At long last, we have reached the end of the regular season for both the AHL and ECHL. Both Boston Bruins’ affiliates, the Providence Bruins and Maine Mariners, have qualified for the postseason in their respective leagues, with home ice still on the line as we enter the final weekend of regular season play.
Providence is alive for the top seed in the Atlantic Division, just one point behind the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals) with three games to play. Providence defeated Hershey, 3-1, last Wednesday at home before earning the same result against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins) on Friday. With several top players called up to Boston, Providence fell 5-3 to the Hartford Wolfpack (New York Rangers) on Saturday night to fall back out of first place.
Maine, meanwhile, is looking to secure home ice in the first round as they sit in third place of the North Division, just one point behind the second-place Reading Royals (Philadelphia Flyers). Maine defeated the Worcester Railers (New York Islanders), 4-2, last Wednesday on the road. The Mariners then split a home-and-home series with the Adirondack Thunder (New Jersey Devils) over the weekend, losing 4-1 on the road Friday before a 5-3 home victory on Sunday.
40-16-10, 90 points, 2nd in Atlantic Division
The Providence Bruins are vying for first place, but as an AHL affiliate results are often placed secondary to development and the priorities of the NHL club. Providence, much like late last season, has been gutted as of late with Boston clearly in the driver’s seat of the Eastern Conference entering the final week of the regular season.
Providence faced Hershey in a battle between the top two teams in the Atlantic Division, with the Bruins depth shining through in a 3-1 win. Shane Bowers, acquired from Colorado for Keith Kinkaid earlier this season, finally broke through with a pair of goals, while Vinnie Lettieri tallied a goal and an assist. Kyle Keyser, who has backed up Brandon Bussi for much of the season, made 28 saves in a spectacular winning effort.
Bowers and Lettieri each tallied again on Friday against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, with the duo striking late in the third to clinch a 3-1 victory. Eduards Tralmaks opened the scoring late in the second period before the Penguins knotted the game at 1-1 early in the third. Bussi stood tall between the pipes for Providence, making 36 saves.
Providence was without Lettieri, Jack Ahcan, and Connor Carrick on Saturday in a 5-3 loss to Hartford, with the three joining Oskar Steen up in Boston. Carrick registered an assist while Lettieri tallied one shot on goal. Down in Providence, Josiah Didier tallied two goals in the loss, including one set up by Mason Lohrei for his first professional assist.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Shane Bowers — Good to see the former Boston University standout find his form in Providence, with three goals over the weekend. Lettieri gets the stick taps for three points and an NHL call-up, as does Carrick for his first NHL assist.
- Called up to Boston — Oskar Steen, Vinnie Lettieri, Brandon Bussi, Connor Carrick, Jack Ahcan.
- SIGNED: Another college prospect has made the jump to the pros, with Boston College graduate Trevor Kuntar inking his ATO with Boston and being assigned to Providence for the stretch run and postseason.
UP NEXT: Providence will close the regular season with three games in as many days this weekend. First, Providence visits the Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis Blues) on Friday at 7:05 p.m. Providence will host its final two games of the season, first against the Bridgeport Islanders (New York Islanders) on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. and then Springfield on Sunday at 3:05 p.m.
PLAYOFF SCENARIOS: Providence is locked into a top-2 seed in the Atlantic Division, earning them a first-round bye to await a play-in round winner. All four play-in round participants are separated by just a point in the standings, meaning Providence can face one of either Hartford, Charlotte Checkers (Florida Panthers), Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia Flyers), or reigning Eastern Conference champion Springfield. Providence is also still alive for the top seed in the Atlantic Division, one point back of Hershey who faces Charlotte, Lehigh Valley, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in its final three games.
40-26-3, 83 points, 3rd in North Division
The Maine Mariners need results to fall their way entering the final week of the regular season. Maine sits in third place of the North Division, just one point out of second with three home games to go. Maine did well to stay close with two wins out of three over the weekend, but there’s still work to do before the playoffs begin next week.
Maine defeated Worcester, 4-2, last Wednesday after trailing 2-0 deep into the second period. Austin Albrecht, Tyler Hinam, and Reid Stefanson all tallied for Maine before the end of the second period, with Tim Doherty adding a fourth late in the third. Michael DiPietro made 35 saves in goal, including all 15 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes.
The Mariners dropped a 4-1 contest at Adirondack two days later. Mitchell Fossier put Maine in front early, but the Thunder silenced Maine for the rest of the night while tacking on four goals.
In a tightly-contested rematch on Sunday in Portland, Maine claimed a 5-3 win to stay within reach of second place. Fossier netted a goal nine seconds into the game, though Adirondack equalized before the first period expired. Albrecht and Nick Master both notched goals for Maine in the second period, while Hinam and Fossier tallied in the third to extend the lead. In goal, DiPietro made 29 saves in the victory.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Mitchell Fossier — One of the most consistent players this season for Maine gets the weekly honors. Stick taps go to DiPietro for two wins and Hinam for some big performances in both victories.
- Returned from Loan — Alex Kile (Lehigh Valley Phantoms).
- Released — Sean Olson.
UP NEXT: Maine’s final three games of the regular season all come at home. On Wednesday, the Mariners host the Trois-Rivieres Lions (Montreal Canadiens) at 7:00 p.m. Maine will close the season with two games against the Norfolk Admirals (Carolina Hurricanes), with games scheduled for Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
PLAYOFF SCENARIOS: Maine will be facing the Reading Royals (Philadelphia Flyers) in the opening round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs, a rematch of last year’s six-game series. Reading had home ice last season, but the teams are much more evenly matched this season and home ice still hangs in the balance as we enter the final week of the regular season.