The Boston Bruins are off to their best start in 90 years and have won each of its first six games. For minor league affiliates Providence Bruins and Maine Mariners, both teams are hoping some of that winning trickles down to them.
After winning the Atlantic Division last year, Providence has won just once in its opening five contests this season. That came last Wednesday at home over the Bridgeport Islanders, 4-2. With defending Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals) visiting the Ocean State for a pair of games last weekend, Providence hoped to stick to winning ways but instead was dealt consecutive defeats, 3-2 on Friday and 5-4 in a shootout on Saturday.
For ECHL Maine, the Mariners looked to start the season strong — something that has been elusive in recent years. With a home-and-home series against North Division rival Trois-Rivieres Lions (Montreal Canadians), Maine struggled out of the gate dropping the season opener 4-2 on the road last Friday before a 6-4 home loss on Saturday.
1-2-2, 4 points, 7th in Atlantic Division
While Providence is used to fielding a roster of young players, several members of this year’s roster aren’t as highly-touted as in years prior. Though the likes of Fabian Lysell, Brandon Bussi, and Georgii Merkulov still headline a talented roster, a lack of scoring depth presents a crucial issue.
Providence finally notched a win on Wednesday against Bridgeport, 4-2. Bridgeport’s Kyle MacLean scored a pair of first-period goals sandwiched around Providence tallies from Trevor Kuntar and Justin Brazeau. Tied into the third period, Merkulov fired Providence ahead, finishing the day with a goal and an assist, while Oskar Steen’s second of the season sealed the win late. Michael DiPietro made his season debut in goal with a 23-save effort.
With a highly-anticipated series between last year’s top teams, Providence welcome Hershey to the AMP for a pair of games over the weekend. The visitors stole the first game of the series, 3-2. Providence opened the scoring in the first period when Luke Toporowski collected his second goal of the young season. But Hershey fired back with a pair of second period strikes and a third-period tally to wrestle command of the game. Dan Renouf scored late to make things interesting, but Providence couldn’t complete the comeback.
In the second game, Hershey needed a shootout to cap off the series sweep with a 5-4 victory. Providence struck first again, with Steen netting his second goal of the week. But the Bears battled back and took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. The score stuck until the third period when Hershey extended the lead on the power play. Providence would tie the game with goals from Lysell and John Farinacci.
In the final minute, Hershey regained the lead before Jayson Megna tallied an equalizer just 45 second later off a feed from Steen. The game went to a shootout, where Farinacci converted for Providence before Hershey claimed the extra point with a pair of tallies.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: John Farinacci — The young forward had a pair of key assists in the win over Bridgeport along with a goal on Saturday. Stick taps go to Jayson Megna, Oskar Steen, and Georgii Merkulov, as well as Michael DiPietro for his first win of the season in goal.
- Sent Down to Maine — Curtis Hall.
UP NEXT: A home-and-home series with the Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis Blues) awaits this weekend as Providence hopes to shake off the rust and get going in 2023-24. Saturday’s road contest is scheduled for 7:05 p.m., with a home matinee on Sunday set for 3:05 p.m.
0-2-0, 0 points, 7th in North Division
Goaltending was always the question heading into the season for Maine. Losing Francois Brassard in the offseason with Michael DiPietro making the leap to the AHL level left a void to fill. With local products Shane Starrett and Brad Arvanitis brought in, Maine’s defense took a massive blow.
Starrett started both opening contests, including a 30-save performance in a 4-2 loss on Friday at Trois-Rivieres. Reid Stefanson scored both goals for the Mariners while former Bruins’ prospect Alex-Olivier Voyer notched one for the hosts.
On Saturday in Portland, the Lions outlasted Maine in a 6-4 victory. Another former Mariner, Nick Jermain, tallied the winner for the visitors. For Maine, Tim Doherty picked up where he left off last season with four assists while Stefanson added a goal and an assist. In goal, Starrett struggled as he turned aside 24 of 29 shots.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Reid Stefanson — Three goals and an assist earned Stefanson the honors this week as he look to be a key contributor on the offensive end once again for Maine. Stick taps go out to Tim Dohery (5a), Ethan Keppen (1g, 2a), and Alex Kile (2g, 1a)
- Sent Down from Providence — Curtis Hall.
UP NEXT: Maine will take on the Adirondack Thunder (New Jersey Devils) in a home-and-home series this weekend. The Mariners host on Friday night, with puck drop slated for 7:15 p.m. Saturday’s road contest in Glen Falls, N.Y. will begin at 7:00 p.m.