As the calendar year draws to a close, the time is right to assess the direction of this season for both Boston Bruins’ affiliates.
The Providence Bruins started the season hot, racing out to first place in the Atlantic Division before meeting some difficulties in recent weeks. While top prospects Fabian Lysell has shined, it has been the production of Vinnie Lettieri (24 pts.), Luke Toporowski (18 pts.) and Georgii Merkulov (18 pts.) that has propelled the team to 16 wins over its first 26 contests.
As for Maine, the season began with a stroke of inconsistent play, but the Mariners appear to have found their form in recent weeks. Five of the teams 12 wins are against division rival Adirondack, yet the Mariners still find themselves in 4th place in the North Division and have started to turn things around at a vital time.
Over the weekend, Providence played to a home-and-home series split with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia Flyers). Providence dropped the home leg on Friday, 5-4 in overtime, before a 2-1 overtime victory away on Saturday. The Maine Mariners took down the Adirondack Thunder (New Jersey Devils) on the road, winning 3-2 on Saturday and 5-2 on Sunday.
16-4-6, 38 points, 2nd in Atlantic Division
The Providence Bruins’ steamroller of a season has finally met some resistance, but the AHL side continues to show its grit and perseverance. In a series split with Lehigh Valley that featured a pair of overtime affairs, Providence proved its a tough team to beat.
In a wild, 5-4 loss on Friday, Providence led by a pair of goals after 40 minutes. Fabian Lysell notched a goal and an assist, while Mike Reilly and Georgii Merkulov each tallied two helpers. The Phantoms roared back to tie the game late in the third, and won it with under a minute to play in overtime.
On Saturday, a 2-1 victory for the Bruins, with the series shifting south, Providence again surrendered the opening goal and trailed 1-0 after two periods. Midway through the third, Joey Abate equalized for Providence before Vinnie Lettieri won it in overtime with his team-leading 11th goal of the year. In net, Brandon Bussi looked superb yet again with 34 saves.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Georgii Merkulov — With two assists on Friday and a plus-1 rating Saturday, the rookie gets his recognition this week. Stick taps go to Lysell, Reilly, and Bussi this week for solid performances.
- Called up from Maine — Curtis Hall.
UP NEXT: Providence travels for two games at the Charlotte Checkers (Florida Panthers) on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. and Friday at 6:00 p.m.
12-10-1, 25 points, 4th in North Division
The Maine Mariners have owned the Adirondack Thunder so far in the 2022-23 campaign, with five victories in as many matchups against their North Division foe. More impressive, four of those five wins have come on the road, including two over the weekend.
In Saturday’s series opener, a 3-2 win, Maine struck thrice in the opening frame with Mathew Santos netting a pair sandwiched around a Nick Master marker. The Thunder made it a one-goal game with two tallies in the second period, but Michael DiPietro slammed the door in the final 20 minutes in a 25-save winning effort.
Sunday’s contest was less in doubt, as five different Mariners scored in a 5-2 victory. Maine scored the first two goals courtesy of Tim Doherty and Reid Stefanson, and restored its two goal lead early in the second when Master found twine for a consecutive game. Still, the Thunder hung around in a one-goal game late in the third. Nick Jermain and goalie François Brassard each scored empty netters to seal the sweep.
LOVE a goalie goal.— NHL (@NHL) December 19, 2022
Francois Brassard lights the lamp for the Maine Mariners in @ECHL action!
( : @MarinersOfMaine) pic.twitter.com/s5x1JsK5mx
It was the first time in Maine Mariners history a goalie has scored in a game. Brassard had narrowly missed an empty-netter earlier as well, similar to Boston goalie Jeremy Swayman’s attempt on Saturday.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: François Brassard & Mathew Santos — Hard to argue with a 22-save win and the first goalie goal in team history. Santos shares the honors after a three-point weekend. Stick taps go to Nick Master and Patrick Shea for two-point efforts.
- Called up to Providence — Curtis Hall.
UP NEXT: Just one more game before the Christmas break, and that’s a road clash at the Reading Royals (Philadelphia Flyers) on Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m.