Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins final week

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A pair of road losses to the Charlotte Checkers closed the book on the 2018-19 Calder Cup playoffs and the season for the Providence Bruins.

The P-Bruins tested the favored Checkers in earning a split in the first two games in Providence, but they were overpowered by Charlotte’s deep, skilled lineup in the final two games.

The P-Bruins were beaten in Game Three, 3-0, and in Game Four, 4-1, as Charlotte took the series, three games to one.

“We didn’t play our best. Unfortunate circumstances. (Dan Vladar) goes down in warmups (before Game Three), which is never the way you draw it up,’’ said coach Jay Leach. “(Charlotte was) good. They were all on the same page. They were really tough. They didn’t give us much room out there.

“They found a higher gear. I can’t say that we as a team, collectively, were able to match that gear. When (Charlotte) pushed, I don’t think everyone was able to get up to that level.’’

Summing up the season, Leach said the good outweighed the bad.

“It was a positive year in that we obviously had to scratch and claw to get in (the playoffs). We had a crazy amount of turnover, with callups and injuries. We had to learn how to make it work with a lot of different combinations, so it was a good year in that regard. We had a lot of players play in a lot of situations that we might not have forecast happening. It was great experience. Overall, it was a positive year and I hope we can build off it,’’ he said.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** In his first start as a pro, 20-year-old Kyle Keyser played well in Game 4, making 26 saves.

*** Jeremy Lauzon, who hadn’t scored an AHL goal since the second game of the regular season in October, netted Providence’s only goal in Charlotte.

*** Jakub Zboril played two strong games in Charlotte. Cooper Zech continued to play well.

*** Jordan Szwarz led the P-Bruins in scoring in the playoffs with 2-2-4 in 4 games.

*** With their season on the line and trailing by two goals, Providence pushed hard in the third period of Game 4. It didn’t pay off, but they deserve credit for the effort, which was there all season.

BAD

*** Dan Vladar was scheduled to start Game 3, but was injured in warmups.

*** The power play went 0 for 10 in Charlotte.

*** Zane McIntyre’s save percentage in his two playoff starts was .855.

*** Providence’s forwards scored only five goals in the four-game series.

*** The P-Bruins were outscored in Charlotte, 7-1.

UGLY

*** Injured: Gemel Smith, Dan Vladar, Anders Bjork.

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

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Jack Studnicka (16) beats Charlotte Checkers goalie Alex Nedeljkovic for Providence’s second goal on Sunday. [The Providence Journal / Kris Craig]

If the underdog Providence Bruins are going to upset the AHL-best Charlotte Checkers in their best-of-five Calder Cup series, they will have to win twice on the road.

The P-Bruins split their first two games at home. Providence fell behind early in Game 1, then rallied to take the lead before Charlotte earned a 5-4 win. In Game 2, the P-Bruins let a two-goal lead get away, but pulled it together in the third period to come away with a critical 4-2 win.

“We’re playing a team that is potent, so they are going to get those blitzes,’’ said coach Jay Leach after Sunday’s game. “We had a great response in the third. We put that behind us and we were able to get one by (Charlotte goalie Alex Nedeljkovic) midway through.

“We were able to park what happened (at the end of the second). Against the best team in the league, it’s going to happen and we’re going to have to be resilient. Our response was exactly what we were looking for.’’

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** The P-Bruins look to Chris Breen, Anton Blidh and Jordan Szwarz for leadership and all three delivered in a big way in Game 1 after Charlotte jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. Breen pummeled Dan Renouf in front of the Checkers bench at the end of the first period. Blidh and Szwarz scored a goal and an assist each.

*** Cooper Zech scored  goals in both games. His solo, end-to-end dash in Game 1 was a beauty.

*** Jack Studnicka was a standout in Game 2, scoring a nice goal off a Lee Stempniak feed and then making a gorgeous pass to Peter Cehlarik for the game-winning goal. He had a game-high 6 shots.

*** With his goal, Cehlarik snapped a 10-game goal-less streak.

*** Dan Vladar was rock-solid with 25 saves in winning Game 2.

BAD

*** Giving up goals in bunches was a problem for the P-Bruins. They allowed two goals in 2:23 before Game 1 was four minutes old, then allowed the Checkers to score twice in 1:19 in the second period of Game 2.

*** Just 16 seconds after tying Game 1 on Paul Carey’s goal, Providence gave up Bobby Sanguinetti’s game-winner in the third period. Both goals appeared to deflect in off a defenseman’s skate at the net front.

