Despite a brutal travel schedule, the Providence Bruins earned five out of six points on the road over the last week.
On Wednesday in Hershey, the P-Bruins scored a late goal to force overtime before losing, 4-3. Inexplicably, they traveled home to Rhode Island after the game, then got on the bus again for their game in Bridgeport – a 3-2 win — on Friday night. After that game, they rode the bus to Pennsylvania yet again for Saturday night’s game against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Providence won that one by a 5-1 score.
As of Sunday night, Providence held down third place in the Atlantic Division, behind first-place Springfield and second-place Hartford.
Here’s the good, bad and ugly.
— It was an excellent week for Zach Senyshyn, who scored four goals and added two helpers in the three games. He set up a goal in Hershey, scored one in Bridgeport, then scored his second hat trick of the season and an assist against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Providence has won the last 14 games in which he scored a goal.
— The penalty kill is the best in the league at 88.7 percent as of Sunday evening.
— Jack Studnicka played a strong game on Saturday. He scored an empty netter to snap a stretch of five games without a goal. While he didn’t get a point on the play, his faceoff win in the offensive end led to a power-play goal by Senyshyn against the Penguins.
— The line of Oskar Steen-Steven Fogarty-Jesper Froden was dangerous in every game. With his back to the net, Froden banked in a goal off the netminder in Bridgeport. Coach Ryan Mougenel: “Usually when you have offensive guys like that, they tend to cheat, but not these three. I’m impressed with Froden and how hard he plays. Steen has really grown as a player and Fogarty is elite at this level.”
— Cameron Hughes scored his first goal of the season in Hershey and has four points in the last four games. He and Jack Ahcan had 1-1-2 against the Bears.
— Trailing by a goal, Providence outshot Bridgeport, 18-7, in the second period and scored three times, including two goals in 64 seconds in the last minute and a half.
— Sammy Asselin’s pass to Senyshyn for a tap in on Saturday night was a thing of beauty.
— Eduards Tralmaks made a nice play to set up Joona Koppanen’s goal in Bridgeport.
— Brady Lyle scored his first goal of the season on Saturday.
— Ian McKinnon took on Hershey’s Dylan McIlrath, one of the top fighters in the AHL, and acquitted himself well.
— The P-Bruins gave up two goals in 53 seconds early in the third period in Hershey. That turned a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 deficit.
— They turned the puck over on a power play against the Bears and allowed Joe Snively to score a shorthanded goal on a breakaway.
— At home, the power play is 27th in the league at 14.3 percent.
— Two bus rides to Pennsylvania and back in five days? Brutal.
— Injured/sick: Josiah Didier, John Moore, Nick Wolff, Curtis Hall, Eduards Tralmaks
On the sixth weekend of the AHL season, the Providence Bruins spun their wheels.
They posted an impressive 2-1 overtime win over a very good Hartford Wolf Pack team on Friday, then dropped a 3-1 decision on Saturday to a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton squad that they beat handily on the road a couple of weeks ago.
The loss continued a pattern of not really being able to string together good back-to-back performances.
They did manage to hold their place in the standings, finishing the weekend in a three-way tie for third place in the Atlantic Division with Hershey and Charlotte.
Here is the good, bad and ugly.
— Troy Grosenick returned to the crease after missing a month with an ankle injury and played very well with 23 saves in the win over Hartford.
— Oskar Steen’s goal in OT on Friday was a beauty. After taking a pass from Aaron Ness, Steven Fogarty found Steen with a good feed. Steen waited patiently for the right moment to fire the puck past Adam Huska to send the P-Bruins home with a win.
— It was the best weekend of the season for Aaron Ness. He was effective at both ends and assisted on all three of Providence’s goals.
— Continuing his strong two-way play, Steven Fogarty assisted on both goals on Friday. He has 4-7-11 in his last 10 games.
— Urho Vaakanainen continued his solid play. There’s no flash in his game, but that’s OK. He’s been very steady lately.
— Providence’s penalty kill is a bright spot. It is second in the league at 89.1 percent. The PK played a big part in Friday’s win, killing a four-minute high-sticking penalty to John Moore just two minutes into the game.
