Good, bad & ugly from P-Bruins weekend

ice

There’s nowhere to go but up for the Providence Bruins after losing their first two games of the season.

They dropped a 4-2 decision in Hartford on Friday night, then lost to Laval, 3-2, at home on Saturday.

The beginning was bad as the P-Bruins were blitzed in the opening minutes against the Wolf Pack. And the ending on Saturday was grim, as they allowed the Rocket’s winning goal in the final minute.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** Mark McNeill scored a goal in both games.

*** The line of Cam Hughes, Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson and McNeill did nice work on McNeill’s  goal against Laval, starting with a good forecheck by JFK.

*** Hughes had assists on both goals against Laval.

*** The line of Anton Blidh-Tanner Pond-Austin Fyten was strong against Hartford.

*** Fyten scored a nifty unassisted shorthanded goal on Friday. On Saturday, he fought Laval’s Mike McCarron after McCarron took a run at Colby Cave.

*** Providence drew a crowd of 9,245 in the home opener.

BAD

*** Scoring two goals per game, as the P-Bruins did this weekend, is not a formula for success.

*** The P-Bruins looked like deer in the headlights early on in Hartford, according to coach Jay Leach.

*** Providence’s top line of Ryan Fitzgerald, Jordan Szwarz and Peter Cehlarik finished the weekend with just one assist (Fitzgerald) between them. All three were minus-3.

*** Urho Vaakanainen lost a puck battle behind the net after the P-Bruins won a defensive zone faceoff, starting the play that led to Laval’s winning goal.

*** Dan Vladar was beaten over the catching glove on Laval’s first and third goals on Saturday night.

UGLY

*** Zane McIntyre gave up three goals in the first 12:39 in Hartford before being pulled. He couldn’t be faulted on the first goal, but the next two were soft.

*** The P-Bruins let a 2-0 third-period lead slip away and gave up the decisive goal with 35 seconds left in the loss to Laval.

*** Injured: Cody Goloubef and Jesse Gabrielle (both upper body), David Broll (hand).

5 quick hits from opening night at Schneider Arena

friar

PROVIDENCE — After Providence College exploded for three goals in 2:48 late in the first period, it looked like they might roll to a one-sided win over American International College on Saturday night.

That didn’t happen, though the Friars did enough to earn a 3-1 victory in their season-opening game.

Coach Nate Leaman will take the victory, of course, and go to work on fixing areas where his team fell short.

“I liked certain aspects, but we gave up a lot of chances. I didn’t like some of the chances we were giving up because they were bad reads away from the puck. We got up and then we started cheating a lot, not playing real smart hockey,’’ said Leaman.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who got their first game under their belt. At the end of the day, we won a game.’’

Here are five quick hits:

GREG PRINTZ

The six-foot-two sophomore winger’s stock is rising after starting the game as PC’s extra forward and quickly earning more playing time.

“Greg Printz played really well tonight. He was the 13th forward, but he played so well I had to find him ice,’’ said Leaman.

Printz scored a shorthanded goal on a breakaway, hit a post and missed on a second breakaway.

SCOTT CONWAY

In the first period, Conway scored PC’s first goal on a power play, then assisted on Jacob Bryson’s score.

So far, so good, but in the second and third period, “he got pretty cute and missed some shifts because of it,’’ Leaman said.

“We expect him to be a leader. We’ve got to play smart hockey. Our older guys have got to be the ones that are leading by example. He did a good job in the first and then in the second and third not so much, but he won some key faceoffs for us and that was good.’’

VIMAL SUKUMARAN

There aren’t many players in college hockey who are as difficult to play against. On Saturday, Sukumaran punished AIC defensemen on the forecheck.

In the first period, he trucked Patrik Demel with a clean open-ice hit. When there was a whistle a few seconds later, he skated by Demel and gave him a tap on the shinpads.

“He’s had a great 2-3 weeks. We’re really excited about him. It’s kind of surprised us a little bit. He’s doing a good job with leadership. He had a solid game,’’ said Leaman.

“He’s always been a guy that works hard but doesn’t always work smart. One thing he’s done really well (so far this year), he’s worked smart and he’s teaching other guys to work smart. We’ve found through the first two and a half weeks that whoever we put him with, they play better. That’s the mark of a good player.’’

SHOOT THE PUCK

PC finished with only 25 shots and 51 shot attempts.

Jack Dugan, who has a pedigree as a scorer, was in good position to shoot a few times and chose to pass instead. He wasn’t the only one.

“We passed up a lot of shots. In the first period, we did a better job getting pucks to the net. In the second period, we became a really perimeter team and we didn’t get many pucks to the net. In the third period, we put together some shifts,” said Leaman.