*** Sanguinetti drove Gemel Smith’s head into the glass midway through the first period of Game 2, knocking Smith out of the game. There was no call on the play. Curious to see if the AHL opts to suspend Sanguinetti.

*** The next three games are in Charlotte, where the Checkers were 26-7-5-0 in the regular season.

UGLY

***Injured: Gemel Smith, Anders Bjork.

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

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The Providence Bruins got the job done. They needed just one point to clinch a spot in the playoffs going into the last three-in-three weekend of the season. After losing to Lehigh Valley, 4-3, at home on Friday, the P-Bruins beat Springfield, 5-3, on the road on Saturday, ensuring that they’ll be in the playoffs for the seventh straight season. A meaningless home loss to Springfield, 6-1, on Sunday closed out the regular season schedule. They’ll open the playoffs at home against Charlotte on Saturday night.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** Providence finished fourth in the Atlantic Division with a record of 38-27-8-3. They started slowly but turned it around while dealing with numerous injuries and callups. Full credit to players and coaches.

*** Paul Carey led the team in scoring with 27-33-60 in 59 games. He scored six goals in his last four games and 22 goals in 30 games after being acquired from Belleville in January.

*** After scoring once in 17 games, Trent Frederic broke out with a hat trick in the second period in Springfield.

*** Tanner Pond’s spin-around pass to Frederic for a goal on Saturday was a beauty.

*** Lee Stempniak had 1-1-2 on Saturday. Ryan Fitzgerald and Peter Cehlarik had two assists each.

*** Jordan Szwarz – who finished the season with a career-high 23 goals — and Gemel Smith had a goal and an assist each in Friday’s win.

*** Sunday’s final regular season home game drew 10,096 fans. Providence finished with an average attendance of 8,045, fifth in the AHL.

*** Home fans got their money’s worth as the P-Bruins went 24-9-4-1 at The Dunk, fifth-best in the league.

*** The P-Bruins finished with the fourth-best penalty kill in the AHL at 85 percent.

BAD

*** Providence gave up shorthanded goals on Friday and Sunday. They finished the regular season with 15 shorthanded goals against, third-worst in the league.

*** Playing with a depleted lineup because of injuries and illness, the P-Bruins fell behind by four goals against Lehigh Valley.

*** The P-Bruins were whistled for two too-many-men penalties on Saturday night in Springfield.

*** Providence gave up four power-play goals in 13 chances on the weekend.

*** While the P-Bruins were shorthanded seven times on Saturday, they had only three power plays.

UGLY

*** Injured: Chris Breen, Cameron Hughes, Anders Bjork

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

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No doubt about it, the Providence Bruins had a good weekend. They won two of three games and moved to the brink of clinching a place in the playoffs for the seventh straight season.

With a lineup depleted by injuries and callups, Providence outscored Bridgeport, 8-5, at home on Friday. With an even more depleted lineup on Saturday, the P-Bruins hung in before losing, 4-3, at Bridgeport. On Sunday, Providence got four players back from Boston and earned a 3-1 victory over Utica at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

The P-Bruins finished the weekend with a magic number of one to make the playoffs.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** Paul Carey was brilliant all weekend. He scored twice on both Friday and Saturday and had 5-3-8 for the weekend. He’s scored 21 goals in 29 games since being acquired from Belleville, including 13 goals in the last 13 games.

*** Providence finished the weekend five points ahead of fifth-place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with three games left in the regular season.

*** The power play was 3 for 4 on Friday and 4 for 11 for the weekend.

*** Cooper Zech had an assist in all three games.

*** Zane McIntyre was excellent on Sunday, making some key saves in the third period to protect the lead.

*** Tanner Pond walked a Bridgeport defenseman and set up Mark McNeill for a goal with a pretty pass on Friday night.

*** Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson scored in all three games and has four goals in his last five games.

*** In his first game with Providence, Victor Berglund scored his first AHL goal.

*** Jordan Szwarz had 1-3-4 for the weekend.

*** Providence scored a season-high eight goals on Friday.

BAD

*** The penalty kill allowed three goals on nine penalties in the two games against Bridgeport.

UGLY

*** Injured: Chris Breen, Kyle Cumiskey, Cameron Hughes, Anders Bjork

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins week

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The Providence Bruins won just one of three road games last week, but the win was a beauty. After losing, 2-0, at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday, they outshot the North Division-leading Crunch, 33-20, in a 3-2 win on Friday, then lost at Hershey, 2-1, on Saturday.