— Providence had three power play opportunities in the first 18 minutes in Saturday night’s loss to the Penguins but didn’t take advantage, coming up empty on all three. While they did score a power play goal in the third period, they ended up going 1 for 7 on the night.
— One goal on 43 shots for Providence on Saturday.
— The schedule for the coming week is rough. Providence will travel to Hershey for a Wednesday night game. They will return home after the game. They will play at Bridgeport on Friday night and then get on the bus for another trip to Pennsylvania and a game at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday night. For those keeping score at home, that’s two separate trips to Pennsylvania in the space of five days/nights. Brutal.
It was a bit of a rollercoaster week for the Providence Bruins.
They lost a game, won a game and earned a point in an overtime loss. They finished with three out of six points.
The P-Bruins started on a sour note, losing to the Springfield Thunderbirds, 4-1, on Wednesday. They bounced back on Friday, beating the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, 6-3. Then they fell to the Hartford Wolf Pack, 2-1, in overtime on Saturday.
“Overtime, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really happy with that goal. We had a few guys circling in front of our own net. It’s Hockey 101 — stopping and reacting. When you play on the move like that, bad things happen,’’ said coach Ryan Mougenel.
Here’s the good, bad and ugly.
— The win over Lehigh Valley on Friday was by far the most entertaining game of the year. Plenty of goals and four fights. It was fun to watch.
— There was a lot of emotion in Friday night’s win, too. Emily Cave, widow of former P-Bruins captain Colby Cave, dropped the puck in a ceremonial faceoff before the game. Then Zach Senyshyn – a close friend of Colby – scored a hat trick, pointing to the heavens after the third goal. It was a special moment.
— Nick Wolff played a strong game against the Phantoms, defending well and standing up for his teammates with two fights. As of the end of the day Sunday, he led the AHL with 42 penalty minutes.
— Urho Vaakanainen, who has been playing well while partnered with Wolff, scored his first goal of the season against Springfield.
— Jack Studnicka scored a goal after a flashy spin-around pass from Brady Lyle on Friday, then used his speed to back off the defense, enter the offensive zone and dish to Jakub Lauko for a goal on Saturday.
— Kyle Keyser dove across the crease to make a fabulous save on Sam Anas of the T-Birds in the third period on Wednesday. Save of the year so far for the P-Bruins.
— Steven Fogarty scored a goal and an assist in the win over the Phantoms. Jesper Froden and Jack Ahcan posted a pair of assists each.
— Chris Wagner blew up Anthony Greco and Libor Hajek of the Wolf Pack with big hits on Saturday.
— Providence’s special teams are trending up. The power play, which went two for four on Friday, is tenth in the league at 21.7 percent. The penalty kill is sixth at 87 percent.
— Jon Gillies is the 19th former Providence College player to skate for the P-Bruins. With 31 saves, he won his third straight start against Lehigh Valley. His save percentage is .948 and his goals-against average is 1.67.
— Jack Dougherty, a veteran of 286 AHL games, was solid in his season debut on Saturday.
— No one puts a whole lot of stock in plus-minus anymore, but if you’re near the bottom of the league in that stat, well, that’s not where you want to be. Of the 878 AHL players so far, Jakub Lauko’s minus-nine in 12 games is 877th and Cameron Hughes’ minus-nine in nine games falls at No. 875., Alex Nylander of Rockford is last with minus-10 in 10 games.
— Providence was 2:32 away from a win in regulation time against Hartford before the Wolf Pack tied the game with Nick Wolff in the box for cross-checking.
The Providence Bruins took a big step forward on the road over the weekend, returning home from a pair of games in Pennsylvania with four out of four points.
The P-Bruins dominated the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 6-2, on Friday, then beat the Hershey Bears, 3-0, on Saturday.
Jon Gillies, who joined the team on a PTO on Wednesday, was the story of the weekend, stopping 58 of 60 shots. Gillies is playing for a contract, whether with the Bruins or another team.
“The one thing that I’m about and our staff is about — we’re big believers in transparency. We told him everything that was going to happen. He was going to get a chance to start and I couldn’t go beyond that,’’ coach Ryan Mougenel said after Gillies blanked Hershey.