“It’s something we’ve been harping on for a week and a half. Just because we have good stick skill we want to make the extra pass. We had a lot of shots blocked, too. You hold it and look for a better pass and when you do shoot, they’re in our lane.”

JAY O’BRIEN

O’Brien didn’t record any points, but had some impressive shifts, playing fast and with poise.

“For a first college game, he’s light’s out with the puck. He got a couple of pucks right in the slot area and he wants to stickhandle that. You can’t do that at this level. You get one in the right area and it’s got to be off your stick,” said Leaman.

“He was really good with the puck and he’s learning off the puck. That’s nothing that I wouldn’t expect.”

 

Quick hits on opening night

face

HARTFORD — One game down, 75 to go for the Providence Bruins, who opened the season with a 4-2 loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack on Friday night.

Here are three thoughts on the game:

STUMBLING START

Like the big club did in Washington on Wednesday night, the P-Bruins put themselves in an early hole. They were down by three goals before the first period was 13 minutes old, as Zane McIntyre allowed a couple of soft goals before Dan Vladar took over.

“We knew (the Wolf Pack) were going to come out with energy – it’s the home opener, right?” coach Jay Leach said after the game.

“We were not clean. We looked a little bit like a deer in the headlights. We got behind early. Unfortunately, we weren’t really able to recover. We played a lot better the second and third. It wasn’t enough.

“It’s a gauge as to where we’re at. We definitely need to be a lot more clean in our own zone. We needed to get pucks behind their defensemen and we needed to get on the forecheck more because when we did, we were pretty effective.”

The P-Bruins pulled to within one with 4:28 left and were pressing for the tying goal when Hartford’s Peter Holland scored an empty netter.

FOURTH LINE SHINES

The trio of Anton Blidh, Tanner Pond and Austin Fyten was Providence’s best line.

Fyten scored a nifty unassisted shorthanded goal in the third period to give the P-Bruins a spark.

“All they did was go north. They were simple but effective. Our other guys were searching for their games really from the drop of the puck,” Leach said.

SMOOTH DEBUT FOR VAAKANAINEN

Without even one practice under his belt with the P-Bruins, first rounder Urho Vaakanainen jumped into the lineup and played a solid game.

Paired with Connor Clifton, Vaakanainen wasn’t on either of the power play units to start  the game — “We didn’t want to throw everything at him,” Leach said — but he did get some late shifts on the PP. Leach estimated that he played 20-22 minutes.

“For a guy that just got here three hours ago, I thought he was pretty good. The first period, like for most of us, was a little bit of a blitz. We were trying to find our footing. But as it got along he was smooth, as advertised,” Leach said.

P-Bruins GameDay — Getting started in Hartford

gameday

Zane McIntyre starts in goal for the Providence Bruins in the season opener against the Hartford Wolf Pack at the XL Center tonight at 7:15.

Jay Leach says the first game of the season is “a little nerve-wracking” for a coach.

“You just don’t know what the heck is going to happen. Especially this training camp this year (with Boston’s players divided into two groups to accommodate the trip to China),” he said.

“You just never know. Once the games start, that’s when the real work starts. That’s when you can start to teach, get your team to play the way you want to play.

“Even with (Boston), I know it was a tough first night, but it’s a reference point – ‘OK, this is where we’re at and this is where we’ve got to get to.’ Getting the first one out of the way is important.”

You can read my Providence Journal season preview here.

For the most part, the P-Bruins will have their ‘A’ lineup tonight.

Colby Cave won’t play. He is attending to a personal matter.

Cody Goloubef, who is coming off an upper body injury, isn’t expected to play this weekend. He had a hard skate after practice this morning.

With Goloubef not ready, Providence has six healthy defenseman.

I’m curious to see if we get a look at Urho Vaakanainen with the P-Bruins at some point this weekend. He’s been a healthy scratch for Boston’s first two games and there’s no fit for him in the lineup unless the big club has another injury on defense. Something to keep an eye on.

Here are tonight’s expected lines:

Ryan Fitzgerald-Jordan Szwarz-Peter Cehlarik

Cam Hughes-Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson-Mark McNeill

Zach Senyshyn-Trent Frederic-Karson Kuhlman

Anton Blidh-Tanner Pond-Austin Fyten

D pairs:

Chris Breen-Jakob Zboril

Jeremy Lauzon-Connor Clifton

Emil Johansson-Wiley Sherman

Goalies:

Zane McIntyre and Dan Vladar

Scratches: Colby Cave, Cody Goloubef, Jesse Gabrielle (upper body), Joona Koppanen, David Broll (hand).