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Affiliate Report: Providence returns to action, Maine struggles again

Providence is back from its week-long COVID pause while the Mariners defensive woes continue.

Boston Bruins v New York Rangers
Kyle Keyser.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Nearly two years after the onset of the COVID essentially paused the world of minor league hockey, the pandemic has continued to create problems for both the ECHL and AHL alike.

While the health and safety of players and staff always comes first, the effect of consistently rescheduling and postponing contests weighs heavily on the coaches and players across all levels. And the Bruins’ organization has experienced that first hand in recent weeks.

For the first time in nearly two weeks, Providence returned to the ice following a COVID pause for a gauntlet of three games in three days. The P-Bruins started the weekend with a home loss to the Belleville Senators, 4-1, before rebounding with consecutive victories at the Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis Blues) on Saturday, 3-0, and at home Sunday over the Toronto Marlies (Maple Leafs), 5-1.

Up in Maine, health and safety protocols forced the postponement of Sunday’s clash against Adirondack, giving Maine a bit of a breather. The Mariners went 1-1-1 for the week, all against the Worcester Railers. Maine fell in overtime on Wednesday, 7-6, before rallying for a 3-2 win at home on Friday. The week closed with a 4-2 defeat on the road Saturday evening.

Providence Bruins

10-6-4, 24 points, 3rd in Atlantic Division

After seemingly reaching a turning point in their season, last year’s Atlantic Division winner Providence was hit hard by double-digit COVID cases. In a display of mental toughness, Providence went 2-1 for the week after suffering a bit of a drubbing on Friday night at home.

The AHL side had the advantage of staying in the New England region for their first weekend back, but it did not get off to a smooth start. On Friday, the Belleville Senators ran the P-Bruins out of their own rink with a 4-1 win. The visitors took a 2-0 lead after a period, though Jack Studnicka pulled one back while Kyle Keyser made 12 of his 30 saves in the middle frame to cut it to 2-1. But Belleville was too strong on the night, striking twice more in the third to seal the victory.

But Providence got back in the win column the following night, shutting out Springfield on the road, 3-0. ECHL call-ups Justin Brazeau and Keltie Jeri-Leon provided the scoring, with the former netting a pair, while two more call-ups in Eduards Tralmaks (two assists) and Alex-Olivier Voyer (one assist) provided helpers. Keyser turned aside all 24 shots he faced.

Providence wrapped up the weekend with a 5-1 drubbing of Toronto on Sunday, led by a two-goal effort from Oskar Steen and a pair of assists from Jack Studnicka. Tralmaks and Brazeau also tallied goals while Troy Grosenick earned the win with 28 saves.

Player of the Week: Justin Brazeau — Our POTW for the Mariners last week, Brazeau began his well-earned promotion on a high note, netting three goals in as many games, including a pair on Saturday, to go along with eight shots and another two goals for Maine earlier in the week. Stick taps to Eduards Tralmaks, who navigated his way back to Providence and tallied three points, nine shots, and a plus-3 rating for the weekend.

UP NEXT: Eight of Providence’s next nine games are on the road, including seven straight beginning this Wednesday evening at the Bridgeport Islanders (7:00 p.m.). Providence will head north of the border for matchups at the Laval Rocket (Montreal Canadiens) on Friday and at the Belleville Senators on Saturday, both at 7:00 p.m.

Maine Mariners

7-9-4, 18 points, 5th in North Division

Another week, another baker’s dozen goals allowed for Maine’s suspect defense — a mounting problem for Boston’s ECHL affiliate.

More than half of those came in a thrilling Wednesday night clash in Worcester as Maine fell in overtime, 7-6. It’s the second time this season that Maine has allowed seven or more goals in a game and the Mariners have allowed four or more goals in four of their last five.

The teams traded leads in a six-goal first period that left the sides tied at 3-3. The second period offered much of the same, finishing tied at 4-4. Worcester scored a pair 24 seconds apart to start the third, but Maine rallied back and tied the game with under a minute to play. But the Railers had the last laugh with an overtime winner.

Pascal Laberge and Connor Doherty tallied three assist each while Brazeau, prior to his promotion, scored a pair of goals.

Maine sought redemption in a home clash with Worcester on Friday as Nick Master tallied goals in all three periods for a hat trick in a 3-2 win. Westin Michaud provided assists on all three Mariners’ goals. Worcester scored both goals in the final five minutes of regulation as Maine and goaltender Callum Booth (35 saves) held on for the win.

In Sunday’s grudge match, it was the Railers who pulled out to a 3-0 lead after only a period. Maine cut the deficit to one after 40 minutes, but couldn’t finish the comeback this time as an empty-netter by Worcester’s Jordan Smotherman sealed a hat trick and the victory.

Player of the Week: Westin Michaud — Just signed this week by Maine, Michaud made an immediate impact with a four-point weekend (all assists) to lead the Mariners. Stick taps to Connor Doherty and Pascal Laberge for their three-assist night and to loanee Nick Master for a hat trick.

Roster Moves: In a new segment, we’ll be including Maine’s plentiful roster moves in each week’s report.

  • Called up — Justin Brazeau, Keltie Jeri-Leon, and Jeremy Brodeur
  • Signed — Westin Michaud, Jake Cass, Ted Hart, Jeremy Martin
  • Loaned out — Michael Kim and Nick Master (Springfield Thunderbirds)

UP NEXT: The Mariners hit the road for three games against the Trois-Rivieres Lions (Montreal Canadiens) this week. The teams will play at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday before wrapping up the series with a Saturday clash slated for 3:00 p.m.