“I think that’s the biggest thing you can do with someone who’s looking for those opportunities. There’s a lot of guys in that room and they’re all going through different experiences in their journey. I think he’s no different. There’s a lot of great goalies out there and not a lot of jobs. It’s a tough market, so it’s really great to see him having success. We’ll just keep plugging away.”
Here’s the good, bad and ugly.
— The line of Jesper Froden, Steven Fogarty and Oskar Steen had a terrific weekend.
— Red-hot Oskar Steen scored twice on Friday and recorded a pair of helpers on Saturday. He has 5-5-10 in his last five games.
— Steven Fogarty scored a goal and an assist on Friday, then scored twice – off beautiful setups by Steen and Froden — and assisted on another goal on Saturday.
— Jesper Froden has 2-5-7 in his last four games.
— Chris Wagner continues his excellent two-way play. He scored a goal in each game.
— John Moore had a strong weekend, too. He had primary assists on two power play goals on Friday.
— Jon Gillies’ save percentage after the two games is .968.
— Providence went three-for-five on the power play against the Penguins. The PP was 26th in the league a couple of weeks ago, but now is up to 13th, clicking at 21.1 percent.
— Zach Senyshyn scored his first goal of the year on Friday night.
— Matt Filipe had a big shot block as Providence guarded a one-goal lead in the third period against Hershey.
— At the Giant Center on Saturday night, a video tribute to Aaron Ness and Tyler Lewington – longtime Hershey Bears who are now with Providence – was played on the big board. Classy gesture by the Bears.
— Joona Koppanen made a nice play to Eddie Tralmaks, who went top shelf for Providence’s fifth goal on Friday night.
— Providence has killed 15 straight penalties. The PK is third in the AHL at 88.2 percent.
— The P-Bruins moved up to fourth place in the Atlantic Division. They were seventh a week ago. With five straight games at home, they have a great opportunity to continue to move up.
— The P-Bruins had two clean breakaways on Saturday – Joona Koppanen and Jakub Lauko – and didn’t convert. In fact, both players missed the net.
— Slow start in Hershey. Providence was outshot, 8-2, in the first six minutes of the game.
— The team bus arrived home from Hershey at 3 a.m. on Sunday.
— Injured: Josiah Didier, Cameron Hughes, Victor Berglund, Troy Grosenick
It was one step forward, one step back for the Providence Bruins over the weekend.
They snapped a frustrating offensive dry spell in a 4-3 win at home against Charlotte on Friday night, then lost in Bridgeport, 6-4, on Saturday night, after jumping out to a 4-2 lead.
“We did not defend the right way. It was tough to watch. The forwards were good. (Oskar) Steen and his line were outstanding. (Chris) Wagner was really good. (There were) a lot of good things,” said coach Ryan Mougenel.
“It’s never as bad as you think, but it definitely felt that bad when we were on the bench. It’s been awhile since we’ve gone through that … not being able to defend. But it’s fixable, which is the good news.”
The P-Bruins finished the weekend in seventh place in the eight-team Atlantic Division, but it’s very early and the teams ahead of them are well within reach.
Here’s the good, bad and ugly.
— It’s alive! The offense, that is. The P-Bruins scored eight goals on the weekend after putting the puck in the net just seven times in their previous five games. Hey, it’s a start.
— Oskar Steen, just back from Boston, gave Providence a huge lift with two goals and a pair of assists in Bridgeport. The first score was a well-executed rush on which Brady Lyle entered the zone and passed to Jesper Froden, who dished to Steen for a one-timer. Steen leads the team in scoring with 3-3-6 in four games.
— After going without a point in his first five games, Jesper Froden broke out with two goals on Friday and two assists on Saturday. Jakub Lauko grabbed the puck for Froden after he scored his first AHL goal.
— John Moore had a strong weekend, scoring his first goal on Saturday on a power play, with help from Chris Wagner and Zach Senyshyn creating traffic in front, and adding two assists.
— Jakub Lauko displayed his electric speed in scoring his first goal of the season against Charlotte.
