The 2022-23 AHL season got underway last weekend, with the Providence Bruins opening what could be an exciting and hugely important season for the organization. With several top prospects and future NHL stars all over the roster, there’s reason for optimism down in the Ocean State.
While Providence opened the season with a pair of victories — 3-1 over Bridgeport on Friday and 4-3 over reigning Eastern Conference champion Springfield on Sunday — the individual performances of Fabian Lysell and Luke Toporowski among others made the weekend even more successful.
Up in Maine, the ECHL Mariners, the lone weekend of preseason hockey finished with a pair of wins over regional rival Worcester in games that featured stout defense and a wild third period comeback.
2-0-0, 4 points, T-1st in Atlantic Division
Much of the debate in Boston circles to start the season was whether Fabian Lysell would be NHL ready this season. The decision to start him down in Providence puzzled some, but didn’t seem to discourage the soon-to-be NHLer. Lysell collected four points in two wins over the weekend and is already showcasing his playmaking ability.
In Friday’s season opener against the Bridgeport Islanders at the newly-dubbed Amica Mutual Pavillion (formerly The Dunk’), Providence sent the home fans happy as Lysell netted the winning goal — the second of three tallies in a 2:04 span late in the first period — in a 3-1 victory.
Georgii Merkulov, beginning his first full professional season, opened the scoring while Chris Wagner notched his first of the season to cap off the scoring. Defensive prospects Connor Carrick and Nick Wolff registered assists, as did Vinnie Lettieri, Joona Koppanen, and Justin Brazeau.
On Sunday, Providence claimed two points in a back-and-forth affair with the Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis Blues), 4-3, with Lysell again providing a spark with three assists. The teams alternated goals throughout the contest, with Lysell setting up Merkulov to open the scoring midway through the first period.
Josiah Didier restored the lead early in the second period, with Marc McLaughlin and Oskar Steen teaming up with assists. Springfield equalized just a minute later, but Lettieri netted a power play marker after solid passing from Lysell and Carrick.
Knotted 3-3 late in the second, it was Toporowski scoring his first of the season, again with an assist from Lysell and Koppanen, to put Providence in front for good.
In the crease, Keith Kinkaid and Kyle Keyser split the minutes. Kinkaid turned aside 42 shots in the opening contest, while Keyser had 33 saves in Springfield to close the weekend.
Player of the Week: Fabian Lysell — Four points, including a game-winning goal and assist, give the 19-year-old phenom the honors this week. Stick taps go out to Georgii Merkulov, Vinnie Lettieri, and Connor Carrick for strong weekends as well.
- Called up to Boston — Dan Renouf.
- Sent Down to Maine — Jacob Wilson.
UP NEXT: Providence opens a four-game homestand with three straight next weekend. On Friday, Bridgeport makes it way back to Providence for a 7:00 p.m. puck drop. The Utica Comets (New Jersey Devils) visit on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. followed by a Sunday matinee against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at 3:00 p.m.
0-0-0, 0 points, T-1st in North Division
The ECHL returns next weekend, but the Maine Mariners played a pair of preseason games against the Worcester Railers (New York Islanders) over the weekend, taking a pair of victories, 1-0 and 4-3 in overtime.
In the preseason opener at Worcester on Saturday, Nick Master tallied midway through the second period and Brandon Bussi denied all 15 shots he faced in a 1-0 shutout victory.
On Sunday in Portland, Maine fell behind 3-0 after two periods before mounting a momentous comeback. Tim Doherty (two goals) and Patrick Shea provided the scoring in a three-minute stretch late in the third period to put the game back on level terms. In the overtime frame, Reid Stefanson, who assisted the first two goals, notched a power play winner from Shea and Doherty to cap the weekend on a high note.
François Brassard and Josh Boyko split the game in goal, the latter making 17 saves on 17 shots to earn the win.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Tim Doherty — Two goals and a game-winning assist in the former Black Bear’s return to Maine gives the 27-year-old the honor this week. Stick taps to Stefanson, Shea, and Boyko in goal.
ROSTER MOVES: None.
UP NEXT: Maine gets the season started with three games against the Trois-Rivieres Lions (Montreal Canadiens) this weekend. First, a trip north of the Border on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. before opening the home slate on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m.