By: Mark Allred | Follow me on Twitter / X @BlackAndGold277
Last night, the American Hockey League Providence Bruins kicked off the 2023-24 regular season with a home-opening shootout loss to the Atlantic Division rival Hartford Wolf Pack. The game was held at the Amica Mutual Pavillion in downtown Providence, Rhode Island, in front of 9,147 attendees who saw the ceremonial 2022-23 Atlantic Division championship banner drop from the rafters. With last year’s outstanding regular season effort, Providence has three division championships in the previous four campaigns.
In this game against the Wolf Pack, there were good and bad moments concerning the Providence Bruins effort. On paper, this AHL B’s lineup would have any Bruins fan who follows the top minor-pro affiliate closely excited for this upcoming season with the depth up and down the roster. Last night, unfortunately, the B’s couldn’t put it all together, securing the two points but did earn a point in the extra session’s defeat.
The game wasn’t all bad and did have some impactful moments throughout the season opener against Hartford. Veteran forward Jayson Megna got the 2023-24 season’s first goal at the 13:51 mark of the first period, assisted by forward Luke Toporowski and forward Oskar Steen. Megna’s first of the season came on the man advantage and redirected the puck from a smart cross-crease pass courtesy of Toporowski, who carried the puck up the ice on a three-on-one up the left side. Steen got the second Providence goal of the game when he notched his first of the season, assisted by defenseman Michael Callahan and defenseman Reilly Walsh. Callahan smartly fed a shot from the point on goal, and Steen, with the net-front presence, tipped it home, giving Providence a 2-1 lead at the 11:36 mark of the third period.
The story of the regular season home opener at the Amica last night was the effort of Providence Bruins goaltender, who seemed to be in mid-season form to start his 2023-24 campaign. Bussi, a 25-year-old, 6′-4″ 227-pound netminder, is in his second season with the Boston Bruins organization after posting a 22-5-4 record with a 2.40 goals-against-average and .924 save percentage in his AHL rookie year.
Brandon is a hard worker and always does the right things a pro hockey netminder needs to do to succeed at any level. The Long Beach, New York native took a few weeks off to spend time with family and loved ones at the beginning of the offseason but was quickly back to work, honing his skills and getting better every day. Bussi does his summer training at Stop-It-Goaltending in Woburn, Massachusetts, where he’s been a rink rat improving his technique for a better part of two years.
While Bussi is a large framed netminder, the type that seems to excel under the tutelage of both Boston Bruins goaltending coaches Bob Essensa and Mike Dunham’s crease system, Brandon is aggressive on pucks and exceptional down low. His minimal lateral movements down low in the crease allow Brandon to find open lanes tracking the puck while staying square and giving a minimal amount of daylight for shooters to get pucks through.
I could definitely see a goaltender like Bussi having another solid season as he continues to develop his skills in the AHL. From last season’s effort to last night’s opening night 40-save shootout loss to Hartford, you can see he’s ready and focused for the challenge at hand. The loss to the Wolf Pack on home ice was no doubt a rust shaker for the whole team, and I expect Providence Head Coach Ryan Mougenel and his staff behind the bench will tighten things up in this morning’s practice before heading on the road to Springfield, Massachusetts for the second game of the season against another Atlantic Division foe, the Springfield Thunderbirds.