Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

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Taking five out of six points over the weekend, the Providence Bruins are starting to generate some traction. Since a 6-3 loss in Springfield on Oct. 14, they’ve put together a solid 4-3-2 stretch. Two of the three regulation-time losses in that span were by one goal and the third was by two, including an empty-netter.

After beating Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 2-1, in overtime at home on Friday, they rallied from two goals down in the third period before losing in OT, 5-4, in Bridgeport on Saturday. They finished with a decisive 5-2 victory over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at home on Sunday afternoon.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** Colby Cave continues to be Providence’s best player. He was the No. 1 star in Sunday’s win with assists on the P-Bruins first two goals, a bunch of important faceoff wins and a fight. With 5-10-15 in 13 games, he is up to 13th in the AHL in scoring.

*** Anton Blidh, Cave’s linemate, also had a strong weekend, with a nice goal on Saturday and an assist on Sunday. Coach Jay Leach calls Cave and Blidh “the heartbeat of the team.’’

*** Don’t know how much longer Jan Kovar will be around, but he has been a major contributor and an entertaining player to watch in his 8 games with Providence. Skating is a question mark, but he competes and his stick and offensive instincts are superb.

*** The penalty kill is the best in the AHL at 90.3 percent, including 20 for 20 on home ice.

*** It was a great weekend for the power play. Providence went 6 for 16, with 2 PP goals in each game.

*** Ryan Donato looks more comfortable with each game. He scored once on Saturday and twice on Sunday. “He did a lot of the little things,’’ Leach said after Sunday’s game.

*** Dan Vladar played very well in Friday’s OT win, making 27 saves. He left some rebounds, but battled hard to stop the second and third shots that he faced.

*** Zach Senyshyn had a three-point weekend with an assist on Saturday and 1-1-2 on Sunday.

*** Martin Bakos had goals on Friday and Sunday.

*** Ryan Fitzgerald had 1-1-2 on Friday, including the OT winner.

*** Sunday afternoon’s game drew 8,677 despite going up against the New England Patriots on TV. The P-Bruins are currently fourth in the league at 7,737. Only San Diego, Hershey and Ontario are ahead of Providence in average attendance.

BAD

*** Trent Frederic left Saturday’s game and sat out on Sunday after a hit by Steve Bernier of Bridgeport. Bernier, who was given five minutes for charging and a game misconduct, was suspended for two games by the AHL on Monday.

*** Cameron Hughes might have a root canal or some missing front teeth in his immediate future after Bridgeport’s Kyle Burroughs chopped him in the mouth with his stick on Saturday. The AHL on Monday suspended Burroughs for one game.

*** The game in Bridgeport had a bizarre ending and referee Liam Sewall was front and center. It looked like Zane McIntyre might have covered the puck up in the crease, but eventually it was pushed over the line. By the time it went in, Sewall had draped himself over the back of the net, skates four feet off the ice, signaling goal. Leach tried and failed to get an explanation as to exactly what happened in the goalmouth.

*** McIntyre was called for holding on Sunday afternoon. Watched plenty of games in my time, but I can’t remembering seeing that call on a goalie.

UGLY

*** Injured: Frederic, Jordan Szwarz, Chris Breen, Mark McNeill, David Broll.

Donato goes to work with Providence Bruins

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Ryan Donato celebrates his goal against Buffalo on Oct. 4 (AP photo)

PROVIDENCE — As Toe Blake, Eddie Shore and Dit Clapper might have said (but didn’t, at least not in “Slap Shot”), there’s no sulking in minor league hockey.

True to those words, Ryan Donato was the first player on the ice at Schneider Arena this morning for Providence Bruins practice. He pushed the nets into place, emptied a bucket of pucks and went to work.

Two hours later, with practice long over and every other player gone, Donato got down on hands and knees to gather the pucks and fill up the bucket.

The rookie from Harvard isn’t letting Thursday’s demotion to the AHL after 11 games (1-0-1) in Boston this season deter him from his goal of making it as an impact player in the NHL.

