With February on the horizon, we’ve reached the dog days of the hockey season — a crucial point where teams separate themselves as contenders or pretenders — and the paths for both Boston Bruins affiliates could not be more different.
The Providence Bruins appear to, once again, be a contender for a Calder Cup as the AHL side sits in second place with an 8-1-1 record over its last 10 contests. Providence continued its recent roll last week, defeating the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 3-2, on the road last Wednesday and earning a 2-1 overtime win over the Bridgeport Islanders on Sunday at home. Providence did suffer a 4-2 setback against the Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay Lightning) on Friday night, snapping an eight-game point streak.
As for Maine, this year continues to be a season of one step forward and two steps back. The Mariners, after taking two out of three games at the Reading Royals (Philadelphia Flyers) last week, suffered the same fate at home over the weekend. Reading opened the weekend with a pair of victories, 5-2 on Friday and 5-1 on Saturday, before Maine salvaged a 4-3 overtime victory on Sunday to stave off a sweep.
23-13-5, 51 points, 2nd in Atlantic Division
Over the past 10 games, Providence has gone from a middle-of-the-pack team to one of the league’s best, restoring its dominance from the past four seasons in the midst of an 8-1-1 run.
The hot streak continued Wednesday with a comeback victory at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 3-2. Georgii Merkulov opened the scoring for Providence before Jesse Puljujärvi equalized then set up the go-ahead goal for the Penguins. Justin Brazeau tied things up in the second, before Fabian Lysell, who assisted the tying goal, put Providence back in front in the third. In net, Brandon Bussi made 30 saves in his AHL return.
The point streak finally snapped on Friday with a 4-2 loss at Syracuse. The hosts scored early, but Reilly Walsh evened things up late in the opening stanza. Merkulov put the Bruins ahead in the second period, but the Crunch rallied for three goals in the third, including a late winner with 90 seconds to play.
On Sunday, Providence edged Bridgeport, 2-1, in overtime at home with a boost from a few familiar faces. John Beecher netted his first goal of the season in his first game after being sent back down from Boston, tying the game seconds into the middle frame. In overtime, Mason Lohrei also opened his account for the season with a nifty individual effort to lift Providence. In net, Bussi shined again with 25 saves.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Brandon Bussi — His heroics in net helped Providence to two comeback victories over the week, earning him the honors. Stick taps go to Merkulov and Lohrei.
- Sent Down from Boston — John Beecher, Brandon Bussi, Mason Lohrei.
- Sent Down to Maine — Kyle Keyser, Ryan Mast, Adam Mechura.
UP NEXT: Three games in as many days awaits Providence this weekend. First, the AHL Bruins take on a Bridgeport in a home-and-home series on Friday and Saturday. Both contests are slated for 7:05 p.m., with Providence hosting the series opener before heading down I-95 on Saturday. Providence closes the week hosting the Charlotte Checkers (Florida Panthers) on Sunday at 3:05 p.m.
15-16-5, 35 points, 6th in North Division
Just when it seemed the tide had turned for the Mariners, the waters grew choppy yet again. After taking two out of three from Reading last week on the road, Maine suffered a similar fate this weekend.
Reading opened the week with a 5-2 win over Maine. Gabriel Chicoine scored twice for the Mariners, with Nathan Noel picking up two assists. But the Royals were too much, pulling ahead 4-1 early in the third before sealing the victory late.
The Mariners dropped the second game as well, 5-1. Down 3-0 in the third, Cameron Askew put Maine on the board, with an assist from Chicoine. But the Mariners couldn’t generate much offense despite a 32-24 advantage in shots.
Maine staved off the weekend sweep with a 4-3 win in overtime on Sunday. Adam Mechura, reassigned from Providence during the week, tallied two goals and an assist, including the OT winner with an assist from Chicoine. Mechura set up Ryan Mast for the go-ahead goal in the third after tying the game 70 seconds earlier. In net, Brad Arvanitis put together another stellar performance with 30 saves.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Gabriel Chicoine — With two goals and two assists, including a point in all three games, Chicoine earned the honors this week. Stick taps go to Mechura, Alex Kile, and Arvanitis.
- Sent Down from Providence — Kyle Keyser, Ryan Mast, Adam Mechura.
- Signed — Zach Malatesta.
- Suspended — Darien Kielb.
- Released — Jason Dobay, Scott Kirton.
UP NEXT: Maine will head up north on Friday to face the Trois-Rivieres Lions (Montreal Canadiens) for a 7:00 p.m. faceoff. The Mariners return home to host the Newfoundland Growlers (Toronto Maple Leafs) on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m.