Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins week


Despite a load of callups and injuries, the Providence Bruins are playing their best hockey of the season. A very productive and encouraging Thanksgiving week on the road started with the P-Bruins coming from a goal down to earn a point in Hartford, losing 4-3 in overtime, on Wednesday. On Saturday they showed great heart by rallying from two goals down to beat Lehigh Valley, 6-3. On Sunday, they finished off their Pennsylvania sweep with a solid 4-2 win at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.


*** The P-Bruins have gone 5-1-2 in their last 8 games, taking 12 of 16 points.

*** Ryan Fitzgerald is smoking hot. He had 1-1-2 in all 3 games this week and now leads the team in scoring with 6-10-16 in 19 games.

*** Cameron Hughes had 2 goals at Lehigh Valley and now leads the team with 8. He dusted Phantoms’ all-star defenseman T.J. Brennan on one of the goals.

*** Austin Fyten scored twice and handed out some punishing hits against the Phantoms.

*** The Ryan Donato to Jan Kovar to Fitzgerald tic-tac-toe play for Providence’s first goal on Sunday was a thing of beauty.

*** New arrival Kyle Cumiskey got involved right away with a goal and an assist in his first game on Wednesday against the Wolf Pack.

*** Stick tap for Tanner Pond for not allowing Taylor Leier to goad him into a fight in the third period on Saturday. No need for it with the P-Bruins up by three goals.

*** Down by a goal, the P-Bruins were absolutely dominant on the power play before Cumiskey tied the game, with assists to Fitzgerald and Donato, in the third period in Hartford.

*** Zane McIntyre was sharp in stopping 31 shots in Sunday’s win.

*** After giving up 3 goals on the first 8 shots against Lehigh Valley, Dan Vladar was strong the rest of the way.

*** Providence is 3-0 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.


*** The P-Bruins dug themselves an early 0-2 hole against Lehigh Valley, giving up a goal 38 seconds in (after a Cumiskey turnover) and another 29 seconds later.

*** McIntyre was caught out of his net when the puck took a bad bounce off a stanchion on Matt Beleskey’s second goal in Hartford.

*** The December schedule is a doozy with 11 of 14 games on the road.


*** Injured: Trent Frederic, Cody Goloubef, David Broll.

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend


The Providence Bruins earned two out of four points over the weekend. Considering the circumstances and the caliber of the opposition, they should feel pretty good about what they accomplished.

With Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril and Connor Clifton on recall with Boston and Trent Frederic, Mark McNeill and Chris Breen out with injuries, Providence dropped a 5-4 decision to a stacked Lehigh Valley Phantoms team on Friday and then beat the Rochester Americans, the first-place team in the North Division, 3-2 in overtime, on Saturday.

The Providence defense against Rochester consisted of four ECHL callups, first-year pro Wiley Sherman and second-year North American pro Emil Johansson. After falling behind 2-0, the P-Bruins rallied and Ryan Donato’s strike in OT gave them a feel-good victory.

“To our guys’ credit, they stuck with it. They were really persistent down the stretch, really all four lines. Our defensemen that don’t really have a lot of experience, with our team anyway, were pretty good. And (Zane McIntyre) was good,’’ said coach Jay Leach.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.


*** Stay-at-home defenseman Sherman scored his first pro goal on Friday, joining the rush and converting a Colby Cave pass at the edge of the crease. On Saturday, he took one for the team, going down to block a slapper on the penalty kill and then hobbling around for well over a minute in the D zone before Providence could get a clear.

*** Donato had the game-winner and an assist on Saturday.

*** Cameron Hughes scored goals in both games.

*** Karson Kuhlman and Peter Cehlarik made good plays leading up to the tying goal by Hughes vs. Rochester.

*** Providence has won eight straight and 11 of 12 vs. the Americans.

*** Three-in-threes are a regular occurence in the AHL. Desmond Bergin of the P-Bruins finished up a four-in-four over the weekend. He played for Adirondack in the ECHL on Wednesday and Thursday, then Friday and Saturday for Providence.


*** After jumping out to a three-goal lead in the first period against Lehigh Valley on Friday, the P-Bruins took bad penalties that allowed the Phantoms to rev up their very dangerous power play and get back in the game.

*** A poorly timed pinch by Olivier Galipeau led to Rochester’s first goal.

*** A horrendous change by Providence allowed Rochester to bust in on a 3 on 0 late in the second period, but McIntyre came up with a save.

