Just two weeks remain in the minor league hockey regular season. With the AHL’s Calder Cup Playoffs and the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Playoffs on the horizon, both the Providence Bruins and Maine Mariners have qualified and will now play for seeding.
Providence entered last week in first place of the Atlantic Division with the best record in the Eastern Conference. By weekend’s end, Providence had been knocked off the pace.
Providence kicked the week off with a 4-3 shootout victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins) last Wednesday. But success was shortlived, as Providence was dealt a humbling 5-0 loss at the Hartford Wolfpack (New York Rangers) on Friday before a 5-2 loss at home against the Bridgeport Islanders (New York Islanders) on Saturday.
Maine hosted Western Conference cellar-dweller Tulsa Oilers (Anaheim Ducks) over the weekend, officially clinching a playoff spot for the second straight year since Boston took over the franchise. Maine notched a 4-3 overtime victory on Friday before a 4-2 setback on Saturday. In the finale on Sunday afternoon, the Mariners cruised to a 5-2 victory to take the series.
40-16-10, 90 points, 2nd in Atlantic Division
Providence has reached the 90-point mark this season and is virtually guaranteed a top-2 finish in the Atlantic Division. But a pair of lopsided losses and an overtime victory over the last-placed team in the division wasn’t the way Providence envisioned this past weekend.
The AHL Bruins kicked off the week with a 4-3 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a shootout. The hosts raced out to a 2-0 lead before Samuel Asselin cut the deficit in half late in the first period. Providence tied the game twice in the third period. Luke Toporowski struck early to knot the game at 2-2, then Fabian Lysell tallied later on after the Penguins had regained the lead. In the shootout, Lysell converted his first attempt, and Brandon Bussi slammed the door to seal the road win.
Providence wasn’t as lucky, or as plucky, on Friday in a 5-0 loss at Hartford. The Wolfpack scored twice late in the first, while Providence held tough to keep the score 2-0 after two periods. But in the third, the hosts struck thrice in a six-minute span to blow it open and preserve the shutout.
On Saturday, Providence returned home but suffered a 5-2 setback against Bridgeport. The game sprung to life, with the teams trading goals in the opening 67 seconds. But Bridgeport would add a pair before the first period expired to take the lead for good. John Beecher added a goal in the second to get Providence within striking distance, but Bridgeport notched a pair in the third period to take command.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Georgii Merkulov — The rookie gets the honors once again with an assist on Wednesday and Saturday. Stick taps go to Connor Carrick for a two-assist performance on Saturday and Shane Bowers who continues to settle in nicely with Providence.
- Called up to Boston — Oskar Steen.
- Sent down to Maine — Fedor Gordeev.
- SIGNED: Boston fans will be excited. Mason Lohrei, 22, has decided to forego his remaining college eligibility and sign an ATO with Boston. Lohrei, a 6-4 defenseman selected 58th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft, will join Providence ahead of the postseason and is expected to immediately contribute after a dazzling NCAA career at Ohio State.
UP NEXT: It’s the penultimate week of the regular season and the most important one yet for Providence. On Wednesday, Providence hosts the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals) at 7:05 p.m. in a matchup that could decide first place in the Atlantic Division. Providence will stay home hosting the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday and the Hartford Wolfpack on Saturday, with both games slated for 7:05 p.m.
38-25-3, 79 points, 3rd in North Division
The Maine Mariners are entrenched in a fight for seeding in the North Division. With six games to play, including a game-in-hand on second-place Reading, Maine is looking to secure home ice in the opening round of the playoffs.
Maine took major strides this weekend taking two out of three against the Tulsa Oilers — the last-place team in the West. Maine won the opening fixture in overtime, 4-3, on Friday. Tulsa took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission, but Maine responded with three goals in the middle frame, including a goal and an assist each from Alex-Olivier Voyer and Carter Johnson. Tulsa tied the game in the third to force overtime, where Connor Doherty’s fourth of the season gave Maine the win.
Maine wasn’t so lucky on Saturday in a 4-2 defeat. Tulsa again struck first before Mitchell Fossier’s first of the night evened the score after 40 minutes. Tulsa pulled ahead by two in the third, before Fossier stuck back to pull Maine within one. But a late empty-netter from the Oilers ended the comeback bid and knotted the series.
The Mariners would have the last laugh, winning Sunday’s contest 5-2 to claim the series. Tulsa kept Maine at bay and led 2-0 after two periods. But the Mariners dug deep, scoring five times in the third including a hat-trick from Tim Doherty and a power play marker from Fossier. In net, Francois Brassard picked up his second victory of the weekend after a winning effort in the opener, finishing the weekend with 59 saves.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Mitchell Fossier — This year’s breakout star had a six-point weekend with three goals and three assists, including three points on Sunday. Stick taps go to Tim Doherty (3g, 2a) for a Sunday hat trick, Voyer for two assists on Sunday, and Brassard for a pair of victories in net.
- Sent down from Providence — Fedor Gordeev.
- Signed — Cameron Morton, Sean Olson.
UP NEXT: Maine will play its final two road games of the regular season this week, visiting the Worcester Railers (New York Islanders) on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. and the Adirondack Thunder on Friday at 7:00 p.m. Maine will host Adirondack on Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m.