— Joona Koppanen tallied his first goal of the season, taking a pass from Jack Ahcan and overpowering Charlotte goalie Christopher Gibson with a wicked wrister.
— The power play, which had been struggling, scored three times on seven chances in the two games.
— After playing very well on Friday night, Kyle Keyser gave up four goals on the first 10 shots he faced on Saturday. The blame wasn’t all his, to be sure. He was victimized by some shoddy D-zone coverage and poor puck management in front of him.
— Tough break for Brady Lyle in Bridgeport. He blew a tire in the defensive zone, Simon Holmstrom grabbed the puck and seconds later it was in the net for the third goal for the Islanders.
— Cameron Hughes was on the ice for four Islanders goals and Jakub Lauko for three on Saturday.
— The P-Bruins face a difficult road trip this weekend, with games at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday and Hershey on Saturday.
— The P-Bruins led 4-2 26 minutes into Saturday’s game, then gave up four straight goals in losing, 6-4.
— Injured: Josiah Didier, Troy Grosenick, Nick Wolff, Victor Berglund
No doubt about it, the second weekend of the season was a tough one for the Providence Bruins.
They earned a point in a 2-1 overtime loss in Utica on Friday night, but that was as good as it got. They returned home and lost, 4-0, to Laval on Saturday and 4-1 to Springfield on Sunday.
Obviously, you aren’t going to win many games when you score two goals in nine periods, plus a couple of minutes of OT. Sunday was particularly frustrating as Providence fired 40 shots on net but scored just once, on a five-on-three power play.
“We haven’t been capitalizing. Outchancing a team doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’re winning the game. We’ve got to find a better way to get ahead and then put our foot down and close teams out,’’ said coach Ryan Mougenel.
Here’s the good, bad and ugly.
— Kyle Keyser played well in both of his starts with 29 saves on Friday and 28 on Sunday.
— Oskar Steen showed off his quick hands in scoring his first goal of the season against Utica. He was set up by Cameron Hughes.
— Jakub Lauko made a nice pass to Jack Ahcan, who scored Providence’s only goal on Sunday.
— In his first fight of the season, Ian McKinnon won a clear decision over Michael Pezzetta of Laval on Saturday.
— Referees Patrick Hanrahan and Mason Riley got the call wrong when they allowed Utica’s first goal on Friday. It was deflected into the net with a high stick.
— In the same game, Jakub Lauko was whistled for holding by Hanrahan after he got tied up with a Comets player. Terrible call.
— Providence’s power play is 26th in the league at 9.5 percent.
— After arriving home from Utica at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, the P-Bruins faced a Laval squad that was rested and ready after not playing on Friday night.
— Providence had a three on one in OT on Friday, but failed to capitalize.
— They were outshot, 16-3, in the first 25 minutes in Utica.
— Through six games, only six players have goals to their name and two of them — Jack Studnicka and Oskar Steen — are on recall to Boston. No one has more than one goal.
— With 7 goals on 170 shots, the P-Bruins are scoring on 4.1 percent of their shots.
— Injured: Josiah Didier, Troy Grosenick, Victor Berglund, J.D. Greenway
With a shootout win at home followed by a shootout loss on the road, the Providence Bruins kicked off the 2021-22 season over the weekend by taking three out of four points.
The P-Bruins edged Bridgeport, 2-1, on Saturday, then lost to Hartford, 4-3, on Sunday.
After a year in which the P-Bruins played home games in Marlboro, Mass., with no fans, it was great to have people back in the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Saturday night.
On Sunday, new coach Ryan Mougenal was pleased with the way his team came from behind in the third period to earn a point.
“I think we learned a lot today. It showed a lot of who we were. We’re exciting to watch, that’s for sure. We made some high-end plays with a little bit of risk mixed in there, but I’ll tell you this: it’s a great bunch to be around, they’re a lot of fun. I like our team a lot. If we play like that this year, we’ll be in real good shape,’’ he said.
Here’s the good, bad and ugly.