“Obviously, I’m not happy about it, but I think every guy (in Boston) at one point has had their fair share of time down here. The only thing I can do is use the time here to my advantage,’’ Donato said afterward.

In Boston, playing time has been harder to come by lately for Donato. He’ll get all he can handle with the P-Bruins.

“I like playing in the games here. You get a lot of ice time. I’m feeling the puck again, which is nice,’’ said Donato, who recorded an assist and seven shots on goal (including an unsuccessful penalty shot) in two games against Charlotte over the weekend.

As for the message from Boston management, “there’s some stuff internally that they told they wanted me to work on, but just stay positive, it’s a part of every young guy’s career. Come back hungrier when you do come back,” Donato said.

Providence coach Jay Leach and his staff will work with Donato on the finer points of his game.

“Offensively speaking, he can create. I do think that his details need to be worked on. He knows it. He’s fully willing to dive in and talk about the other side of the game – without the puck or even with the puck sometimes, taking care of it,” Leach said.

“Like any young player that has an abundance of talent and has had success really wherever he’s gone, when you are reassigned to the American League, it does take some time. There’s an adjustment period. That’s where he’s at. It’s a tough league to play in, frankly. Mentally and physically, especially for those guys that start their pro careers up (in the NHL) and have that success and then they come down.”

Donato said that one of the things that was stressed by his father, Ted, and the Boston coaching staff is that “(the AHL is) a really good league. Don’t think for a second that anybody’s too good for it, cause they’re not. Take it as a positive and go down there and work as hard as you can, and prove that you should be up.”

He learned a few things in his first taste of the AHL over the weekend.

“A lot of guys are running around. There’s a lot more guys playing kind of an old-school style of hockey where there’s a lot more hitting and it’s more physical, which I tend to like. Hopefully I can learn from that and bring it when I come back up,” Donato said.

So how long does Donato expect to be in Providence?

“It’s really how I play that determines how long I stay down here. I think (management knows) the player that I can be. They told me they know I’m talented and will have, hopefully, a future (in Boston). I’ve got to make time for this and hopefully change some things about my game so I can be useful when I get up there,” he said.

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

The Providence Bruins came home from their weekend in Charlotte with nothing to show but a pair of one-goal losses to the Checkers, the AHL’s best team.

Providence played hard and was in position to earn at least a point in both games. In the end, though, they lost 4-3 on Friday night and 3-2 on Saturday.

“We’re obviously disappointed in our record and the fact that we’re not winning games. I would also say that we are encouraged by a lot of the things that we’re doing,” said coach Jay Leach.

“Our inability to keep a shot out at a crucial time and our inability to create a shot or a goal for on the power play is what has really hurt us. We have to walk the fine line of urgency but not panic. We need to focus on the things we can correct and build on the things that we’re doing well.”

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** Continuing to produce points, Jan Kovar had 1-1-2 on Friday. A couple of weeks into his tryout, he has 3-2-5 in 5 games.

*** Ryan Fitzgerald showed off his good hands by scoring a nifty, between-the-legs goal to bring the P-Bruins within one on Saturday. It was a nice play all around, starting with a strong entry by Anton Blidh, who dished to Colby Cave. Cave muscled his way along the boards and passed to Cody Goloubef, who found Fitzgerald in front.

*** Conor Clifton pancaked Andrew Poturalski with a clean hit in the first minute of the second period on Saturday.

*** Jordan Szwarz scored his first goal of the season on Friday; Peter Cehlarik buried his first on Saturday.

*** Zane McIntyre was credited with his first assist of the year on Cehlarik’s goal.

BAD

*** Referees Mike Dietrich and Peter MacDougall had a wildly inconsistent weekend. After calling 7 minor penalties on Friday, they whistled 18 minors on Saturday – 9 on each team. It was as if they pulled out a different rulebook. Poor Jakub Zboril was called for the three of the weakest hooking, holding and slashing penalties you’re ever going to see.

