotte succeeded on their fourth try with the man advantage. Riley Nash sent a cross-ice pass to Gerry Mayhew to Bussi’s right; Mayhew unleashed a shot that glanced off Bussi and the boards behind Bussi’s net. The ricocheting puck found a clear path between Bussi and the post, and Connor Bunnaman jumped on the puck and deposited it into the unguarded net to knot the game up at one with 6:36 left in regulation.
Charlotte’s Justin Sourdif took successive tripping penalties at 14:24 and 17:43, giving the P-Bruins two golden chances to recapture the lead. Providence’s PP woes continued as they failed to convert on either Sourdif penalty call. Sourdif’s second penalty would be abbreviated by a Samuel Asselin penalty, effectively putting the Checkers back on the PP for the last 17 seconds of the third period and the opening 51 seconds of overtime.
Providence killed off Asselin’s slashing penalty, and as Asselin exited the box and worked to help Providence alleviate the Charlotte pressure, Santtu Kinnunen dropped a pass to Riley Nash just inside the Providence blue line. Nash danced through the slot, ripped a shot that beat Bussi, and sewed up the extra point in the standings for Charlotte.
Providence was outshot by Charlotte 30-22. Brandon Bussi’s record dropped to 8-1-3-1 with a 2.14 GAA and an AHL-leading .936 SV%. The P-Bruins PP unit went scoreless on six attempts, and their PK unit successfully killed 4-of-5 Charlotte’s PP attempts while surrendering Bunnaman’s game-tying goal. The Bojangles Coliseum crowd of 6144 saw Charlotte get back into the win column for the first time in five games.
3rd Star – Brandon Bussi (Providence)
2nd Star – Alex Lyon (Charlotte)
1st Star – Riley Nash (Charlotte)
FRIDAY AT CHARLOTTE
Looking to salvage the back half of the two-game set versus Charlotte, Providence head coach Ryan Mougenel sent veteran netminder Keith Kincaid (4-3-3, 3.35 GAA, .910 SV%) to the nets versus Mack Guzda (5-3-2, 2.86 GAA, .905 SV%) for the Checkers. Since his return from Boston on November 16th, Kinkaid has posted a 2-2-2 record with the P-Bruins and has seen his share of struggles. In his seven starts since returning to Providence, Kinkaid has surrendered three or more goals in six of those, including five in each of his last two starts.
Providence quickly reverted to form just 1:54 after the opening puck drop when the Checkers’ Riley Bezeau beat Kinkaid to open up the scoring on Charlotte’s second shot of the game. Bezeau, the beneficiary of a double deflection off the skates of Patrick Giles and Nick Wolff, easily beat an out-of-position Kinkaid, and the Checkers were off and running.
Providence would be given a golden chance to even the score after Charlotte’s Gerry Mayhew was whistled for high-sticking at 9:12, and Zach Uens went off for a delay of the game penalty at 10:37 to give the P-Bruins a 35-second 5-on-3 power play. Providence’s PP unit would muster just a single shot during the Mayhew and Uens penalties and start the night’s ineffectiveness with the man advantage.
The vast majority of Providence’s goal-scoring success this season has come from their strength in 5-on-5 play. Defenceman Jack Ahcan tied things up with a 5-on-5 goal at 14:55. Off a faceoff draw by Vinni Lettieri, Georgii Merkulov sent a backhand pass out to Ahcan at the Charlotte blue line, where Ahcan ripped a shot that beat Guzda cleanly and knotted the score at one.
Following Ahcan’s goal, Chris Wagner and the Checkers’ Ethan Keppen dropped the gloves, and Keppen would be assessed an additional two minutes for roughing. Keppen’s roughing call sent the P-Bruins PP back to work and looking to give Providence the lead late in the first period. Charlotte successfully killed the Keppen infraction as Guzda turned aside the only shot he faced by Lettieri.
Providence’s JD Greenway and the Checkers’ Gerry Mayhew squared off at 18:43, but this time, Greenway would be assessed the additional minor penalty sending Charlotte on a short-lived power play. Five seconds into the Greenway penalty, Charlotte’s Connor Bunnaman took his place in the penalty box for an interference call.
With both teams playing short a man, Charlotte took advantage of the extra space on the ice, and Santtu Kinnunen put Charlotte ahead 2-1 with 54 seconds left in the opening period. The period wrapped up with the P-Bruins’ Jakub Lauko taking a hooking penalty at the 20:00 mark. Providence went to the first intermission trailing by a goal, even though they outshot the Checkers nine to six.
The P-Bruins PK unit successfully killed off the Lauko penalty to keep the deficit at one goal. Coming off the successful PK, Providence looked to turn the momentum but managed only three shots over the opening ten minutes of the middle period. Ethan Keppen extended Charlotte’s lead with his second goal of the season at 6:37, and Charlotte had scored three goals on 11 shots on Kinkaid. Providence failed to convert on another power play opportunity when the Checkers’ Zach Uens went to the penalty box for a tripping call 43 seconds after the Keppen tally.
Things progressed from bad to worse as Aleksi Heponiemi pushed the Charlotte lead to 4-1 with his sixth goal of the season at 13:20. Kinkaid stopped a point shot by Uens, Kinkaid’s effort produced a big rebound that Heponiemi quickly deposited behind Kinkaid and effectively put Providence in an insurmountable three-goal hole. Providence’s Mike Reilly cut the Charlotte deficit to 4-2 in the final minute of the middle period on an excellent one-man effort for his second goal as a P-Bruin.
Charlotte finished the night’s scoring on Lucas Carlsson’s fourth goal of the season at 6:30 of the final period. Charlotte managed their five goals on just 23 shots on Kinkaid, and it would be Kinkaid’s third consecutive game in which he surrendered five goals. Compounding Providence’s misery, Charlotte’s John Ludvig drew a four-minute double minor penalty for high sticking at 11:58. The P-Bruins managed only two shots on Guzda as their power play sunk to 0-for-7 in the game, and Providence left the Tar Heel State accumulating just one of the available four standings points versus the Checkers.
The P-Bruins outshot the Checkers 31-29. Keith Kinkaid’s record fell to 4-4-3 with a 3.49 GAA and a .905 SV%. Providence maintained its second-place standing in the AHL’s Atlantic Division, four points behind the league-leading Hershey Bears. Jack Ahcan, with his goal and assist, has 10 points (2G, 8A) in his last 11 games for Providence. With his assist on Mike Reilly’s goal, Vinni Lettieri has 25 points in 27 games. Georgii Merkulov (1G, 6A) has seven points in his last eight games. Providence’s PP unit went 0-for-13 in the two-game set vs. Charlotte and dropped their success rate to 13.9%, good for 31st in the AHL. The P-Bruins PK unit improved to 15th in the AHL with a successful kill rate of 80.7%. The final game before the Christmas break drew an announced crowd of 7288 to the Bojangles Coliseum. Providence comes out of the Christmas break and heads out on the road to Pennsylvania for a matchup with division-leading Hershey on Wednesday, December 28th. The P-Bruins wrap up the calendar year with a December 30th game at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and a New Year’s Eve rematch at Hershey.
3rd Star – Riley Bezeau (Charlotte)
2nd Star – Zach Uens (Charlotte)
1st Star – Lucas Carlsson (Charlotte)
Providence Bruins Home Game Ticket Information
If you would like to attend 2022-23 Providence Bruins regular season home games at the Amica Mutual Pavilion, 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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