Closing the book on development camp

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Final thoughts from Boston Bruins development camp.

JACK STUDNICKA

He was the best player in camp.

Others who had a good week: Teemu Kivihalme, Karson Kuhlman, Mitch Fossier, Oskar Steen and Philip Beaulieu.

URHO VAAKANAINEN

Nice prospect, but his camp performance confirmed that he has work to do before he is NHL ready.

“He’s one I’d want to give just a little bit of kick to just to get going a little bit,” said Langenbrunner on Tuesday. “He’s kind of feeling his way through this a little bit.’’

TOMMY MARCHIN

Brown University’s Marchin finished strong with a pair of goals in Friday’s scrimmage. He showed off his hard shot by one-timing a Studnicka feed into the net, then went to the edge of the blue paint for his second score.

Marchin, who turns 23 this fall, is farther along in his development than many of the youngsters in camp. At 6-foot-3 and a solid 215 pounds, he already has a man’s body.

“The beginning few days I was getting into the groove. In the summer, you’re working on technique and you’re going slower, then when you get here you have to do all that stuff at a much higher pace. It was good that I was able to connect it in time, for the last two days,’’ Marchin said.

Brown needs him to put up some numbers this winter and if plays like he did this week, he should have a good year. And have some options to continue playing.

PHILIP BEAULIEU

The 5-foot-9 defenseman put up 42 points in 43 games for Northern Michigan. Moving the puck is his strong point and he did it smartly in Friday’s scrimmage.

“(Camp) was a great experience. Found out what it takes to be at this level. There’s no better place to come than an Original Six organization. You realize what it means to be a pro,’’ he said.

“The way the game has changed, (smaller) guys that can move the puck and prosper is encouraging. Makes me feel like I have a chance. Back in the day, guys like Torey Krug came in and paved the way. I just want to work hard and get to where he is.’’

Beaulieu is a name to keep in mind when NCAA free agent season rolls around next March/April.

MITCH FOSSIER and KYLE KEYSER

Players from non-traditional hockey locales have become a thing lately in the college and pro game.

The Bruins had that base covered with Keyser of Coral Springs, Fla., and Fossier of Alpharetta, Ga.

Keyser, 19, plays for Oshawa of the OHL. He signed his entry-level contract after rookie camp last September. Fossier, 21, is a free agent who will be a junior at Maine.

I asked Keyser how a kid from Florida gets to the OHL?

“Hard work and getting to know the right people who can put you in the right situations to succeed,’’ said Keyser.

“ I was fortunate to grow up in Florida and play hockey there. I met a lot of good people and NHL retired guys that helped me and I’m thankful for that. They gave me the right opportunities and options. The rest was up to me to do the hard work that got me where I am today.

“I grew up playing for the Florida Jr. Panthers, the Alliance, Triple A teams, and we’d come up north here to Boston and Detroit and get as much competition as we could, get scouted as much as we could, and go from there.’’

Keyser considered the college route, but ultimately chose major junior.

“I thought about it long and hard with my family. We spent about a month thinking about me decision and what I was going to do. At the end of the day, I think we made the right decision. The OHL was what I wanted to do. I felt like it’s a professional style of game and I’d be competing against the best players in the world at my age every single night. That’s what I wanted, to give myself the best opportunity to play against the top players, because you’ve going to play against the top players in the NHL, as well.’’

Fossier opted for the NCAA route.

“My dad grew up playing hockey so he put me in it pretty early. Believe it or not, there are a few places that you can play in the South that can get you far enough growing up. Eventually I had to move away from home to play juniors. I was fortunate to have some teammates, even down in Georgia that are playing D-I, too,’’ he said.

“My team for most of my youth hockey was composed of kids from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama that we kind of pulled together to make a AAA team. There was a lot of travel, even just for practice, and flying up north on weekends for games. It was busy for sure.’’

It paid off. After a couple of years of junior hockey, Fossier ended up at Maine. He led the the Black Bears in scoring last season as a sophomore.

Day 1 at Bruins Development Camp

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Five quick hits from the first day of Boston Bruins development camp.

JACK STUDNICKA

You have to like the way Boston’s 2017 second rounder is thinking.

“I’m going into camp with the mentality that I want to make the team. I want to play in the NHL this year,” the young center said after Tuesday morning’s skate.

Whether you think it’s realistic or not, talk like that is music to the ears of Bruins management.

