(Photo Courtesy of the Springfield Thunderbirds)
By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson
The Providence Bruins come into the weekend 14-15-5 (33 points) and 3-6-1 in their last 10 games good for seventh place in the Atlantic Division. Our boys in black and gold kickoff a jam-packed three-game weekend coming home to the Dunk for the first time in five games when the Lehigh Valley Phantoms roll into town on Friday, January 4th. The Baby B’s continue the weekend on Saturday traveling to Springfield, Massachusetts to take on the home team Springfield Thunderbirds at The MassMutual Center. Finally, the Providence club finishes up the weekend with more home cooking on Sunday, when the Hartford Wolf Pack invade the Dunk. It should be an exciting hockey filled weekend for all involved.
Friday, January 4th Providence Bruins vs. Lehigh Valley Phantoms (HOME)
The Friday match-up marks the fourth time the Bruins have faced the Phantoms this season. In the first meeting, Lehigh Valley beat Providence 5-4 with the Bruins getting goals from Karson Kuhlman, Cameron Hughes, Colby Cave, and Wiley Sherman. Meanwhile, goalie Dan Vladar was off his game stopping 21 of 26 shots in net. The second meeting between the two teams saw a much better result for the Bruins. The Baby B’s beat the Philadelphia Flyers affiliate 6-3 with the Bruins getting goals from Austin Fyten (2), Cameron Hughes (2), Ryan Fitzgerald, and Jordan Szwarz, while goalie Dan Vladar looked much better in net stopping 18 of 21 shots. The third match-up was another tough outcome for our boys wearing the spoked P. Lehigh Valley beat Providence 3-1. With Providence getting their lone goal from Joona Koppanen with goalie Dan Vladar continuing his solid road play stopping 17 of 19 shots he faced.
The fourth installment in the season series is going to be tough for Providence. Lehigh Valley comes into the game 19-10-1-2 (41 points) and 6-3-0-1 in their last 10 games good for third in the Atlantic Division with games in-hand. That doesn’t even fully illustrate the uphill battle the Baby B’s. The Philadelphia Flyers’ affiliated has the Bruins’ number over the past five seasons going 7-3-1 in Providence during that time and 15-7-1 overall. A major key for Providence will be scoring early and keeping the game close. When tied or leading after the first period this season, the Boston Affiliate is 12-4-3. Meanwhile, for the Phantoms a major key is out-shooting their opponents, they are 6-4-0-2 when doing so.
Saturday, January 5th Providence Bruins vs. Springfield Thunderbirds (AWAY)
This game marks the fourth time the Bruins and Thunderbirds have faced off this season. In the first meeting, Springfield beat Providence 6-3 with the Bruins getting goals from Zach Senyshyn, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Colby Cave. Meanwhile, goalie Zane McIntyre was a little off his game stopping 14 of 20 shots. The second meeting between the two teams saw a different score with the same result. The Florida Panther’s affiliate beat the Baby B’s 4-2 with the Bruins getting goals from Martin Bakos and Jan Kovar, while goalie Zane McIntyre looked much better stopping 17 of 20 shots in net. The third game of the season series saw the Bruins finally break through and get a win beating the Thunderbirds 5-4. The boys in black and gold got goals from Mark McNeill, Karson Kuhlman, Peter Cehlarik, Jordan Szwarz, and Connor Clifton while Dan Vladar stopped 22 of 26 shots he faced.
The Springfield Thunderbirds come into the weekend 15-11-4-3 (37 points) and 3-4-2-1 in their last 10 games. Providence not only has excellent numbers against Springfield (9-5-2 in Springfield and 18-9-2 overall in the past five seasons), they’re playing at a time where the Florida Panthers’ affiliate is on a downward trend. This could bode well for the Baby B’s. A major key to the game will be who’s leading after two periods. Springfield is 12-0-1, and Providence is 10-3-2 in that scenario. Meanwhile, when down after two periods the Thunderbirds are 0-10 and the Bruins are 3-12-2.
Sunday, January 6th Providence Bruins Vs. Hartford Wolf Pack (HOME)
The Sunday game marks the sixth time the two teams have faced off this season. The first matchup saw the Wolf Pack beat the Bruins 4-2 with Providence getting goals from Austin Fyten and Mark McNeill while goalie Zane McIntyre was pulled in the first period after stopping 7 of 10 shots faced. Dan Vladar finished the game turning away all 8 shots he would see. The second meeting between the two teams saw a better result with Providence winning 4-3 in overtime. The Baby B’s got goals from Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic, and Cody Goloubef (OT GW), and goalie Zane McIntyre looked much better stopping 15 of 18 shots faced.
The third leg of the season series saw the Pack come out victorious, winning 4-3. The Providence club got goals from Zach Senyshyn, Colby Cave, and Anton Blidh. Goalie Dan Vladar had a busy game stopping 26 of 30 he faced. In game four these two clubs both fought hard, but Hartford came out on top 4-3 in overtime. The boys wearing the spoked P got goals from Karson Kuhlman, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Kyle Cumiskey. Goalie Zane McIntyre turned away 18 of 22 shots faced in the losing effort. Finally, in the fifth meeting this year, the New York Rangers’ affiliated blanked Providence 3-0. Goalie Dan Vladar played well in the game stopping 30 of 33 shots faced.
