When thinking of New Year’s Resolutions for the Boston Bruins’ minor league affiliates, not much needs to change. Rather, consistency for both the Providence Bruins and Maine Mariners needs to improve in order for both to reach their peak levels.
Providence started the season strong, but has gone through rough patches in recent weeks. Many of its top young players have struggled to find consistent production, while prospects like Luke Toporowski have emerged as surprises.
During the holiday week, Providence hit the Keystone State for two games against the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals) sandwiched around a matchup at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins). Providence dropped the opener to Hershey, 1-0, before rattling off 4-3 victories over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Hershey last Friday and Saturday.
As for Maine, what began as a season of disappointment has suddenly turned positive. The Mariners are streaking thanks to wins over the Worcester Railers (New York Islanders), 9-3 last Wednesday and 6-2 on Saturday, before dropping Sunday’s finale in a shootout, 4-3. Last Friday, Maine took down the Trois-Rivieres Lions (Montreal Canadiens), 5-2, in another impressive outing.
18-6-7, 43 points, 2nd in Atlantic Division
Providence had struggled to begin its longest road swing of the season, dropping three straight after winning the opening game. The third loss came via a 1-0 defeat at Hershey last Wednesday. Brandon Bussi made 21 saves as Providence was without top prospect Fabian Lysell, who is representing Sweden at the World Junior Championships.
After dropping three in a row, Providence got back on track with a 4-3 triumph on Friday at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The teams traded goals through the opening two periods, with Georgii Merkulov and Mike Reilly scoring for Providence. Merkulov and Oskar Steen set up Connor Carrick’s go-ahead marker early in the third before Steen added insurance late. The Penguins cut the deficit to one, but couldn’t complete the comeback.
In a rematch with Hershey on Saturday, Providence again skated to a 4-3 victory. Luke Toporowski equalized in the first period after the Bears took a lead 27 seconds into the game. Goals from Jakub Lauko and Marc McLaughlin in the second period gave Providence breathing room, but the hosts would knot the game at 3-3 early in the third. Chris Wagner lifted Providence back in front two minutes later and Keith Kinkaid made 10 of his 38 saves in the final frame to seal the win.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Georgii Merkulov — A goal and three assists gives the rookie the honors this week. Oskar Steen also had four points and gets stick taps for the week along with Connor Carrick.
- Called up from Maine — Kyle Keyser.
- Sent down to Maine — Alex-Olivier Voyer.
- International Duty — Fabian Lysell (Sweden, WJC)
UP NEXT: Providence closes its lengthy road trip this week with a pair of games at the Bridgeport Islanders (New York Islanders) on Wednesday and Saturday, with both games slated for 7:00 p.m. On Sunday, Providence finally returns home to host the Utica Comets (New Jersey Devils) in a 3:00 p.m. contest.
15-11-2, 35 points, 4th in North Division
Despite a rough start to the season, the Maine Mariners have found their form in recent weeks, culminating with points in their four recent contests. That included two victories over North Division leader Worcester.
The first came by way of a 9-3 win in Portland last Wednesday. Down 2-1 early in the second period, Maine flipped a switch with seven straight goals, including hat tricks for Alex-Olivier Voyer and Tim Doherty, who each finished with four points. Thirteen Mariners recorded a point, including eight with multi-point efforts. Francois Brassard shined in goal, making 33 saves in the victory.
Doherty, Voyer, and Mitchell Fossier led Maine two days later in a 5-2 win over Trois-Rivieres last Friday. Fossier, who had three points in Wednesday’s win, tallied a hat trick in a four-point game, scoring on three of his nine shots. Doherty had four assists and Voyer had a goal and an assist as Brassard notched a 23-save win.
In Saturday’s rematch at Worcester, Maine skated to a 6-2 win. Reid Stefanson notched a goal and an assist as a plus-4 for the day, while 12 Mariners had a point. Maine scored the first two goals and never looked back, powering past its regional rival with another strong showing in goal by Brassard.
To close the week, Maine dropped a 4-3 result at home to Worcester in a shootout. Fossier provided two assists to lead the Mariners. Maine scored all three of its goals in a nine-minute span between the end of the second period and the start of the third. All four Maine shooters were blanked in the shootout as the Railers claimed the extra point.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Mitchell Fossier & Tim Doherty — For the week, the duo combined for 19 points, with Fossier hitting double digits in a four-game stretch. Doherty tallied a hat-trick and a four-assist game. Stick taps go to Alex-Olivier Voyer and Francois Brassard.
- Called up to Providence — Kyle Keyser.
- Sent down from Providence — Alex-Olivier Voyer.
- Loaned Out — Andrew Peski (Springfield, AHL)
- Released — Chad Pietroniro, Trevor Gorsuch.
- International Duty — Michael DiPietro (Canada, Spangler Cup)
UP NEXT: Only two games on the schedule for Maine this week. First up, a trip across the border to face the Trois-Rivieres Lions (Montreal Canadiens) on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. On Friday, Maine hosts the Adirondack Thunder (New Jersey Devils) at 7:15 p.m.