“I think it’s great that he wants to do that. I think that’s a lofty goal for him as a 19-year-
old. Not a lot of 19-year-olds play in the National Hockey League,” said Jamie Langenbrunner, Boston’s player development coordinator.

“I wouldn’t put it past him, he’s a determined kid. I think if you would have asked him last September, his goal was to make the team also. He wants to do that, that’s great. We’re not going to take that away from him. If he’s able to push and take that job, then great.”

Realistically, Studnicka will likely end up back in Oshawa for 2018-19, which might be for the best. He’ll be the captain again, will probably be one of the leading scorers in the Ontario Hockey League and be in prime position to play on Canada’s team in the World Juniors.

Then he could be ready to bypass Providence as a first-year pro and step right into Boston’s lineup in 2019-20. But you can’t blame him for shooting for the moon this season.

KARSON KUHLMAN

He may not make the Boston Bruins out of training camp, but I like Karson Kuhlman’s chances of playing NHL games at some point during his upcoming rookie season.

Kuhlman, who will be 23 in September, showed me enough during his brief time in Providence in the spring to convince me that he is close to helping in Boston’s bottom six.

He plays the right way and his reputation as a big-game player precedes him. He scored a double overtime goal to end Providence College’s season in the NCAA Tournament in Worcester in 2016. Last spring he was Frozen Four MVP, captaining Minnesota Duluth to the national championship.

“I bring the 200-foot game to the table. I take pride in the defensive zone as well as chipping in offense as much as possible. I just want to be the hardest worker every day. It’s a privilege to come to the rink every day and I just want to give 100 percent every time and hopefully push the other guys around me to do so, as well,” he said.

In addition to training back home in Minnesota, Kuhlman is spending as much time as he can — including plenty of fishing trips — with his dad. Dean Kuhlman, who serves in the Air National Guard, is scheduled for an overseas deployment later this year.

TOMMY MARCHIN

With a blistering shot and good size at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Brown University senior Tom Marchin is going to get some attention from NHL scouts this winter.

Attending Bruins development camp for the first time, Marchin is looking to be more consistent once the season starts in October. When he plays his game, he is a handful along the boards and around the net.

“I’m definitely looking to show that I can play my role as power forward and play more consistently. I’ve been hearing that from my coaches back at school,’’ said Marchin, whose sister Taylor plays for the Yale women’s team.

Marchin scored 14 goals as a freshman, tailed off to just 3 during an injury-shortened sophomore season, then bounced back with 12 last year. He’ll be looking for more as he wraps up his career at Brown.

“My freshman year I played with Mark Naclerio and Nick Lappin and I was able to go in front of the net, pucks would come to the net and I’d bury rebounds and make myself room and (his linemates) room. (Since then) I’ve had to create more on my own, control the puck more and have it on my stick more. That’s going to be helpful next year and beyond. A little more scoring touch would be good,’’ he said.

CURTIS HALL

Turns out 2018 fourth-round pick Curtis Hall and Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy go way back, sort of.

Hall’s father, Mike, played for Cassidy in the ECHL with both the Jacksonville Lizard Kings (can’t get enough of that name) and the Trenton Titans.

According to Curtis, his dad used to bring him to the rink in Trenton when he was very young. “I doubt if (Cassidy) remembers that, but it’s pretty cool,’’ said Curtis, who is headed to Yale in the fall.

“I committed (to Yale) a few years ago and I’ve been looking forward to it ever since. I finally got cleared with my grades and now I’m sure I’m going, so it’s exciting,’’ he said.

JACK BECKER

Beware of first impressions at development camp.

A few years back, I watched Matt Benning at Bruins camp in Wilmington and came away thinking he was the worst player on the ice that summer.

Well, maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t, but he went on to have an excellent career at Northeastern and he just signed a two-year extension with an average annual value of $1.9 million with the Edmonton Oilers. In the end, that first impression didn’t mean jack.

Which brings me to seventh round pick Jack Becker. In the 2015 camp, Becker was just a few weeks past his high school graduation and he looked to be in over his head against players who were older and more experienced.

Jump ahead to 2018 and Becker looks like a different young man – bigger, stronger, more confident.

“I’m just a better hockey player than when I first got drafted,’’ he said on Tuesday morning.

The 6-foot-4 straight-line winger turned 21 on Sunday. Coming off a solid freshman year at Michigan, he is making steady progress.

