Over the course of a long season, every team is bound to take its licks. It just so happens that both Boston Bruins affiliates suffered setbacks on the same weekend.
The Providence Bruins, still the top team in the Atlantic Division, lacked defensive prowess in two games last weekend. Providence escaped with a 6-5 win in overtime against the Charlotte Checkers (Florida Panthers) on Friday, only to surrender another handful of goals in a 5-1 loss to Rochester on Sunday.
As for Maine, a measuring-stick weekend against the ECHL’s top team — the Idaho Steelheads (Dallas Stars) — proved to be more a reality check as the hosts skated the Mariners out of the building in a three-game series sweep. Idaho shut down Maine’s explosive offense in the first two games, winning 3-1 and 2-0, before securing a dramatic 5-4 victory in the finale.
31-11-10, 72 points, 1st in Atlantic Division
Providence is an intriguing team. On one hand, the offense and talent across the board is enough to keep this team afloat in first place. Yet, occasions when the defense flounders are becoming all too frequent for the Calder Cup hopefuls.
In the weekend opener last Friday, a 6-5 overtime win against Charlotte, defenseman Mike Reilly netted a hat trick, but the Bruins blew leads on several occasions including in the final minute of regulation. Fortunately, John Beecher had his best game as professional, with four points including one of his three assists on Jakub Lauko’s overtime winner.
Two days later against Rochester, that attacking punch was dormant. The Americans skated Providence off its own ice in a 5-1 rout, including a four-goal opening period. Beecher notched his second goal of the weekend late in the third, with Reilly and Oskar Steen providing assists. In goal, Brandon Bussi, who earned the win on Friday, relieved Kyle Keyser less than 12 minutes into the contest and stopped 14 of 15 shots he faced.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: John Beecher — A game-winning assist and the lone goal in a tough loss saw Beecher enjoy the best weekend of his career so far. Stick taps go to Reilly for a six-point weekend, including a hat trick.
- Sent down from Boston — Vinnie Lettieri.
- Called up from Maine — Alex-Olivier Voyer.
TRADE: The Bruins shipped goaltender Keith Kinkaid to the Colorado Avalanche last week, receiving forward Shane Bowers in return. Bowers is no stranger to New England, having played two seasons at Boston University.
UP NEXT: Providence kicks off a four-game road trip this week with a trip to face the Bridgeport Islander (New York Islanders) on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. On Saturday, Providence faces the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals) in what will be a battle for first place in the Atlantic Division, with puck drop slated for 7:00 p.m. Providence closes the week with a 4:05 p.m. faceoff with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia Flyers) on Sunday.
29-18-3, 61 points, 2nd in North Division
Maine had been cruising as of late, making the climb from fifth to second in the North Division standings since the start of 2023. But in its stiffest test yet, Maine was humbled by Idaho, the top team in the ECHL this season.
In the series opener last Wednesday in Boise, Maine started off strong taking the early lead courtesy of Mitchell Fossier’s 11th tally of the campaign. Idaho equalized 62 seconds later, and added goals in the second and third periods each to subdue Maine in a 3-1 triumph.
In a 2-0 defeat last Friday, Maine fell behind within three minutes and couldn’t create much on offense. A second-period goal for Idaho doubled the lead, while Main could muster just 21 shots.
Sunday’s 5-4 win for Idaho was a true thriller. The Steelheads led 3-0 midway through the second period and looked well on their way to an easy win, but Maine dug deep and scored three straight to tie the game early in the third. When Idaho inched ahead again, Maine had the answer with a Patrick Shea equalizer less than four minutes from the final horn. But a late power play chance for Idaho proved costly, as the hosts tallied on the man advantage with 17 seconds left in the final frame.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Mitchell Fossier — With three points, the forward was the main offensive producer for the Mariners over the weekend. Stick taps go to Tim Doherty for three points, all assists, as well.
- Called up to Providence — Alex-Olivier Voyer.
- Recalled from Loan — Alex Kile (Lehigh Valley).
- Released — Tommy Munichiello, Billy Vizzo.
UP NEXT: Maine returns to the Northeast for a pair of home games this week. First up, the Newfoundland Growlers (Toronto Maple Leafs) come to town on Wednesday for a 10:30 a.m. puck drop. The Mariners resume play again on Sunday, when regional rival Worcester Railers (New York Islander) visit Portland for a 3:00 p.m. matchup.