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Affiliate Report: Maine facing 2-0 deficit & a rough weekend for Providence

The Maine Mariners started the Kelly Cup Playoffs with consecutive road losses to Reading, and Providence can’t seem to catch a break.

Maine Mariners vs Worcester Railers Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Playoff hockey is officially underway for the Boston Bruins’ organization as all three teams expect to begin postseason play within the next couple weeks.

Kicking things off over the weekend, the Maine Mariners of the ECHL entered the Kelly Cup Playoffs with a favorable matchup against the Reading Royals (Philadelphia Flyers). With the series’ first two games down in Pennsylvania, Maine dropped both road contests over the weekend, 3-2 in Game 1 and 3-0 in Game 2, as the series shifts back to Portland for Games 3, 4, and 5.

Down in Providence, the regular season has entered its final week as the AHL Bruins look to recapture winning ways. Providence opened last week with a 5-4 overtime win against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia Flyers), but lost its final three contests over the weekend. At home, Providence suffered defeats to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 4-1, and Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes), 2-1, before ending the weekend with a loss at the Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis Blues), 4-0.

Providence Bruins

36-23-10, 82 points, 3rd in Atlantic Division

Good news for Providence — they’ve officially clinched a playoff spot.

Bad news — Providence might not be playing its best hockey at a vital time. Providence dropped three straight games to close the week after an overtime victory last Tuesday night.

In the opening game of the week against Lehigh Valley, a 5-4 victory, the teams traded goals in a wild opening period that saw Georgii Merkulov score his first professional tally and John Beecher register his first career assist. Down 3-2 in the second, Justin Brazeau tallied an equalizer before Beecher scored his first professional goal. After the Phantoms forced overtime, Beecher scored once again to win it in overtime.

In Friday’s 4-1 loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Merkulov scored for a third time since signing last month to tie the game 1-1 after 20 minutes. The Penguins scored twice in the second, including a marker from old friend Matt Bartkowski, and added a final tally in the third to seal the win.

Saturday saw similar offensive struggles from Providence in a 2-1 defeat to Charlotte, where the visiting Checkers broke a scoreless tie with under eight minutes to play in the third. After an empty netter doubled the lead, Jack Studnicka finished off a play from Beecher with nine seconds remaining in regulation, but Providence couldn’t complete a miraculous comeback bid despite a 45-save effort from Troy Grosenick.

A trip to Atlantic Division points leader Springfield on Sunday brought no solutions to the stagnant offense as Providence fell 4-0. Tommy Cross provided two assists for the Thunderbirds, who led 2-0 after 10 minutes and never looked back.

Player of the Week: John Beecher — Two goals and two assists isn’t a bad way to start your pro career, and a point-per-game average so far through four games. Stick taps to Grosenick who stood on his head in his lone game of the week, as well as Merkulov who continues to impress.

Roster Moves

  • Loaned In — Brent Beaudoin (Worcester Railers).
  • Sent Down from Boston — Jack Ahcan, Troy Grosenick, Jack Studnicka.
  • Sent Down to Maine — Callum Booth.

UP NEXT: Providence wraps up the regular season this week with three games on the docket. First, a visit to the Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay Lightning) on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. for the final road contest of the regular season. Providence hosts Springfield on Friday and the Utica Comets (New Jersey Devils) on Saturday, both at 7:05 p.m.

Maine Mariners

33-31-8, 74 points, 4th in North Division

In the opening round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs, the Maine Mariners drew Reading. After winning the season series over the Royals, the Mariners’ magic seemed to have hit a wall in the postseason, dropping the first two games of the series.

In Game 1 last Wednesday, a 3-2 loss, Maine dug a 3-0 hole after two periods as Stefanos Lekkas had one of his worst starts for the Mariners this season since joining the team in the winter. But Maine battled back as Zach Malatesta and Nick Master tallied late in third period, though the comeback bid fell just short.

Game 2 on Friday started the same, with Callum Booth getting the start and conceding three goals on 11 shots in just 26 minutes. Jeremy Brodeur relieved Booth and slammed the door the rest of the night, but Maine’s offense never got going in a 3-0 loss despite a 32-20 edge in shots.

Player of the Week: Zach Malatesta — The defenseman had a goal and an assist in Game 1 and tallied three shots in Game 2 to finish the series with a plus-1 rating. Cameron Askew and Nick Master get stick taps this week.

Roster Moves

  • Sent Down from Providence — Callum Booth.

UP NEXT: Here is the remaining first round schedule for Maine’s series against the Reading Royals (Reading leads 2-0).

  1. Wed., April 20 at Reading (L, 3-2)
  2. Fri., April 22 at Reading (L, 3-0)
  3. Thu., April 28 vs. Reading (7:00 p.m.)
  4. Fri., April 29 vs. Reading (7:15 p.m.)
  5. Sat., April 30 vs. Reading* (6:00 p.m.)
  6. Mon., May 2 at Reading* (7:00 p.m.)
  7. Wed., May 4 at Reading* (7:00 p.m.)

* — If Necessary