“College is a good path for me. I love it at Michigan. From my freshman season, I just grew so much. I’m really excited for what’s to come,’’ he said.

Langenbrunner – a Minnesotan like Becker – is playing a part in his continued development.

“We’ll shoot each other texts about the weekend or I’ll give him a call. I ran into him a couple of times at Michigan this year. I remember watching him on TV when I was younger. It’s pretty neat that he’s a resource that I have now. I’m really lucky,’’ Becker said.

With free agency in sight, Czarnik mulls his options

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Austin Czarnik celebrates after scoring on Montreal’s Carey Price at the Bell Center in December 2016. (Canadian Press photo by Graham Hughes)

Six weeks from unrestricted free agency, Austin Czarnik is weighing whether to re-up with the Boston Bruins or test the open market.

“We have been having some discussions since the season ended with Boston about the possibility of a contract extension, but we’re also taking some time to evaluate where Austin wants to go with it,’’ said Brian Bartlett, Czarnik’s agent.

The 25-year-old Miami University grad, who played a total of 59 NHL games with the Bruins over the last two years, is coming off a standout season with the Providence Bruins. Playing right wing on Providence’s top line, Czarnik finished third in scoring in the American Hockey League with career bests in goals (25) and points (69).

Other NHL teams will be interested if he reaches free agency on July 1. If he decides to remain with Boston, he could have a good opportunity to land a full-time NHL job as the Bruins might have some departures in their bottom six.

“There are times in a players’ career when he can test the free-agent market. We’re contemplating internally a little bit whether that makes sense or signing back with a team that we give a lot of credit to for signing him as an undrafted guy out of college and giving him a good opportunity,’’ said Bartlett.

“He certainly is comfortable and has done a good job in the role that he’s had, both in Boston and in Providence. We’re evaluating internally and talking to the Bruins about what an extension potentially would look like.’’

“There’s that risk/reward line and trying to figure out, what do we think is going to be the best opportunity for Austin to be able to move his career forward? Playing in Boston would be a great opportunity for that.

“If there is a different or better opportunity elsewhere, we won’t know until July 1 or a week before July 1 to even talk to teams. Boston’s done a good job presenting their vision going forward. That’s part of the process we are going through,” he said.

It’s a win-win situation for Czarnik.

“The further you get along in the spring and summer, the more information that you have. From our point of view, we’re not feeling a whole lot of pressure to make a decision before there’s a need to,’’ said Bartlett.

 

Lots of learning on the job for Providence Bruins rookies this season

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Zach Senyshyn shoots on Alex Lyon of Lehigh Valley in Game 1 of the Calder Cup playoffs.  (Photo by Bob Breidenbach, The Providence Journal)

Even though they didn’t get past the first round of the playoffs, the Providence Bruins provided plenty of entertainment during the 2017-18 season. Along the way, coach Jay Leach and company helped move a bunch of players further down the road to being NHLers.

“You look back, it was a good year. It was a wild year. You know the American League is a transient league, but I feel like the lineup was never the same. We had a lot of kids that played a lot, which was a challenge, but it’s well worth it. I think everyone got better. We did a lot of things that we wanted to do,’’ said Leach.

The P-Bruins have been a critical cog in Boston’s very successful draft-and-develop machinery over the last few seasons. Watching a winning team is always fun, but for my money how young players progress over the course of a season is the most interesting reason to follow the team.

To be sure, in the 10 years that I’ve been watching Providence closely, the caliber of player that the Bruins bring in has drastically improved. These days, whether they are draft picks or NCAA free agents, they all have something to offer.

It wasn’t always this way.

There was a year when a free-agent defenseman out of junior hockey showed up for camp with 20 extra pounds around his waist. I remember wondering to myself, “When Boston’s scouts got together, who in the hell stood up and went to bat for this kid?’’ He didn’t make it through the season in Providence.

Another year there was a hulking brawler who had all kinds of trouble getting around the ice. As he was getting back in shape after an injury, he jumped into a random pickup game at The Dunk one afternoon. I didn’t stick around to watch, but I was told later that a half dozen of the pickup skaters were clearly better than the guy who was being paid to play in the AHL. He was gone in a hurry, too.

That never happens anymore. Some of the youngsters may not have what it takes to ultimately make it to the NHL, but they have at least some readily identifiable qualities that make them good players.