*** With Providence pressing for the tying goal with 5 minutes left on Saturday, Kovar had plenty of net to shoot at after a smart setup by Ryan Donato, but missed from in close.

*** The P-Bruins gave up an ugly shorthanded goal in both games. The power play is 23rd in the league at 15.9 percent after going 1 for 12 for the weekend and being outscored, 2-1.

*** Six of Providence’s seven losses essentially have been one-goal games (two with empty netters at the end).

UGLY

*** Twenty-six seconds after the P-Bruins grabbed an early lead on Friday, Patrick Brown’s 100-footer bounced past Vladar, tying the score.

*** Injuries: Mark McNeill, Chris Breen (day to day), David Broll.

Hockey night at Holy Cross

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WORCESTER – It was a terrific night for college hockey at Holy Cross on Saturday. The Hart Center on campus was packed and loud for Providence College’s hard-fought 3-0 win over the host Crusaders.

Quick hits from the game:

HAYDEN HAWKEY

Brimming with confidence, PC’s senior goalie continues to be on top of his game for the 5-1-1 Friars. He made 27 saves on Saturday night, including some big ones in the third period, and notched his third shutout of the season and his second in a row. Hawkey hasn’t given up a goal in 137:51 and his save percentage is .955. There’s no better goalie in Hockey East right now.

“He’s outstanding. He’s our rock. He’s going to be our rock for the year. He had another solid performance tonight,’’ said PC coach Nate Leaman.

MIRAGEAS DELIVERS

Another Friar who is really feeling it lately is Islanders draft pick Ben Mirageas. Picking up where he left off at Boston University last week, Mirageas on Saturday scored a third period goal that gave the Friars some breathing room and added an assist.

“I think he came back a little slow to start, like most sophomores that have success as a freshman kind of do. His last two games he’s been really good for us. He’s really good when he has the puck and he gets his feet going. He did a good job of that tonight,’’ said Leaman.

ROAD TEST

Leaman said beforehand that playing in a small rink in front of a lively crowd with calls going against you at times would be good preparation for upcoming road games in Hockey East.

Afterward, he said there was a playoff-like atmosphere in the building and he liked the way his team responded.

“It was a good opportunity for us to grow. We made some mistakes but we fought our way through it. Overall, we end up with a good win,’’ Leaman said.

HARD FEELINGS

The game ended on a sour note when Holy Cross freshman Ryan Leibold took a run at PC’s Jay O’Brien and rammed him into the right wing boards in the PC end after the Friars had gone up by three goals. It was a cheap hit that earned Leibold a major for contact to the head and a game misconduct.

Leaman was understandably angry.

“It’s everything you want to get out of the game. It’s a 3-0 game, there’s a minute to go, we just scored on the empty net. It’s a bad hockey play. I don’t know what to say. You don’t want your guys taking high hits and getting run at in a game that’s over.’’

It’s the second time this season that an opposing player has trucked O’Brien with an illegal hit.

I asked Leaman if teams are targeting O’Brien, a first round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in June.

“I don’t think it had anything to do with it being Jay or anybody else,’’ he said.

“The kid ran all the way across the ice and came head high at him with a minute to go in a 3-0 game. It’s a horrible hockey play. It’s the stuff you want to get out of the game.’’

O’Brien had a strong game on Saturday as he returned to the lineup after missing two games because of the high hit against UConn. He was robbed twice by Holy Cross goalie Beau Collins, who was sharp with 35 saves.

O’Brien was visibly angry as he got up off the ice quickly after Saturday night’s hit and went to the PC room. After the game, he was up and about in the dressing room hallway.

Leaman didn’t have an update on his condition.

NEXT UP

Get your popcorn ready. In a matchup of the top two teams in Hockey East to this point, PC visits UMass (6-1) on Thursday, then hosts the Minutemen on Saturday. This is going to be fun.