(Photo Credit: Tessa McAndrews / Providence Bruins / Flickr)

By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism

The Providence Bruins were hungry to bounce back into the win column following an 8-2 loss to the Toronto Marlies on Friday night. With Jesper Boqvist and Ian Mitchell assigned to Providence on Sunday morning, the Bruins had a reinforced roster to take on the Syracuse Crunch. However, Fabian Lysell’s first-period goal wasn’t enough to lift Providence past the Crunch in a 4-1 loss at the Amica Mutal Pavillion. The Bruins are now 13-10-2-2 with three straight losses after their seven-game winning streak came to a halt earlier this month.

As it turns out, Friday’s loss to the Marlies was reminiscent of the events that unfolded on Sunday. After getting off to a strong start in the first period, the Bruins collapsed. Providence was outskated up and down the ice in the second and third periods, resulting in four unanswered goals from the Crunch.

“It definitely felt very similar,” said head coach Ryan Mougenel in comparison to Friday’s loss. “You have a great start and you’re playing how we need to play, and then it gets away from you and that’s where as a group you hope the foundation and the energy get you through it. We’re just not getting that. We’re not getting the energy (and) we’re not playing the right way.”

That’s not to say the Bruins weren’t provided opportunities on Sunday. Providence was awarded seven power plays in a special teams flurry, only capitalizing on one. Lysell received the puck along the left face-off dot, unleashing a laser past Matt Tomkins at the 8:48 mark of the first period to provide the Bruins with a 1-0 lead. Lysell was active in the offensive zone all game, using his speed and elusiveness to create opportunities for himself and his teammates.

The Bruins were then given five more chances on the man advantage, coming up empty on a pair of crucial power plays in the third period with the opportunity to cut into the Syracuse deficit. The Crunch executed an aggressive penalty kill, forcing the Bruins into situations where time and space were limited on break-ins and puck battles. When Providence could create chances, Tomkins was there for the save. The 6’4″ netminder made 22 stops in goal, including a pair of saves in the third period to deny the Providence powerplay from cutting the lead to one.

“Our special teams are hurting us right now,” said Mougenel. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s something that can be fixable, and that’s the most important thing. That we fix these things that are deficiencies, and we recognize it and take ownership of it.”

Halfway through the second period, the Crunch began to take over. Ignited by a successful penalty kill in the first half of the period, Syracuse used that momentum to tie the game. Walterri Merela fed a touch pass to Gabriel Dumont, sizzling a shot over Brandon Bussi’s glove for the equalizer with 9:21 remaining in the period.

The Crunch broke through on the power play just under three minutes later, as an uncovered Cole Koepke tapped in a goal on the crease to push Syracuse ahead by a score of 2-1. Marc McLaughlin and Michael Callahan got caught puck-watching, leaving Koepke alone for an easy rebound score. After being outshot 9-8 in the opening period, Syracuse flipped the script with an 11-6 shots on goal advantage in the second.

The Crunch put the finishing touches on their lead in the third period, where Felix Robert jammed in a rebound in front of Bussi. Providence got caught with four players deep in the offensive zone, setting up a three-on-one opportunity on Jakub Zboril. Zboril forced Jack Thompson to miss the goal on a cross-crease feed, but the Bruins struggled to backcheck to the net, allowing second and third-chance opportunities for Syracuse.

Dumont potted his second goal of the game with under three minutes remaining in the third period, converting an empty netter to seal the 4-1 victory on the road. With the win, the Crunch improved to 15-8-0-2 in their quest to reach the top of the AHL’s North Division. Providence will look to snap a three-game skid with a rematch with Toronto on Wednesday, December 20th, for a 7:00 p.m. puck drop.