With six games left, Providence is fourth in the Atlantic Division and holds the last playoff slot. As of Monday, they are five points ahead of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and six points up on Lehigh Valley. The magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 10.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** Providence rebounded nicely in the win in Syracuse as Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson scored the go-ahead goal just 15 seconds after the Crunch tied the game in the third period. Then the P-Bruins added a goal by Gemel Smith 2:18 later.

*** Peter Cehlarik made a nifty backhand pass on Lee Stempniak’s goal in Hershey. The Bears gave Stempniak time and space and he took advantage.

*** Stempniak was in on every goal on the weekend with 2-2-4. He put on a show in Syracuse, scoring after taking a beautiful pass from Jordan Szwarz, then handing out perfect passes to JFK and Gemel Smith for goals.

*** Cooper Zech wiped out Hershey’s Shane Gersich with an old-fashioned hip check on Saturday.

*** Jeremy Lauzon gave Syracuse’s Gabriel Dumont a sound thrashing in a fight on Friday.

*** Four of Providence’s final six games will be at home, where they are 22-7-4-1.

BAD

*** The P-Bruins scored just four goals in three games.

*** No one likes giving up a goal in the first minute of a period. Hershey got one 17 seconds into the third period to tie the game.

*** Providence’s power play went 1 for 15, including 0 for 7 in Hershey.

***  The P-Bruins were whistled for yet another penalty for shooting the puck over the glass in Hershey. The Bears scored the game-winner on the ensuing power play.

UGLY

*** After three road games in four nights, the bus home from Hershey pulled into Providence at 4:15 a.m. on Sunday.

***Injured: Urho Vaakanainen, Chris Breen, Gemel Smith, Jakub Zboril, Cameron Hughes, Anders Bjork.

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins week

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It was a very productive week for the Providence Bruins. They reaped five of six points from a three-game stretch that included a bus ride to Canada and back followed by two home games.

After making the 750-mile round trip to Laval for just one game, the P-Bruins earned a point in a 3-2 shootout loss against the Rocket on Wednesday. Back home, they shut down a good Belleville team, 2-0, on Friday and beat Binghamton, 3-1, on Saturday.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** As of Monday morning, Providence is tied in points with Hershey with 79. With nine games left, the P-Bruins and Bears are five points ahead of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the race for the last Atlantic Division playoff slot.

*** On Saturday night, the P-Bruins made two spectacular passing plays for goals.  Paul Carey to Kyle Cumiskey, then Gemel Smith to Trent Frederic to Jordan Szwarz. Beautiful.

*** The line of Carey, Szwarz and Smith was dominant against Binghamton.

*** Carey was in on all three goals against the Devils with two goals and an assist. He leads the team in scoring with 21-29-50 in 52 games.

*** Szwarz reached the 20-goal mark for the third straight season on Friday, then added his 21st on Saturday.

*** Zane McIntyre played very well with 28 saves in the loss in Laval and then recorded his second shutout of the year and the 11th of his P-Bruins career on Friday. He is tied with Tim Thomas and Hannu Toivonen for the franchise record.

*** The P-Bruins put the clamps on the Senators on Friday, allowing only 14 shots, including just 1 in the third period.

*** It was a good week for special teams. Providence scored a power play goal in all three games and killed all 11 penalties against them.

*** Stuart Percy scored his first Providence goal in Laval. And Cooper Zech earned his first assist as a pro.

BAD

*** Three very challenging road games await Providence this week: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday; Syracuse on Friday; and Hershey on Saturday.

*** It had been a few weeks between delay of game calls for shooting the puck into the stands, but Providence picked one up in Laval.

*** Department of Shaky Officiating: The holding call against Jeremy Lauzon in the third period on Saturday was not one of referee Jason Williams’ best moments.  Anton Blidh was whistled for slashing late in Friday’s game. Even Belleville’s play-by-play guy called it a “very cheesy’’ penalty.

UGLY

*** You don’t often see a cross-check to the head as bad as Darren Archibald’s on Trent Frederic on Friday night. Archibald received a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Looked suspension-worthy to me.

*** Injured: Anton Blidh, Urho Vaakanainen, Cameron Hughes, Anders Bjork.

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

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Even if the Providence Bruins had their full lineup, earning three out of four points in road games at Lehigh Valley and Wilkes-Barre Scranton would have been a fine weekend.

The P-Bruins did it with a lineup depleted by callups and injuries, especially on defense, where they were forced to go with three rookies and two second-year pros.