— It was a strong weekend for Kyle Keyser. He came off the bench after Troy Grosenick left Saturday night’s game with a lower-body injury and stopped all 19 shots he faced, then denied both Bridgeport shootout attempts. He made a spectacular glove save on Austin Czarnik of the Islanders in the third period. On Sunday, he made some huge stops in the third period as the P-Bruins came from behind to force overtime and earn a point. He also stopped five straight attempts in the shootout before the Wolf Pack finally put a puck behind him.
— The line of Jakub Lauko, Jack Studnicka and Chris Wagner was effective in both games. Wagner recorded four shots in each game and banged in the tying goal on a third-period power play on Sunday. Studnicka scored in the shootout on Saturday, then added a goal and an assist on Sunday. Lauko recorded two assists on Sunday and came to the defense of Studnicka after an elbow by Hartford’s Anthony Bitetto.
— A pair of Atlantic Division title banners were unfurled at The Dunk on Saturday.
— In addition to Studnicka and Wagner, Tyler Lewington on Saturday and Sammy Asselin on Sunday recorded their first goals of the season.
— Jesper Froden buried the winner in the shootout on Saturday.
— Providence gave up a shorthanded goal to Johnny Brodzinski of Hartford in the second period on Sunday.
— The P-Bruins allowed 16 shots in the first period against Bridgeport.
— Injured: Josiah Didier, Troy Grosenick, J.D. Greenway, Victor Berglund
Some of the names have changed, as they do every year in the American Hockey League, but all indications are that the Providence Bruins again will be a strong team in the Atlantic Division this season.
No surprise there, as the P-Bruins have finished at the top of the division for the last two seasons. With fans back in the stands for the first time in a year and a half, a pair of championship banners will be unfurled before the home opener on Saturday night.
One big change is behind the bench as Ryan Mougenel moves up to head coach after Jay Leach departed for the Seattle Kraken.
The departure of general manager John Ferguson Jr. is also a major development, as he moved on to the Arizona Coyotes as assistant GM. Ferguson’s duties will be covered by Evan Gold, Boston’s assistant general manager and director of legal affairs, and Jamie Langenbrunner, director of player development and player personnel adviser.
“The team will play with the same structure. I do think that ability to move pucks north to the forwards, that needs to be part of the emphasis as well,’’ Gold said.
“I’m excited that, hopefully, everything shakes out where every night we should have pretty good goaltending, the ability to defend and hopefully put some goals in.’’
Here’s how the 2021-22 P-Bruins look:
Providence has a strong, deep group up front with the potential to put up some good offensive numbers.
“Depth will be a strength of the group. Through the middle of the ice we’ve got a lot of versatility, some two-position players, so (Mougenel) will have good options in terms of lineup construction,’’ said Gold.
At the top of the lineup, Cameron Hughes and newcomer Steven Fogarty are proven AHL players. Ball-of-energy Jakub Lauko could be poised for a breakout season and maybe his first NHL callup if he can stay healthy. Sammy Asselin, who earned his first NHL contract over the summer, is a versatile forward with a nonstop motor.
Jack Studnicka and Chris Wagner arrived from Boston this week and figure to provide a boost for as long as they are here.
Jesper Froden, a 27-year-old winger from Sweden, had an eye-opening training camp with Boston and should be a nice fit in the top six.
Pesky Oskar Steen has shown steady improvement in his first two years in Providence and will look to build on that in year three.
Zach Senyshyn, coming off a couple of strong preseason games, looks to be primed for a big year in his fifth pro season.
Ian McKinnon, who made his mark with some memorable fights last season, will answer the bell when needed.
Curtis Hall, Matt Filipe, Joona Koppanen, Alex-Olivier Voyer and hulking newcomer Justin Brazeau, who scored 61 goals in 68 games in the OHL in 2018-19, round out the forward group.
The back end should be strong.
“We’ve got a mix of mix of mobility and puck moving as well as some stoutness in (Tyler) Lewington, (Jack) Dougherty and (Nick) Wolff,’’ said Gold.
Jack Ahcan and Brady Lyle, both of whom have strong offensive components in their games, had good rookie seasons in 202-21 and will look to take another step in their second year.
Urho Vaakanainen, Boston’s first rounder in 2017, enters his fourth year with the P-Bruins.
