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Affiliate Report: Providence pushes past Pennsylvania foes, Maine on the right track

The Providence Bruins are starting to find a rhythm, while the Maine Mariners are slowly steadying themselves.

AHL: NOV 03 Providence Bruins at Cleveland Monsters
Georgii Merkulov.
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As the calendar year nears its end, both Boston Bruins affiliates Providence and Maine are reaching an inflection point. In recent years, the minor league sides have hit a turning point in the last few weeks of December, only to hit the ground running in January on a hot streak.

The Providence Bruins have climbed the standings over the past month, and continued to show signs of improvement with a pair of road wins last weekend. In the first two matchups of a three-game Pennsylvania trip, Providence took down the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, 2-0, on Friday before dispatching the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 5-1, on Saturday.

In ECHL action, the Maine Mariners went North of the border for four games last week, going 2-1-1. Maine kicked the trip off with a 6-1 win at the Trois-Rivieres Lions (Montreal Canadiens) on Wednesday, before a 1-1-1 series against the Newfoundland Growlers (Toronto Maple Leafs). Maine dropped the opener, 4-3 in overtime, won the second contest on Saturday, 6-3, then dropped a 4-2 result on Sunday.

Providence Bruins

13-8-3, 29 points, 3rd in Atlantic Division

The Providence Bruins are rolling all of a sudden, mounting a seven-game winning streak after another pair of wins over the weekend. The Bruins opened the weekend with a 2-0 win over Lehigh Valley last Friday night. Georgii Merkulov led the charge, scoring the opening goal in the second period before assisting on Reilly Walsh’s third-period tally. Michael DiPietro registered a 19-save shutout in net, starting in place of Brandon Bussi who earned a call-up last week to Boston.

Merkulov and Providence continued its dominance on Saturday in a 5-1 win at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The third-year forward had two goals and three assists, while linemates Jesper Boqvist (2g, 2a) and Justin Brazeau (1g, 1a) also had multi-point games. Brandon Bussi returned to Providence with a 30-save effort in the victory.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Georgii Merkulov — Merkulov ran away with the honors, contributing to all seven Providence goals over the weekend with three tallies and four helpers. Stick taps go to Walsh (1g, 2a), Boqvist (2g, 2a), and DiPietro.

ROSTER MOVES

  • Called up to Boston — Mason Lohrei, Ian Mitchell.
  • Sent Down from Boston — Brandon Bussi.

UP NEXT: Providence closes its Pennsylvania road trip on Wednesday, facing reigning Calder Cup champion and AHL-best Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals) on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Then, it’s back home for a pair of contests on the weekend, beginning Friday at 7:05 p.m. against the Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs) and concluding Sunday against the Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay Lightning) at 4:05 p.m.

Maine Mariners

8-9-2, 18 points, 6th in North Division

The 2023 season has been one of perseverance for Maine. After a sluggish start, Maine is slowly figuring things out and notched a 2-1-1 record on their four-game road trip last week.

Maine started the week strong with a 6-1 win over Trois-Rivieres last Wednesday night. Alex Kile and Chase Zieky each tallied a pair in the opening 40 minutes, with Reid Stefanson tacking on a goal late to go along with his three assists. Brad Arvanitis continued to prove he deserves the starting job, notching 31 saves in the win.

The Mariners trekked further north to Newfoundland for three games over the weekend, beginning a 4-3 overtime loss on Friday. Maine overcame a pair of two-goal deficits, with Billy Constantinou tallying a pair of assists to help knot the game at 3-3. Shane Starrett stepped in between the pipes, making 30 saves on the night.

Maine rebounded Saturday with a 6-3 comeback victory. Trailing 3-2 entering the final period, the Mariners struck four times. Kile equalized early in the frame with his second of the day, before providing the winning assist with six minutes remaining. Ryan Mast and Owen Pederson each added two assists, with Tyler Drevitch tallying a goal and an assist. In net, Arvanitis recorded 29 saves in a winning effort.

In the series finale, Newfoundland got the last laugh with a 4-2 win. The Growlers raced out to a 3-0 lead before Maine added a pair of goals late in the second period to cut the deficit to one. Newfoundland padded the lead midway through the third and shut down the Mariners the rest of the way.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Alex Kile — Kile claims the honors for a second straight week with four goals and two assists. Stick taps go to Arvanitis with two wins, as well as Constantinou and Pederson with four helpers apiece.

ROSTER MOVES

  • Signed — Nathan Noel.

UP NEXT: It’s back to Portland this weekend for a pair of home games. First, Newfoundland makes a return trip to Maine on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Then, it’s a visit from the Adirondack Thunder (New Jersey Devils) on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.