On Friday, Providence jumped all over the Phantoms, scoring twice in the first 93 seconds on the way to a 5-3 win. On Saturday, they lost in overtime, 2-1, against a Penguins team that didn’t play on Friday. “Other than seven minutes in the second, I thought we were the better team. They capitalized and (Tristan) Jarry was good,’’ said coach Jay Leach.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** When the weekend ended, Providence continued to hold onto the fourth and last playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. With 74 points, they are five up on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and six ahead of  Lehigh Valley. With 12 games left, their magic number to clinch a playoff spot in 22.

*** Down from Boston, Peter Cehlarik was productive right off the bat, setting up a goal in the first minute and scoring one against the Phantoms.

*** Lee Stempniak scored twice  against Lehigh Valley. Anton Blidh made a beautiful pass to set up Stempniak’s first goal on Friday. On the second goal, Karson Kuhlman made a nifty play to set up Stempniak for a shorthanded goal.

*** Ryan Fitzgerald scored his first goal in 28 games against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

*** Zach Senyshyn broke a 14-game goalless streak just 47 seconds into the game on Friday.

*** Dan Vladar backstopped the win in Allentown with 19 saves, one of them an incredible stop on Mike Vecchione on a first period power play. “Ludicous’’ is how Phantoms play by play guy Bob Rotruck described it.

*** Providence outshot Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the third period, 21-7.

BAD

*** The P-Bruins have to bus all the way to Laval, Quebec, for just one game on Wednesday.

*** No assist for Gemell Smith on  Cehlarik’s empty net goal in Allentown? He won a defensive zone draw, allowing Providence to gain possession.

UGLY

*** Injured: Chris Breen, Jeremy Lauzon, Urho Vaakanainen, Cameron Hughes, Kyle Cumiskey, Anders Bjork.

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

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All things considered, it was a good weekend at home for the Providence Bruins.

They came away with four out of six points and they earned those points by beating one of the AHL’s hottest teams, the Hershey Bears, in a pair of very entertaining back-to-back games.

Friday’s contest went to a shootout before the P-Bruins won, 3-2. On Saturday, they came away with a 4-3 victory in overtime. On Sunday, they lost to Springfield, 3-1.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** Playing with all kinds of swagger, Connor Clifton was the star of the weekend. He set up two goals on Friday and two more on Saturday. “Connor Clifton just put on a magic show,’’ said Hershey play-by-play man Zack Fisch after Clifton dangled his way into the offensive zone then found Paul Carey with a perfect pass for a goal on Friday night. Clifton had another terrific zone entry on Saturday night before finding Carey for the winner 12 seconds into overtime.

*** Carey had 1-1-2 on Friday and two goals on Saturday. He had six goals in four games before being blanked on Sunday. He has 14-6-20 in 21 games since he was traded to Providence.

*** Anton Blidh scored the shootout winner and Zane McIntyre stopped all six Hershey shooters in Friday night’s win.

*** Urho Vaakanainen’s offensive game continues to improve. He had goals on Saturday and Sunday.

*** Trent Frederic had fights on Friday and Saturday and made a picture-perfect pass to Vaakanainen for a goal on Sunday.

*** Great diving effort by Jordan Szwarz to score his 19th goal of the year on Friday.

*** Providence finished the weekend five points up on Lehigh Valley in the race for the final Atlantic Division playoff slot.

BAD

*** Department of Poor Officiating: The refereeing tag team of Mike Dietrich and Jason Williams made a couple of head-scratching calls on Sunday. In the first period, Springfield’s Jacob MacDonald clearly instigated a fight with Mike Doherty after a hard hit but wasn’t given a penalty for it. In the second period, Dietrich watched as Providence’s Joel Messner crosschecked Cliff Pu and Pu responded with three crosschecks. When Dietrich finally raised his arm it was to call a penalty only on Messner.

*** Vaakanainen lost a puck battle behind the net leading to Hershey’s first goal on Saturday.

*** Zach Senyshyn’s goal drought has hit 14 games.

*** A challenging weekend awaits as Providence visits Lehigh Valley and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

UGLY

*** Injured: Chris Breen, Jeremy Lauzon, Kyle Cumiskey, Cameron Hughes, Anders Bjork

 

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

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The Providence Bruins finished the first weekend of March on a high note with a 5-2 win over Springfield at home on Sunday. That gave the P-Bruins three out of six points for the weekend.

The P-Bruins started the weekend with a 2-1 loss in a shootout at home against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday, then lost at Springfield, 4-2, on Saturday.