*** The next three games for the P-Bruins are on the road, where they are 1-5-2.


*** It was a comedy of officiating errors on Friday night, but the P-Bruins didn’t see the humor. Referees Conor O’Donnell and Brandon Schrader thoroughly botched the play that resulted in a third-period goal by Carsen Twarynski of Lehigh Valley. Twarynski barged in on the Providence net and bowled over goalie Dan Vladar, with the puck ending up in the net. The refs allowed the goal and slapped Twarynski with a minor penalty for goalie interference, which was later changed to roughing. In real time, it was hard to tell if the puck entered the net before the collision. But watching the coaches’ video the next morning, it was clear the puck entered the net only after Twarynski made contact with Vladar. Obviously, the goal should not have counted. And it gets worse. The video also showed that the Phantoms had six skaters on the ice at the time, another reason the goal should not have counted.

*** Injured: Trent Frederic, Chris Breen, Cody Goloubef, Mark McNeill, David Broll.

Five quick hits from PC-Merrimack


Merrimack coach Scott Borek and a PC player embrace after Saturday night’s game.

PROVIDENCE – After being swept by UMass last weekend in a pair of one-goal losses, Providence College took care of business this weekend by sweeping Merrimack, 7-2 and 7-5.

“Sweeps are really tough in Hockey East. We knew that they were going to be a lot better tonight than last night. It’s good to get four points and you move on. It’s great to score some goals,’’ said Friar coach Nate Leaman.

Here are five quick hits from Saturday night.


There was a great scene after the game when every last PC player lined up to shake hands and hug Merrimack coach Scott Borek, PC’s associate head coach from 2015 to 2018.

The gesture was greatly appreciated by Borek.

“That’s what Providence is. It’s the culture of the school. It’s the culture of the program. Obviously I’ve been through a lot with a lot of those guys, who’ve known me through some really difficult times,’’ said Borek, referring to the death of his son Gordie in a car accident in 2016.

“I didn’t expect that, and it was really special.’’


Jack Dugan had another great weekend, with 1-1-2 on Friday and 1-2-3 on Saturday. He made a gorgeous pass to Kasper Bjorkqvist for a goal on Saturday.

Dugan is tied with Cale Makar of UMass for the scoring lead in Hockey East with 5-9-14 in 11 games.

“He made some great plays this weekend. You feel like when you need someone to make a play, he’s going out there and he’s doing it. It’s really a great sign for a freshman,’’ said Leaman.

“He hasn’t just scored, he’s scored big at every level. I didn’t realize how strong he is with the puck. That’s something he’s really been doing a good job of. He was a little off on the power play tonight, but we’ll work on that this week.’’


PC’s Vimal Sukumaran is one of the hardest players to play against in all of college hockey.

He’s not especially big at 5-foot-10 and 193 pounds, but he is relentlessly physical and has been known to use his stick for more than just handling the puck. He gets under the skin of opposing players.

“He’s into the game no matter what, that’s for sure,’’ said Leaman. “He scored a great goal last night and then tonight he was a little bit grittier and I think he was smarter tonight. That line with (Greg) Printz and (Jason) O’Neill, can give us secondary scoring. V had 10 goals as a sophomore. We look for those three to go out and be heavy, make good decisions and chip in.’’

Sukumaran plays on the edge and sometimes over it. He took a dumb penalty early in the game at Amherst last week and the Minutemen quickly put the Friars in a hole.

Leaman noted that it’s better to try to rein in a player than to have to light a fire under him.

“He generally knows when to make good decisions. He was getting hammered at the net front in the third period with a couple of cross checks from behind. I thought he showed excellent discipline at a time of the game when you need to show discipline. He’s a work in progress, but we’ll take him all day long,’’ Leaman said.

“(Former Friar Brandon) Tanev could score a goal or he could run a guy. He was always part of the game. That’s how Suk is. You’re just making sure that what he does impacts your team in a positive way. He’s done a good job of that.’’


The refereeing on Saturday night was an abomination. Peter Schlittenhardt and Terrence Murphy were way too involved for my taste. It was not a particularly contentious or physical game, but Schlittenhardt in particular felt the need to put his arm up way more than I believe was necessary.

“I can’t comment on the officiating because I’ll get in trouble, but he got very involved in the game,’’ Merrimack coach Scott Borek said.

The refs handed out 15 minors –  including five for slashing and four for cross-checking – plus two 10-minute misconducts. It wasn’t that kind of game. Let the players play.


Next up for the Friars is a trip to No. 7 Denver for a two-game series next weekend that could be one of the highlights of the season.

“It’s going to be fast hockey and great hockey. These are the weekends you really look forward to. Just praying like crazy we get all of our equipment out there (traveling on the day before Thanksgiving). Those are the things that keep a coach awake at night. Those and giving up shorthanded goals,’’  Leaman said after his team gave one and another just as a penalty ended on Saturday night.

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend


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.


*** 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.


*** 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.


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

Donato goes to work with Providence Bruins


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.


*** 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.


*** 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).


*** 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


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.