Playoff hockey is right around the corner.
The postseason buzz is palpable across the Boston Bruins organization. With the NHL club setting records by the day, both minor league affiliates are primed for the playoffs as well.
The Providence Bruins officially clinched their spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs over the weekend, extending their win streak to seven games in the process. Providence collected road victories at the Charlotte Checkers (Florida Panthers) on consecutive nights — 3-1 on Saturday and 5-2 on Sunday.
The Maine Mariners got back on track with a 3-1-0 weekend in the Southeast. The ECHL side dispatched the Orlando Solar Bears (Toronto Maple Leafs) last Wednesday, 5-1, to start the week. On Friday, Maine needed overtime to defeat the Atlanta Gladiators (Arizona Coyotes), 4-3, to win the season series against the former Boston affiliate. Maine split a two-game series against the South Carolina Stingrays (Washington Capitals) to close the weekend, dropping Saturday’s contest 7-3 and winning narrowly on Sunday, 2-1.
39-14-10, 88 points, 1st in Atlantic Division
The wins keep adding up for the Providence Bruins. The AHL side has won seven consecutive games in a reversal of last season’s finish that saw Providence sputter down the stretch.
On Saturday, Providence kicked off a two-game series at Charlotte with a 3-1 win to clinch a postseason spot. The game didn’t spring to life until the third period when Luke Toporowski broke the deadlock to put Providence in front. Chris Wagner and Georgii Merkulov tallied 10 seconds apart to build a three-goal lead, before Charlotte got one back late. Brandon Bussi had 30 saves and continues to impress in his first full professional season.
Sunday’s game provided more offense, with Providence taking a 5-2 victory in the weekend finale. Star prospect Fabian Lysell played a big role in this one, assisting on three goals. Connor Carrick opened the scoring in the first period, while Samuel Asselin, Joona Koppanen, and Marc McLaughlin all added markers in the middle frame. Merkulov capped off the scoring for Providence in the third period to finish off a two-point night, while Kyle Keyser’s 19 saves in goal were enough to preserve the victory.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Georgii Merkulov — A prospect who doesn’t get nearly enough recognition, Merkulov tallied two goals and an assist over the weekend. Fabian Lysell gets stick taps for a three-assist effort on Sunday, as does Connor Carrick (1g, 1a) and Brandon Bussi.
- Called up to Boston — Oskar Steen.
- Sent down to Maine — Mitchell Fossier.
UP NEXT: It’s a busy week for Providence, beginning with a visit to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins) on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. Providence will work its way back up the East Coast on Friday with another visit to face the Hartford Wolfpack (New York Rangers) at 7:00 p.m. To close out the week, Providence will host the Bridgeport Islanders (New York Islanders) on Saturday night at 7:05 p.m.
36-24-3, 75 points, 3rd in North Division
Last week was a ‘prove it’ moment for the Maine Mariners. With four games down South, Maine needed to flex its muscles to build confidence for the upcoming postseason. The Mariners did just that with three wins in four games.
Maine opened the week with a 5-1 win at Orlando last Wednesday night. Alex Kile notched a goal and an assist, while newcomer Carter Johnson added a pair of helpers. Ahead 3-1 in the third, the line of Mitchell Fossier, Tim Doherty, and Nick Master combined for a pair of goals, with the latter on the finishing end of both. In net, Michael DiPietro had a solid outing with 31 saves.
Two nights later, Maine was pushed to the limit in a 4-3 overtime victory at Atlanta. The hosts pulled in front to a 3-0 lead after two periods, but Maine persevered. The Mariners scored three times in the third to tie the game, including a pair by Alex-Olivier Voyer. The game went to overtime, where Johnson notched the winner to steal two points.
Maine wasn’t so lucky on Saturday night at South Carolina, falling 7-3. The Stingrays led 6-0 after just 27 minutes, chasing DiPietro for Francois Brassard. Maine finally sprung to life in with Andrew Peski tallying a pair in the second period, and Cameron Askew collecting his second goal of the weekend early in the third, but the comeback was not to be this time.
After shaking off some of the travel weariness, Maine salvaged the series with a 2-1 triumph on Sunday. South Carolina struck first once again, but Mitchell Fossier cancelled that out with an equalizer midway through the opening period. The game stayed knotted at 1-1 deep into the third, when Grant Gabriele fired Maine ahead with his eighth goal of the season. DiPietro redeemed himself with a 32-save victory.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Carter Johnson — The newly-signed forward acclimated himself quickly with a four-point weekend, recording a goal and three assists. Alex-Olivier Voyer (1g, 3a) gets stick taps for the week, along with Nick Master (2g, 2a).
- Sent down from Providence — Mitchell Fossier.
- Loaned Out — Alex Kile (Lehigh Valley).
UP NEXT: Maine will get another taste of interconference play, hosting three games against the Tulsa Oilers (Anaheim Ducks). The cellar-dwellers in the Mountain Division arrive in Portland for a 7:15 p.m. faceoff on Friday, followed by a 6:00 p.m. start on Saturday and a 3:00 p.m. matinee on Sunday.