That brings me to this season’s crop of kids. The P-Bruins had seven rookies who played significant minutes. I don’t believe there were any Jake DeBrusks, Danton Heinens or Matt Grzelcyks in the group – guys who have a great chance to move up next season. But some of these players will contribute to the big club in time.

Obviously, no one knows the rookie players like Leach, so I asked him for his thoughts on each of them.

JAKUB ZBORIL

4-15-19 in 68 regular-season games

Leach: “The thing I liked about Z the most is that his willingness to battle increased. In the beginning of the season, whether it was a battle or a mistake was made or whatever, he was almost one and done. He was very quick to try and save the world and then it was over, as opposed to really buckling down and staying in the battle and trying to fix what happened, whether it was his mistake or somebody else’s. As the season progressed, especially late, I thought he was better at sustaining the battle. Getting in there a little bit more.

“In the playoffs, I really thought overall he had a pretty solid four games. He didn’t hurt us and he played some valuable minutes and he was able to be effective. Overall, I thought it was a first year in a really tough league for a defenseman in which he had some growing pains, but he finished on a high note.’’

JEREMY LAUZON

1-6-7 in 52 regular-season games

Leach: “Lauzie always competed, was always someone defensively who would settle things down. As the season went on he became more and more effective as a penalty killer. His offensive play will be something he’ll have to continue to work on. A lot of that comes with experience and playing. He missed over two months of the season with an injury. It will be nice to get another year under his belt, to consistently play, so that he can start to relax a little bit out there with the puck and make plays.

“He’s such a pro. He wants to do everything so well that sometimes he can get in his own way. Like most young players, it will take some time and experience. It’s just playing games. He’s always going to be a competitor. He’s always going to work his hardest. He’s always going to be a professional. It’s just a matter of when it starts to click. Relax, work smart and become a little bit more effective with the puck.”

CONNOR CLIFTON

4-9-13 in 54 regular-season games

“Cliffy drastically improved his game. He was always fun to watch, but there were moments in the beginning of the year when we had a hard time thinking he was going to be able to play for us just because he was so high-risk. His puck management was really poor.

“But he improved. Credit to him. He worked at it, to understand the concepts and the systems that we were trying to apply and then at the same time his puck management became a little bit more sound and he became an effective player.

“His playoffs were excellent. He’s a competitive little bastard to play against. (Lehigh Valley) knew when he was on the ice, they really did. He created some things offensively and was for the most part responsible defensively. He’s fun to watch. I’m sure most people would say that. He brings that element of energy and excitement to our guys that’s infectious.”

EMIL JOHANSSON

2-8-10 in 53 regular-season games

Leach: “Emmy struggled early on. There’s an adjustment to make coming from Sweden. From mid to late December on he got into a pretty good rhythm. Started to simplify the game, to use his skating in some parts of the game and for the most part was effective.

“We got to a point late in the season where he wasn’t in the lineup as much and I found he became a little more inconsistent. Some of that was maybe going in and out. That’s tough for a young player to do sometimes. Overall, it was a good year, a very important year for Emil to be able to play in North America, definitely a different game for him.

“I do think he found his game through all of it. As far as getting to the next level, being a smooth-skating defender who can make simple plays, shutdown plays – that’s obviously our goal moving forward. I’m sure he would have liked getting in more down the stretch, but overall it was a good year for him.

RYAN FITZGERALD

21-16-37 in 65 games

Leach: “Fitz had an excellent year. Production-wise, he had over 20 goals, found his home on the first line with (Austin) Czarnik and (Jordan) Szwarz. Dog on a bone with the puck. Competes. Early on, he had a couple of defensive holes that we had to shore up. He was quick to do so and proved to be a real reliable defensive player when needed. He provided a bunch of energy for his line and was able to finish. We’re excited to see where he’ll land in the next year or two.”

ZACH SENYSHYN

12-14-26 in 66 regular-season games

Leach: “I think Senny was caught off-guard at the pro game, just the way things are here. It’s a lot different from junior. The things you do in junior, you really can’t get away with here. It was an adjustment for him. As the year went on, used his great speed to be a responsible up-and-down winger. He did chip in offensively. He would probably say he didn’t love all his numbers, but it was a respectable start.

“The thing about him – and I said this to him – he is willing and able to do whatever he can to be effective. He has no pretenses about where he is on the depth chart and all that stuff. He just wants to get out there and play and help the team win and obviously become an effective player. He’s willing to do anything he can to do so.