“Urho’s now at a point in his career where we’re going to rely on him to be the man. It’s time for him to embrace that. I think he’s willing to do that,” said Mougenel. “We want his game tight, good and mean and all of the things he does well every day. It’s just about the consistency of it. Once he has that consistency, we probably won’t see him again.
“There’s a place for him up there. It’s up to him now.”
Veterans Aaron Ness, Lewington and Dougherty have hundreds of games of AHL experience.
“Some guys are getting acclimated, like (Ness and Lewington) have never played probably such an aggressive line rush against, squash and slide. They’ll be excellent as time goes on and they get a little more familiar with it,’’ said Mougenel.
“A guy like Ness is huge in the development of Jack Ahcan. He’s an elite defenseman at this level. Jack’s got a lot of maturity to him, too, which is crazy when you’re that young. Aaron’s a great guy for Jack to lean on, a great peer for him. Lyle, same thing, he can learn a lot from Lewington. He’s got that stiffness, that hardness.’’
Wolff, who plays a physical, defense-first game, is back for a second season.
Andrew Peski provides depth.
Josiah Didier, Victor Berglund and J.D. Greenway start the season on the injured list.
Providence received some of the very best goaltending in the league over the last couple of years from Jeremy Swayman, Dan Vladar and Max Lagace.
Taking over the net this season will be veteran Troy Grosenick and 22-year-old Kyle Keyser.
The 32-year-old Grosenick has a proven track record in the AHL, while Keyser heads into his first full season in the league.
“The growth in Kyle Keyser has been a big thing. He probably didn’t get off to the start that he wanted (in his pro career), but there’s a lot of progression there. He can learn a lot from a guy like Grossie. I was there (in Worcester) when he was a rookie and the growth he’s had as a pro and a person is exceptional,’’ said Mougenel.
“The consistency part is big. Especially in the American Hockey League sometimes you need that strong goaltending component just because there are mistakes and it’s nice to have a goalie there that can bail you out. That’s one thing that Keyser understands. It’s taken him some time to get there and I feel like his game’s in a pretty good place right now, but those are two guys that will push each other.
“For now, Grossie’s probably the guy we’ll lean on for that consistency early on, but that’s not written in stone either.”
The P-Bruins certainly look to have the makings of a playoff team, if not a contender for another division title, depending on how good their goaltending is. They’ll play with structure, as Providence teams have done over the years, and they have the potential for a more balanced attack than they’ve had in recent seasons. After playing without fans in Marlboro last season, look for the good times to roll again at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
BUFFALO — I’ve been to enough Prospects Challenges to know that you shouldn’t put too much stock in how players perform here.
You just don’t know for sure what lies ahead for some of them. Consider that one of the better Bruins in Buffalo not that long ago was Jesse Gabrielle. Bet you haven’t heard his name lately.
Having said that, there were reasons to be encouraged in the two games the Bruins played – a 5-2 win against the Sabres on Saturday and a 4-3 loss to the Devils on Sunday.
Jack Ahcan, Sammy Asselin and Kyle Keyser played extremely well and are trending upward as main camp opens this week. Jesper Froden was a standout, as you’d expect an experienced, soon-to-be 27-year-old pro to be. He projects to be in Providence this season and he should have an impact right off the bat. Teenage draft picks Brett Harrison, Fabian Lysell and Ryan Mast had their moments.
Here are four notes from the final day in Buffalo:
Lysell ticketed for the Dub
Meeting with the media after Sunday’s game, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney made it clear that he expects Lysell, Boston’s 2021 first rounder, to play in the Western Hockey League this season.
“In all likelihood, Fabian will play in Vancouver. It was exciting to see him today get even more comfortable, when you see him in the open ice, being able to create offensively.
“He’s got some areas, in traffic, and some things that he’s going to have to be aware of, and defensively. All are things we believe we can teach those young players as long as they are willing and receptive to learn. But he’s got the skill set that’s pretty unique for us to be adding to our group and to be excited about,’’ Sweeney said.
“It will be important for him to play against kids in his peer group. We’re excited that he’s going to play over here. We do believe the transition to the smaller ice surface, especially with young guys, they have to play in the hard areas of the ice in order to be successful. He’s more than willing to do that but he’s got to find his space.’’
