Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend


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.


*** 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.


***  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.


*** 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


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.


*** 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.


*** 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.


*** 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


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


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.


*** 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.


*** 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.


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

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


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.










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


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.


*** 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.


*** 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.


*** 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).

Studnicka makes good impression in Providence debut

PROVIDENCE — Jack Studnicka said he felt “more excitement than nerves” at the start of his first game as a pro.

The 19-year-old turned in a solid all-around performance, earning a pair of assists in Friday night’s 6-3 win by the Providence Bruins over the Hartford Wolf Pack.

“The boys made me feel real comfortable. Obviously they were on their game tonight so I just tried to jump on board. The older guys led the way. It’s a fast pace so it took a little adjustment. I think I adjusted to the best of my ability,” he said.

Providence coach Jay Leach was pleased with Studnicka’s work. “I liked his first shift. He just got in there and went to work. Had some polish with the puck. Clearly can make some plays,” Leach said.

Boston drafted Studnicka in the second round, 53rd overall, last June. Building on a strong rookie camp and training camp with Boston in September, the righty centerman scored 22 goals and 72 points in 66 games as captain of the Oshawa Generals this season.

Playing between Anton Blidh and Cam Hughes, Studnicka registered his first point as a pro 7:59 into the game with a secondary assist on Blidh’s goal.

“He really got up the ice well to create the two on one on Blidh’s goal. Really kept the defender off of Blidh. If he doesn’t slash up the middle, it doesn’t create the play,” said John Ferguson Jr., Boston’s executive director of player personnel.

His second helper came in the third period, when he got the puck up the ice to Austin Czarnik, who scored his 22nd goal of the season.

“He’s trying to make plays. He’s going to learn, just like anyone else, where not to try certain things. That’s part of the reason why he’s here. He’s a good young prospect for us in the middle, just getting started,” said Ferguson.

“He made good strides this year. He’s learning both ends of the ice. That’s never been an issue for him. Skates very well. Gets his head up. Makes plays. Has got some finish. Has some flair. Has some real nice attributes.”

Boston coach Bruce Cassidy liked what he saw of Studnicka in camp.

“I thought Jack had a lot of composure, yet attacked every night he played. He wasn’t bothered by, as a young guy, looking around,” Cassidy said on Thursday in Florida.

“He just played and I thought he made some really good plays. I liked his game, especially his offensive things around the top of the circles—he could dish, he could get to the net. It looked like he had something offensively. Big enough guy, played tall, straight up. I thought in the middle of the ice he was a good player and would be a good prospect going forward.”

Studnicka isn’t eligible to move up to Providence full time next season. Unless he makes the NHL club out of training camp in the fall, he’ll be headed back to Oshawa, where he’d be one of the top players in the OHL, as well as a candidate to play for Canada in the World Junior Championship.

Looking down the road, what kind of a player could Studnicka develop into?

“I don’t know if it’s comparable, but there are players that have come through the O that have had similar characteristics, some similar attributes — a two-way game with some offense,”’ said Ferguson.

“Is it a Vince Trocheck (of Florida), who is a really, really good NHL player right now and came through the OHL and got better as a pro?”

We’ll see how it plays out. Boston’s done a great job finding good young players over the last few years and Studnicka looks to be another one.

(Stick tap to Kevin Paul Dupont for the Cassidy quote from Florida.)

P-Bruins Gameday — Pro debut for Jack Studnicka

PROVIDENCE — With six games left in the regular season, a win for the Providence Bruins tonight at home against Hartford coupled with a loss in regulation time by Bridgeport at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will clinch a playoff spot for the P-Bruins for the sixth straight season.

Tonight will be the pro debut for Jack Studnicka, Boston’s second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.

Studnicka was impressive during rookie camp and training camp in September. He put up 22-50-72 numbers in 66 games for the Oshawa Generals.

“Heady player. Makes plays. Willing to go to the dirty areas. Another player that we are excited about,” said Jay Leach.

Providence will be without Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (concussion); Zach Senyshyn (foot); Peter Cehlarik, Josh Hennessey and Kenny Agostino (upper body); and Justin Hickman (knee).

Colby Cave was returned by Providence by Boston today but won’t play tonight.



Binnington is the backup.
Forsbacka Karlsson (concussion); Senyshyn (foot); Cehlarik, Hennessey and Agostino (upper body); Hickman (knee).
The P-Bruins play at Bridgeport on Saturday and at home against Lehigh Valley on Sunday afternoon.

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins week

Facing two of the top teams in the AHL, the Providence Bruins lost two out of three games, but finished the weekend with a big win. With 10 rookies in the lineup, they lost 5-2 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday; dropped a 2-0 decision at Lehigh Valley on Friday; then bounced back with a very solid 3-1 victory at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday.

“(Lehigh Valley was) really good (Friday) night and we were very average. They caught us not at our best. Probably the way that we caught them the weekend before,’’ said coach Jay Leach.

“Saturday was a good game for us. We were up against it, looking at a tough road trip, and everybody responded really well. That’s a huge win for us.’’

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.


*** The penalty kill was perfect in 10 shorthanded situations, and is up to sixth in the league at 84.3 percent.

*** With a goal and an assist, Adam Payerl played a terrific game in Saturday’s win.

*** The power play is 20th in the league, but came through big time on Saturday with two goals.

*** The P-Bruins went 9-5 in March. They went 3-2 in their last five in a brutal stretch against Lehigh Valley and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

*** Jordan Szwarz hit the 20-goal mark for the second straight season on Saturday. A day earlier, Boston signed him to a well-deserved contract extension.

*** Providence’s third goal on Saturday was beautiful as the puck went from Tommy Cross to Austin Czarnik to Ryan Fitzgerald to Szwarz for the score.

*** Jakub Zboril played a good all-around game on Wednesday. He scored a goal and an assist as well as defending and moving the puck well.

*** Jordan Binnington kept the P-Bruins in the game with 32 saves on Friday and was rock-solid with 34 stops on Saturday. He allowed only one goal in each game. His save on Danick Martel in the second period on Friday was a beaut.

*** Anton Blidh had a pretty snipe on Wednesday.

*** Providence has 10 players with 10 or more goals.

*** The P-Bruins have given up only 166 goals, third-fewest in the league.

*** Five of Providence’s last seven games are against teams that won’t make the playoffs.


*** The P-Bruins gave up three goals in 4:09 early in the second period in Wednesday’s loss. It started with a bad angle goal by Daniel Sprong on Zane McIntyre.

*** Tough couple of minutes for Zboril late in the first period on Saturday. He turned the puck over on the Penguins’ first goal, then took a slashing penalty.

*** Peter Cehlarik was injured on a hit by Andrey Pedan of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday. Pedan received two minutes for interference and was later suspended for two games by the AHL. It’s the second time this season that Pedan has injured a Providence player. He received a three-game suspension in November for a hit on Zboril.

*** The bus from the hotel to the rink for Tuesday’s 10:30 a.m. game in Bridgeport leaves at 7:45.


*** Providence was outshot 19-1 in the second period of Friday’s loss at Lehigh Valley.

*** Injured: Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Kenny Agostino, Josh Hennessey, Cehlarik (all upper body), Justin Hickman (lower body).