At the start of the 2022-23 season, the Providence Bruins came out of the gates hot and looked like a team destined for a deep run in the playoffs. With a bevy of young talent and a deep roster, Providence earned points in 12 of its first 13 games and has held first place in the Atlantic Division for much of the season.
But as of late, Providence has dropped off its torrid pace. Over the weekend, Providence scored first in all three of its games, but could only muster a trio of goals total. Providence fell, 7-1, at Bridgeport Islanders (New York Islanders) on Friday and on Sunday at the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia Flyers), 3-1. Sandwiched in between both frustrating defeats was a 1-0 win over the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals) in a battle between the top teams in the Atlantic Division.
In the ECHL, after a poor start to the campaign, the Maine Mariners have more than righted the ship and are currently one of the hottest teams in the league. In two games last week, the Mariners dispatched the Newfoundland Growlers (Toronto Maple Leafs), 5-3, and followed that with a 1-0 triumph over their archrival Worcester Railers (New York Islanders).
32-13-10, 74 points, 2nd in Atlantic Division
Providence needs to figure things out. The AHL Bruins have been in a bit of slide over recent weeks, but still find themselves a point out of first place in the Atlantic Division with a month remaining in the season. In three games last weekend, Providence struck first in each one, but only managed one win.
In the weekend opener, a 7-1 thumping at Bridgeport, Providence scored 68 seconds into the game on Georgii Merkulov’s 18th of the season. Bridgeport would take the lead with a pair of second-period markers before pulling away with five goals in the opening 7:32 of the third period. In a game that featured 58 combined penalty minutes, it also spelled the end of Brandon Bussi’s spectacular play in goal as he was chased from the game early in the third after surrendering six goals.
Providence’s defense tightened up in a 1-0 win at Hershey on Saturday. Marc McLaughlin scored late in the third period, while Kyle Keyser stopped all 22 shots he faced on the night. Providence could only muster 11 total shots in a game that featured stout defensive performances on both sides — a potential playoff preview.
On Sunday, Providence continued to flex its defensive muscles, holding Lehigh Valley scoreless for over 45 minutes. Leading 1-0, Providence finally buckled as the hosts struck thrice in the final 15 minutes of the third period to take a 3-1 victory. Bussi took his place back between the pipes, and made 35 saves in the loss but rebounded well from a poor outing on Friday.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Georgii Merkulov — Slim pickings this week, but Merkulov was the top performer with a goal and an assist. Stick taps to Justin Brazeau for a two-point weekend as well.
- Called up to Boston — Jakub Lauko.
- Sent down to Maine — Alex-Olivier Voyer.
UP NEXT: A vital weekend ahead for Providence. The Bruins travel to face the Springfield Falcons (St. Louis Blues) on Friday night at 7:05 p.m. before returning home for two games against Hershey in a battle for first place in the division. Saturday’s game starts at 7:05 p.m. with Sunday’s contest slated for 3:00 p.m.
31-18-3, 65 points, 2nd in North Division
The Maine Mariners are playing tough yet again. After three straight losses at Idaho a week ago, Maine returned to winning ways against a pair of divisional foes.
The Mariners returned home to host Newfoundland in a morning game last Wednesday, skating to a 5-3 victory against the North Division frontrunners. Maine led 2-1 after 40 minutes, courtesy of a goal and an assist by Reid Stefanson. The Growlers roared back to equalize early in the third, before Maine notched a pair of goals from Chase Zieky and Cameron Askew. Newfoundland responded to cut the deficit in half, but an empty-netter from Patrick Shea sealed the win.
On Sunday, Maine shut down Worcester in a 1-0 win. Fedor Gordeev tallied his second goal and third point of the weekend late in the second period, a power-play marker, to provide the difference. Francois Brassard made 27 saves in the shutout.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Fedor Gordeev — The defender earns the honors with a pair of goals, an assist, and a plus-3 rating. Stefanson gets stick taps for three points as well, and Brassard earns recognition for another shutout.
- Sent down from Providence — Alex-Olivier Voyer.
- Loaned Out — Alex Kile (Lehigh Valley), Andrew Peski (Calgary).
UP NEXT: Maine will play four games in five days this week. First, a trip to face the Adirondack Thunder (New Jersey Devils) on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. before welcoming the Norfolk Admirals (Florida Panthers) back to Portland on Friday at 7:15 p.m. and Saturday at 6:00 p.m. To close the week Maine will head to Worcester for a 3:05 p.m. faceoff on Sunday.