I had him down for a pair of assists on Sunday, although he apparently was credited with just one. Lysell scored an empty-net goal on Saturday.
“I think he felt very comfortable today,’’ said Bruins coach Ryan Mougenel.
“I thought he was a little bit of a different player. He’s an exciting player. Every time he touched the puck I got excited. I think he was feeling it for sure. He did a very good job — very good game for him.’’
Lyle not at his best
Coming off a strong rookie year with Providence, Brady Lyle’s play this weekend was not up to the standard that he set last season.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t think he had a great two games. I didn’t necessarily like his games at times. He was forcing a little bit too much. But that’s also to be expected for guys that want to push their game and it was obvious,’’ said Mougenel.
“Brady knows he’s best when plays develop for him, he’s not leading the rush, but a part of the rush. Offensively, he had a lot of kind of looking for that perfect play. He had a lot of drag in his game. He was dragging the puck a lot. So he knows what he’s got to do.
“Brady and I spend a lot of time together, so he knows he didn’t play the best that he could. But, again, getting the rust out, I think that was important for those guys. He’s a player that I think Butch Cassidy will like.’’
Good weekend for Mast
The Ontario Hockey League didn’t play last season, so the last competitive game that Ryan Mast played in with the Sarnia Sting was 18 months ago.
Boston’s sixth-rounder this year, the 6-foot-4 defensive defenseman had a strong weekend, getting better as the two games went on.
“A year off is a tough thing, especially for a big defenseman. His progression was great in the last two games,’’ said Mougenel. “I thought he was one of our best D, for sure.’’
With the departure of John Ferguson Jr., Boston’s executive director of player personnel and Providence general manager, to the Arizona Coyotes as assistant GM, the front office is down an experienced executive who covered a lot of ground for the organization.
To pick up the slack for the time being, the Bruins will spread out the responsibilities, Don Sweeney said on Sunday.
“Where we are right now, I feel comfortable in kind of doing it in-house and collectively. Dennis Bonvie will take on a little bit more of a head scouting role. Jamie (Langenbrunner) and Evan (Gold) will work in conjunction to handle most of the Providence duties and we’ll see where we’re at,’’ said Sweeney.
“We probably will add somebody at some point in time to augment our group, but several of these guys have been looking to do more and it’s a good opportunity for them.’’
Bonvie is a pro scout. Gold’s title is assistant GM and director of legal affairs. Langenbrunner is director of player development and player personnel adviser.
BUFFALO — The Boston Bruins brought a good mix of experienced players and teenagers to the Prospects Challenge and they skated to a 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday afternoon at the HarborCenter.
The Bruins received two goals and an assist from Jesper Froden and a goal and two assists from Sammy Asselin, while Jakub Lauko and Jack Ahcan chipped in with two assists. Kyle Keyser was excellent in net, turning aside 32 shots. On the younger side, Brett Harrison and Fabian Lysell, both just 18 years old, scored a goal each.
Dynamic day for Ahcan
Ahcan’s fingerprints were all over this game.
Always skating with his head up, he carried the puck or moved it with authority, he jumped into the rush and he defended well.
He even drew compliments from the opposition coach.
“He looked like you want a player of his caliber to look. I thought he was one of the more dominant players on the ice today,’’ said Seth Appert, the Rochester Americans coach who is running the bench for the Sabres.
Bruins coach Ryan Mougenel praised Ahcan, too.
“You see how smart he is. We were just talking about it. Everything he does has a plan. He’s just a different, special player. I was asked the other day, do I talk to him differently about how to defend. I don’t. He’s strong, he’s inside. He’s a hockey player. Sometimes I get caught kind of watching him a lot out there,’’ said Mougenel.
“I think he’s where the game is today. He’s a guy that we can celebrate for his offense and we can celebrate him for how he defends.’’
Froden fits right in
At 27, Jesper Froden is the oldest player on any of the three teams and it showed.
In his first game since coming over from Sweden, the speedy, skilled winger turned in an excellent performance.
“Obviously I have a little more experience than a lot of the other guys here. I have that as an advantage both on the ice and off the ice, help the guys with small stuff and be a leader out there,’’ said Froden.