“He’s in a great mindset. It was a real learning experience for him, but I think at the same time he learned a lot of different things that will allow him to transfer his game to the next level, whenever that might come.”

JAKOB FORSBACKA KARLSSON

15-17-32 in 58 regular-season games

Leach: “Production-wise, he was pretty good for his first year. He was injured in February and it did take a while for him to come back. Even when he was back, you go almost right  into the playoffs and it’s hard, especially for a younger guy. Clearly has an abundance of skill. Was able to play in all situations. Terrific on faceoffs.

“At times he was really producing offensively. At other times, he hit a dry spell. That’s probably what’s expected out of a first-year player playing in a really tough league as a centerman. It was a learning experience for him, for sure, like everybody. It will be exciting to see what he brings come fall with a year under his belt down here.”

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

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It was fun while it lasted, but the season is over for the Providence Bruins. They lost both games of their best-of-five Calder Cup series at Lehigh Valley over the weekend – a 4-1 defeat on Friday and a 4-3 overtime heartbreaker on Saturday. The P-Bruins were without injured top 6 forwards Ryan Fitzgerald and Peter Cehlarik in the final game. The Phantoms took the series, 3 games to 1.

For the last time until October, here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** Austin Czarnik was the best player (goalies not included) on either team in the series. Dangerous nearly every time he touched the puck in the offensive zone, he scored a goal in each game and had a total of 9 shots.

*** The P-Bruins did a nice job clawing back from three goals down to force overtime on Saturday. A team with less character might have thrown in the towel, but that’s not who they are. They showed a lot of heart.

*** Tommy Cross was a rock at both ends. He assisted on the only goal on Friday, then scored late in the second period on Saturday, starting Providence’s comeback. He had a total of 11 shots in the two games.

*** I liked the way Cross and Jordan Szwarz got involved in the big scrum midway through the first period on Saturday night, even though they both had to sit for 10 minutes with misconducts. It started when 5-foot-9 Czarnik knocked down 6-foot-5 Phil Myers of the Phantoms.

*** Anton Blidh scored a goal on Saturday and never stopped working in both games.

*** Providence outshot Lehigh Valley, 46-14, over the final 58 minutes on Saturday.

*** In only his third pro game, Karson Kuhlman played well on Saturday, with an assist and four shots.

BAD

***  The P-Bruins didn’t get much from youngsters Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Zach Senyshyn. JFK had no shots on Friday and 1 shot on Saturday. Senyshyn did not have a shot in either game.

*** Paul Postma, Trent Frederic and Adam Payerl were on the ice for 3 goals against in Friday’s 4-1 loss.

*** Lehigh Valley’s second goal on Friday might have been kicked in, but that’s not a call that the road team can expect to get, especially in the playoffs.

*** The power play scored 1 time in 8 chances and gave up a shorthanded goal.

UGLY

*** Slow starts proved to be fatal. The P-Bruins were outshot 19-6 in the first period on Friday and 14-6 in the first period on Saturday.

*** Providence’s overall save percentage for the series was a hideous .875 percent, with Zane McIntyre at .895 and Jordan Binnington at .865.

*** The overtime winner by the Phantoms’ Max Lamarche on Saturday was a bad goal, plain and simple.

*** Injured: Ryan Fitzgerald (upper body); Peter Cehlarik (lower body).

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

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The Providence Bruins played well enough to win the first two games of their first-round Calder Cup series against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, but had to settle for a split.

Providence opened the series with a 3-2 loss on Friday.

“For the most part, we played the game we wanted to play. Took a bad penalty on their power play,” said coach Jay Leach. “They can make you pay. They’ve got a potent offense. If you give them a five on three, you’re asking for trouble.

“We did get some chances. We can do a better job getting in front of (goalie Alex Lyon) and make it a lot harder for  him to make those saves. We can build off it and learn from it at the same time.”

The P-Bruins did that on Saturday, winning a game they absolutely had to have. They wasted a two-goal lead, but thanks to a strong third period, they won, 5-3, and evened the series.

“We were a little bit of a deer in the headlights in the last 10 minutes of that second period,’’ Leach said. “But we did a nice job regrouping and obviously (Jordan Szwarz) made a play, got us up a goal, and then Peter Cehlarik made a play and got us up two. It’s a learning experience for us, for our younger guys and some of the older guys as well.’’