Coach Jay Leach after Sunday’s win: “I really didn’t mind our team for the most part throughout the weekend. We’ve been struggling a little bit, obviously we’ve had some injuries that have put some strain on some of our guys. It was a huge win. Clearly we had some energy and desperation in our game today and it was nice to see a lot of response from a lot of guys.’’

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** Connor Clifton was a standout in Sunday’s win with 1-1-2 and eight shots.

*** Urho Vaakanainen had his best game in the last few weekends on Sunday. He finished with 2-1-3 and was on the ice for all five Providence goals.

*** Paul Carey had a strong weekend with 1-1-2 on Saturday and two goals on Sunday.

*** Included in Zane McIntyre’s 27 saves on Sunday were a handful of 10-bell stops that kept the P-Bruins in the lead. He had a terrific game on Friday, too, with 39 saves.

*** Anton Blidh was a standout on the penalty kill late in Sunday’s game. Chris Breen, Clifton, Jordan Szwarz and McIntyre did a great job killing a penalty in overtime on Friday night.

*** Providence finished the weekend in fourth place in the Atlantic Division, one point behind Hershey. They are five points up on Lehigh Valley and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

*** All three of Providence’s games next weekend are at home.

BAD

*** The P-Bruins are zero for their last 24 power plays.

*** Department of Bad Officiating: Referee Troy Paterson fell for Tristan Jarry’s flop in the crease after Jordan Szwarz barely bumped him in the third period on Friday.  He called Szwarz for goaltender interference.

*** The P-Bruins were called for seven penalties on Sunday, compared to just one against Springfield.

*** Tanner Pond took an ill-advised roughing penalty that led to a Springfield power play goal in the first period on Sunday.

*** Zach Senyshyn is in an 11-game goal-less streak. Since scoring five goals in four games in December, he has three goals in his last 25 games.

UGLY

*** Injured: Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson, Ryan Fitzgerald, Chris Breen, Jeremy Lauzon, Kyle Cumiskey, Cameron Hughes, Austin Fyten, Joona Koppanen, Anders Bjork

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

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The Providence Bruins kept their heads above water by earning three of six points over the weekend.

They lost in overtime to Bridgeport, 5-4, at home on Friday; beat Hartford in overtime, 3-2, on the road on Saturday; and lost to the Wolf Pack, 4-1, at home on Sunday.

Coach Jay Leach didn’t sugarcoat Sunday’s game, which was his team’s worst of the season on home ice.

“It wasn’t good. We were terrible. Power play was obviously terrible. Our execution was terrible. Even when we made some plays, the boards were terrible. It was not a good game for us. It was frustrating and disappointing,’’ he said.

Despite that bad game, the P-Bruins finished the weekend in playoff position. They are in fourth place, four points ahead of Lehigh Valley and a point behind Hershey.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** Gemel Smith continues to be a standout. He had 1-1-2 on Friday and goals on Saturday and Sunday. His goal in Hartford was a beauty. He danced a defender and then picked a corner from the faceoff dot. Smith has 27 points in 28 games for the P-Bruins.

*** Connor Clifton had a strong weekend. On Saturday, he made a nice play to set up the winning goal in OT and was on the ice for all three Providence goals. On Sunday, he had an assist and six shots.

*** Jordan Szwarz scored in overtime for the win in Hartford. With a team-leading 18 goals, he is closing in on his third straight 20-goal season.

*** Ryan Fitzgerald made a gorgeous pass to Lee Stempniak for a breakaway goal on Saturday.

*** Paul Carey scored twice against Bridgeport.

*** Michael Doherty decisioned Hartford’s Ryan Lindgren in a fight on Saturday.

BAD

*** Providence had only eight shots halfway through Sunday’s game.

*** From the Department of Bad Officiating: Referees Jason Faist and Michael Markovic had a tough night on Friday. Lee Stempniak was victimized twice. He was sent to the box in the first minute for goalie interference after a Bridgeport defenseman knocked over goalie Christopher Gibson. If you are rating bad calls on a scale of 1-10, this one was an 11. In the second period, he received four minutes for checking to the head after a collision with Connor Jones. It’s debatable whether it merited even a two-minute penalty, never mind four minutes.

*** Urho Vaakanainen had a rough day on Sunday.

UGLY

*** Providence was outscored, 3-1, on the power play, which went 1 for 16 in the three games. It’s 22nd in the AHL at 17.2 percent. The P-Bruins gave up a shorthanded goal on Saturday and two more on Sunday.  Their total for the season is 13. Only Stockton with 15 has given up more.

*** Injured: Jeremy Lauzon, Cameron Hughes, Kyle Cumiskey, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Austin Fyten, Anders Bjork.