“He is super committed to being a better player and getting into the National Hockey League,’’ said Mougenel.
“He’s a guy whose game is going to translate very well over here. He’s one of those players that, when he plays with really good players, I think you are going to see how good he really is.’’
The kids are all right
It was a positive day for Boston’s scouting department.
Brett Harrison, drafted in the third round this year, got more comfortable as the game went on, displayed some good instincts and scored the game-winner in the third period.
“He’s a hockey rat. He’s got a great sense to him. He’s still young, he’s got a lot of time to develop, get stronger, all those things junior players have to go back and work on. He’s impressed me with his intellect, for sure. There’s a lot of good things in his game,’’ said Mougenel.
Talking about his more experienced teammates, Harrison said he’s taken note of “how they work off the ice in the gym and how they prepare for games, it’s really eye-opening. I’m just trying to learn as much information from those guys, soak it all in.’’
The goal by Fabian Lysell, drafted in the first round this year, was an empty netter. Lysell didn’t really get a chance to turn on the jets, but he did fire at least two shots on the Buffalo net before his late goal.
“He’s getting acclimated. I think that’s a fair assessment. He did some good things and I think there’s some things he’ll have to get used to out there. There’s some big bodies out there, too, and it was pretty scrambly, it’s tough to make an assessment. The one thing that’s evident is his skating ability. He’s got great feet,’’ said Mougenel.
Sixth rounder Ryan Mast turned in a solid, no-frills game. As advertised, he defends well.
Introducing Matt Thomas
Matt Thomas and Ryan Mougenel have been buddies since they were teenage hockey players in Toronto some 30 years ago.
Thomas is from Mississauga and Mougenal is from Scarborough. They skated together in the summers while playing for rival Catholic high schools, Thomas for St. Michael’s and Mougenel for De La Salle.
And they’ve remained close through the years as they climbed the ladder in their hockey careers.
Thomas was an assistant coach under Mike Haviland with the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies of the ECHL in 2002-03 when the team traded for Mougenel. The Bullies went on to won the ECHL championship in what turned out to be Mougenel’s final year as a player.
When Thomas moved on to be head coach of the Fresno Falcons of the ECHL a few years later, he hired Mougenel as his assistant.
Now they are working together again, with Mougenel taking over as head coach with the Providence Bruins with the departure to Seattle of Jay Leach and Thomas coming on board as assistant coach along with holdover Trent Whitfield.
“We know each other so well. I like to think I’ve been a member of the Providence staff for the last three years,’’ said Thomas.
“Usually when there was a debate going in between Whitter, (former head coach Jay Leach) and Mouge, I was the guy coming in to vote one way or the other on Facetime. We know each other so well away from the rink, there’s a lot of mutual respect.’’
Working for the coach who used to work for him won’t be any problem, said Thomas.
“I know the way I’ve always been as a head coach. We all know that somebody’s got to make the final decision, and that’s the head coach. But we’re a team. Just like the players on the ice. It’s not one guy doing all the heavy lifting. We work together and we collaborate and we’re supportive of each other in the ways that we need to be.’’
Thomas comes to Providence from the Cincinnati Cyclones, where he was named ECHL coach of the year in 2019. Before Cincinnati, he was head coach at Alaska-Anchorage of the WCHA, where his stickboy one season was a young rink rat named Jeremy Swayman.
Early on in his coaching career, Thomas succeeded Nate Leaman as volunteer assistant under the legendary Shawn Walsh at the University of Maine.
Working for Walsh was akin to earning a PHD in coaching, Thomas said.
“That first year I got to sit in the crow’s nest, up top in the Alfond Arena, next to (legendary assistant coach) Grant Standbrook. Just the way Grant could analyze the game, the things he could see. Then to watch the way Shawn ran everything – really hard on his staff, really demanding. More importantly, he wanted you to be good, so he pushed you to be good,’’ said Thomas.
Quote of the day
Seth Appert on NHL draft picks opting to stay in school:
“In my years of college hockey, I never saw a player regret taking another year. I saw a lot of players regret leaving a year early.”