By: Mark Allred | Follow me on Twitter @BlackAndGold277
The Providence Bruins returned to action after the 2024 American Hockey League All-Star Classic break to face the league-best Hershey Bears. Providence entered this evening’s action, riding a six-game winning streak and a chance to extend the team’s winning streak at the Amica Mutual Pavilion to seven games.
Unfortunately, the top minor-pro affiliate of the National Hockey League Boston Bruins came up short in their effort tonight, dropping the first of two games this weekend 3-1 against the affiliate of the Washington Capitals. Providence remains in the second position in the AHL’s Atlantic Division, but the loss created a further point gap between the B’s and division-leading Hershey, which now stands at 15.
This was a goaltender duel between Providence starter Brandon Bussi and Hershey starter Hunter Shepard. Bussi came into tonight’s action with an AHL career-high eight-game winning streak and a 15-6-3 regular season record with a 2.71 goals-against-average and .909 save percentage. In the other crease at the AMP this evening was Hershey netminder Hunter Shepard, who entered tonight’s road game in Rhode Island on a four-game winning streak and a 2.15 goals-against-average and .915 save percentage.
The two goaltenders put on a show for the 8,578 in attendance at the AMP for the first 40 minutes of the game, but it was in the third period that the visiting Hershey club started to pull away in an effort to secure the team’s second straight victory. Hershey broke the ice on the scoresheet, getting a 1-0 lead at the 5:12 mark of the final frame when left winger Joe Snively scored his 10th of the season. Providence struck back at the 9:03 mark of the third, evening the score at one apiece on a goal from Boston Bruins forward prospect Brett Harrison. The assists on Harrison’s fifth of the season went to forward Mark McLaughlin and Defenseman Alec Regula.
At the 14:12 mark of the final period, Hershey turned up the offense and got the 2-1 go-ahead goal from left winger A Limoges, who scored his 12th of the year. The visiting Hershey Bears would seal the deal in this game when Providence Bruins head coach Ryan Mougenel pulled netminder Brandon Bussi for an extra attacker, but the B’s tying goal effort ultimately ended when the Bears got an empty net goal from former AHL Bruins defenseman Aaron Ness who notched his fourth of the season unassisted.
Regardless of the loss tonight at the AMP between the host B’s and visiting Bears, this was a battle of the top two teams in the AHL, and they certainly didn’t disappoint as the back-and-forth game was entertaining. These two top-tier AHL teams will make for a fun seven-game series if both teams are fortunate to meet each other in the upcoming 2024 Calder Cup Playoffs.
The now 28-14-3-2 Providence Bruins are back in action tomorrow night as the B’s travel to the XL Center in downtown Hartford, Connecticut, to face another Atlantic Division foe, this time the Hartford Wolf Pack. The AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers is in fourth place in the Atlantic with a 24-13-5-0 record and 12-6-3 at the XL Center.
Providence is 17-8-2 and will bring their three-game road winning streak into Hartford tomorrow night, eager to get back on track after tonight’s tough loss to Hershey. The Bruins will be looking for some revenge in the game tomorrow night as these two clubs last played together on January 13th, 2024, with the host Hartford club winning 3-2 at the XL Center. Since the last time Hartford and the B’s played, Providence has gone 8-2 and will look to finish the two-game weekend even with a rare Sunday off.
Per Mark Divver, the Providence Bruins defense may have suffered some “dings” in tonight’s game against visiting Hershey. So, watch tomorrow’s AHL website transactions page because a blueliner could be recalled from ECHL Maine Mariners. Mark provides a few names below who could return to the higher-level AHL Providence team if one or two players are needed.