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** Jordan Szwarz scored a big shorthanded goal to give Providence the lead 19 seconds into the third period of Game Two.

*** For my money, Austin Czarnik was the best forward on either team in the first two games. He set up both Providence goals in Game One and his forechecking led to Szwarz’ pivotal shorthanded goal and Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson’s empty-netter in Game Two.

*** Peter Cehlarik had a strong showing in Game Two with two goals.

*** Ryan Fitzgerald scored both Providence goals in Game One.

*** Anton Blidh scored the first goal of the game on Saturday and made his presence felt with some physical forecheckikng.

*** Jeremy Lauzon was plus-3 in Game Two.

BAD

*** Providence gave up two goals in 41 seconds in Game One and two goals in 1:11 in Game Two.

*** With the P-Bruins already shorthanded, Connor Clifton took a bad penalty when he cross-checked a Phantoms player midway through Game One. Lehigh Valley tied the game on the 5-on-3 power play.

*** The P-Bruins’ penalty kill is 15th out of 16 playoff teams at 62.5 percent after allowing three goals on eight chances.

*** Referee Olivier Gouin’s kneeing penalty against Tommy Cross in the second period of Game Two was a bad call.

*** The rest of the series will be played on the road at Lehigh Valley, where the Phantoms have won seven in a row and 10 of 11.

*** The P-Bruins were shut out in their last two regular-season visits to Allentown.

UGLY

*** Sixteen seconds after Providence took the lead in Game One, Danick Martel’s shot from the blueline was one that Zane McIntyre should have had.

*** Injured: Chris Porter (lower body).

It was a war last time P-Bruins and Phantoms met in postseason

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Jay Leach of the P-Bruins and Ben Eager of the Phantoms slug it out in Game Three of the Eastern Conference finals in May 2005.

PROVIDENCE — The only other time before this season that the Providence Bruins played the Phantoms in a playoff series, it was a doozy.

“A big-boy series,’’ recalled Jay Leach, a P-Bruins defenseman at the time.

“Their fourth line was (Todd) Fedoruk, (Josh) Gratton, (Riley) Cote. I do remember we had a brawl in one game that lasted a long time. It was a different era. It was a war. They were a very, very good team.’’

It was the 2004-05 season. The Phantoms were in Philadelphia then, before they made the move to Allentown and changed their name to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Because it was an NHL lockout year, rosters throughout the American Hockey League were stacked with up-and-coming stars like Patrice Bergeron and Eric Staal, who would otherwise have been playing with their parent clubs.

With 103 points, the Phantoms finished second in the East Division behind Binghamton. They beat Bingo in six and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in five to reach the Eastern Conference finals.

Providence had a tougher road. They had to win 10 of their final 15 games to get to the postseason, finishing fourth in the Atlantic Division with 90 points, way behind Manchester, which led the Eastern conference with 110 points.

“The biggest thing is the character that we had on our team. When you look at the players that we had – we were basically put together at the last minute. I think a third of the team was on 25-game tryouts,’’ Scott Gordon recalled this week. He was coaching the P-Bruins then and is now the coach with Lehigh Valley.

“Our No. 1 goalie, Hannu Toivonen, got hurt and wins were hard to come by for a while. Then when he came back, we went on a tear and it got us in the playoffs, so we went into the playoffs basically playing playoff hockey for a month.’’

Facing Manchester, coached by Bruce Boudreau, in the first round, the P-Bruins blew them out in Game One on the road, 5-1, chasing starter Mathieu Garon from the net.

With the series knotted at two, Providence pulled out a 4-2 road win in Game Five as leading scorer Andy Hilbert assisted on all four goals. Then the P-Bruins sent the Monarchs packing with a 3-1 win in Game Six behind goals by Bergeron and Brad Boyes and an empty-netter by Jaymie Filipowicz.

Next up was Lowell, led by Staal and Cam Ward. Providence took Game One and never looked back, beating the Lock Monsters in five games.

Philadelphia was next in the Eastern Conference finals and the P-Bruins were feeling optimistic about their chances.

“I think there was a belief in the room that we had a good chance of winning the Calder Cup,’’ said Gordon. “I’m looking at our team and I’m looking at Philadelphia and I’m saying to myself, ‘They’re pretty thin at center but they going to add these two kids from junior.’ I was like, ‘we should have an advantage here.’