The Hartford Wolf Pack come into the sixth game of the season series with a record of 15-15-2-2 (34 points) and 4-5-1 in their last 10 games good for sixth in the Atlantic Division. Despite this year’s misfortune, this match-up is one the Bruins should be looking forward to. Over the past five seasons, the Bruins have an 11-4-1-1 against the Pack and are 18-13-4-2 overall in that time frame. Special teams will play a major key in the outcome of this game. The Baby B’s power play against Hartford this season is at 22.7% (5/22) this is up from their overall percentage of 20.8% (30/144). Meanwhile, their penalty kill is 83.3% (3/18) against the Pack which is down from their overall penalty kill of 86.6% (20/149). Hartford’s 16.7% (3/18) power play against the Providence club is down from their overall power play of 20.7% (30/145). Their 77.3% (5/22) penalty kill against the Bruins is also down from their total season average of 80.7% (28/145).
Who’s hot and Who’s not for the Bruins
Karson Kuhlman: Over his past five games Kulhman has stats of 3-1-4. Last week, he was in the not category for Providence, and it was stated that the former NCAA Champion and the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs was very streaky thus far for the Baby B’s. This continues to be true, but after a good weekend, the gritty forward finds himself in the hot category. This past weekend saw him go 2-1-3 in 3 games and it raised his point per game from 0.33 (4-7-11 in 33 games) to 0.39 (6-8-14 36 games). He’s slowly getting closer to his college average of 0.48 (39-41-80 in 166 games) points per game. The former UMD captain seems to be getting more comfortable playing against AHL talent, and we could see his point per game total rise even closer to his college average this weekend.
Mark McNeill: McNeill has found himself in the middle of a hot streak with stats of 2-5-7 in his past five games. A product of the WHL’s Prince Alberta Raiders, the gritty forward, is a career AHL player who has been very good for the Bruins this year scoring 4-13-17 in 22 games. That’s good for a 0.77 point per game clip which is closer to his WHL days of 0.88 (97-146-243 in 276 games) than his AHL career number of 0.58 (93-117-210 in 365 games).
Anton Blidh: Over his past five games Blidh has scored 1-1-2. The gritty winger has been a streaky player since coming over from Sweden’s SHL to play with the Bruins. Despite being on a cold streak, Blidh’s season point per game total of 0.41 (6-8-14 in 34 games) is higher than his career AHL total of 0.31 (37-33-70 in 223 games). Hopefully, he can get back the scoring touch this weekend and make his way out of the not category.
Cameron Hughes: Over the past five games Hughes has scored 0-1-1. The former University of Wisconsin Badger has still adjusted well overall to AHL talent since graduating. Even though he currently finds himself in the not category on the year, he’s scoring at a 0.56 (9-10-19 in 34 games) clip which is very close to his NCAA number of 0.66 (23-69-92 in 139 games). This is very good for someone in their first full professional season. The hope is that this is just a minor bump in the road and Hughes will find himself back in the hot category very soon.
My players to watch this weekend
Ryan Fitzgerald: Ryan Fitzgerald has played very well all season, but he’s played particularly well against the three opponents the Bruins have coming up. Against Lehigh Valley, Springfield, and Hartford the young forward has played in 11 games with stats of 3-8-11. The Baby B’s will need him to carry the load for them if they want to win this weekend. If the former Boston College Eagle can keep up his play against these teams, he would remain a candidate to be called up to get a look with the big club.
On the Blue Line:
Cody Goloubef: Goloubef has been good for Providence this season. He returned to the lineup from injury on December 29th and scored two goals against Hershey. On the year the defenseman has scored at a 0.73 (3-8-11 in 15 games) clip. Look for the former University of Wisconsin Badger to continue to regain his form coming back from injury.
Zane McIntyre: Zane McIntyre has had an up and down season this year for Providence. However, at home, he’s been excellent. The young goalie has a 5-0-1 record at home stopping 160 of 172 shots for a .930 save percentage and 1.97 goals against average. These are fantastic numbers at home, and with two of the weekend’s games at the Dunk look for Zane to have a big weekend.
The Providence Bruins have had an up and down season thus far. Being 3-6-1 in their last 10 games, I am optimistic that a little home cooking is just what the doctor ordered to turn the season around. Winning these three games would be important for multiple reasons. All three teams the Baby B’s are playing are ahead of them in the standings and are in the same division. Being able to win all three games would mean the boys in black and gold would gain ground in the division, and they could start to claw their way back into playoff contention. We will catch up with you next week to let you know how the team fared but feel free to send any questions or comments to me on Twitter. I hope everyone enjoys the games this weekend and Go, B’s, Go!
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