“I feel pretty confident with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Boyes as our centers. One guy played in the NHL the year before and the other guy had been a pro for four or five years. Little did I know that the two guys they brought in were pretty good players in (Jeff) Carter and (Mike) Richards.’’

The Phantoms took Game One, 4-2, behind a Freddy Meyer hat trick. The game was punctuated by a bout between Colton Orr of the P-Bruins and Philly heavyweight Fedoruk, who was known as “The Fridge.”

There was a sizable scrum during warmups before Game Two with plenty of pushing, shoving and face washes. When the puck dropped, Providence was blanked, 3-0, by Philly goalie Antero Niittymaki.

Back in Providence, the P-Bruins won Game Three, 2-1, on Boyes’ overtime goal. A brawl broke out after the deciding goal, with Boyes and Richards trading blows at center ice. Both were suspended for the next game.

With the flu running through the team, Providence lost, 2-1, in Game Four, to fall behind by three games to one.

With their backs to the wall, the P-Bruins dug deep in Game Five, sending Niittymaki to the end of the bench halfway through a 6-4 Providence win.

In Philadelphia for Game Six, Carter scored a goal and set up another in a 4-1 victory, clinching the series, four games to two. The Phantoms would go on to sweep the Chicago Wolves and take home the Calder Cup.

“A lot of people thought we overachieved. But I don’t think we did,’’ Jay Henderson of the P-Bruins told Dan Hickling, who covered the game for The Providence Journal.

“It was a pleasure being on this team,’’ added Ben Guite. “Guys night in and night out gave everything they had.’’

Looking back, Gordon appreciates that his team was beaten by a powerful opponent.

“You look at (the Phantoms) roster now and three quarters of their team played a significant amount of games in the NHL. At the time you don’t realize how good they were, but that was probably one of the better teams that ever played in the AHL,’’ he said.

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

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The Providence Bruins wrapped up the regular season by winning two out of three. They dropped a 5-3 decision at home to Charlotte on Friday; routed Springfield, 5-0, on the road on Saturday; and beat the Thunderbirds, 4-2, at home on Sunday. After finishing fourth in the Atlantic Division, they will face first-place Lehigh Valley in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs, starting with home games on Friday and Saturday.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** The P-Bruins finished seventh overall in the AHL. Four of the top seven teams in the league in the regular season were in the Atlantic Division.

*** Austin Czarnik was credited with the P-Bruins’ final regular season goal on Sunday, capping a great year for the third-year pro. He finished third in scoring in the AHL with 25-44-69 in 64 games. “He’s really raised his level to a place that’s very elite in this league,’’ said coach Jay Leach. A Group 6 free agent, Czarnik could walk as of July 1.

*** Using his speed to his advantage, Zach Senyshyn had a strong weekend, with goals on Friday and Sunday and an assist on Saturday.

*** Ryan Fitzgerald hit the 20-goal mark on Friday and added his 21st on Sunday. He had a strong rookie year with 21-16-37 in 65 games.

*** Zane McIntyre pitched a 24-save shutout on Saturday. It was his seventh of the season, the most in the AHL. He was credited with his second assist of the year on Sunday.

*** In his second game back after missing 18 with a concussion, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson scored twice and set up another on Saturday night.

*** Adam Payerl made a beautiful pass to JFK for a shorthanded goal and sniped a nice power play goal, both on Saturday.

*** Kenny Agostino had 1-3-4 in two games.

*** Jack Studnicka scored his first goal as a pro on  Saturday and Karson Kuhlman had his first assist on Sunday.

*** With crowds of 7,828 on Friday and 9,900 on Sunday, the P-Bruins finished fourth in the league with an average of 8,357, an increase of 94 over last season.

BAD

*** In Friday’s loss to Charlotte, the P-Bruins failed to score on some glorious chances early and took penalties that gave the Checkers’ very skilled forwards the opportunity to take advantage on the power play.

*** With the loss, Providence dropped from third to fourth place in the Atlantic Division.

UGLY

*** Injured: Peter Cehlarik and Josh Hennessy, upper body.

P-Bruins Gameday — JFK’s back & there’s lots on the line vs. Checkers

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PROVIDENCE – The Providence Bruins will close out the regular season with their 14th and final three-in-three, starting with a home game against the Charlotte Checkers Friday night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

It’s an important game in terms of playoff positioning, with the P-Bruins starting the night in third place in the Atlantic Division with a points percentage of .623 and the Checkers in fourth at .622. The P-Bruins have played one fewer game.

The P-Bruins will get back Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Kenny Agostino and Jordan Szwarz tonight. JFK missed 18 games with a concussion, Agostino sat out four with an upper body injury and Szwarz missed two with an unknown injury.

So, with a lot on the line, is coach Jay Leach using his ‘A’ lineup tonight?

“I’m not going to say that,’’ he said this morning.

“We have 29 skaters and I can legitimately say that all 29 can play. The group that’s in tonight is the group that for the most part has been here all year, other than Freddy (Trent Frederic). We’ve had a good year and we’re going to start tonight with the majority of guys that were here and we’ll work off that.

“There are other men here who can do the job as well. We’re going to take the weekend to try to fine tune our game, see what pieces fit. Everyone’s got to be ready. Organizationally, we’re busy right now. We’ll have two series going and it’s all hands on deck. That’s our approach to it.’’

Jordan Binnington starts in goal tonight for the P-Bruins. Zane McIntyre was in Boston last night as the Bruins’ third goalie. He’ll most likely get the start on Saturday in Springfield, Leach said.

Look for former P-Bruin Jeremy Smith to get the start for the Checkers.

Valentin Zykov, tied for first in the AHL with 32 goals, was shaken up when he took a bad fall into the boards during Charlotte’s morning skate. That will be something to keep an eye on.

PROVIDENCE LINEUP

Fitzgerald-Szwarz-Czarnik

Agostino-JFK-Hargrove

Blidh-Cave-Senyshyn

Porter-Frederic-Payerl

Cross-Clifton

Breen-Zboril

Lauzon-Postma

Binnington

After visiting Springfield on Saturday, the P-Bruins close out the regular season against the Thunderbirds on Sunday afternoon. Playoffs are likely to start next Friday.

PROVIDENCE SCRATCHES: Cehlarik (upper body), Hennessy (upper body), Studnicka, Johansson, Hickman, Acolatse, Sherman, Koppanen, Hughes, Keyser, Kuhlman

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins week

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The Providence Bruins took care of business last week, going 2-2 to wrap up their sixth straight berth in the Calder Cup playoffs. The P-Bruins lost, 3-2, at Bridgeport on Tuesday; beat Hartford, 6-3, at home on Friday; beat Bridgeport, 4-2, on the road on Saturday; and lost at home to Lehigh Valley, 6-3, on Sunday.

“Playoff experience cannot be replicated anywhere else. The opportunity that we have to be in the playoffs and take a stab at the (Calder) Cup is awesome. It’s something you battle all year for. We are very excited for that,’’ said coach Jay Leach.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** After another good week, Austin Czarnik is third in scoring in the AHL with 23-43-66 in 62 games. He earned a well-deserved slot on the AHL’s Second All-Star team.

*** Colton Hargrove had a strong week with 2-4-6 in four games.

*** Jeremy Lauzon scored his first goal as a pro on Saturday night.

*** Ryan Fitzgerald scored twice and added a helper on Friday night.

*** Jack Studnicka played well in his first three games as a pro, with four assists.

*** Trent Frederic has points (2-3-5) in the last five games. He had his first fight as a pro on Sunday.

*** The P-Bruins trailed by four goals going into the third period against the Phantoms on Sunday, but made a game of it, outshooting Lehigh Valley, 23-5, and closing to within two goals before giving up a late empty-netter.

*** Back after missing a couple of games because of injury, Zach Senyshyn scored his 10th goal of the season after taking the puck strong to the net in the first minute of the third period on Sunday.

BAD

*** The boarding major called on Sena Acolatse by referee Terry Koharski in Bridgeport on Tuesday was weak. It’s no coincidence that the call came after Jay Leach had given Koho an earful about some blatant interference by the Sound Tigers that went uncalled.

*** The P-Bruins gave up six power play goals in 17 shorthanded situations in their four games.

*** Zane McIntyre gave up eight goals in a 29:59 stretch from the third period on Friday to the second period on Sunday. His numbers took a beating, but there were extenuating circumstances. The three goals on Friday were in garbage time as the P-Bruins finished off a rout and on Sunday a number of mistakes were made by his teammates in front of him.

UGLY

*** Providence was outshot, 20-8, in the first period against Lehigh Valley on Sunday.

*** Injured: Kenny Agostino, Peter Cehlarik, Josh Hennessy (upper body), Justin Hickman (knee).