I made the drive to Connecticut on Sunday to watch the Providence Bruins’ 3-1 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack in the first (and most likely only) preseason game for both teams. From A (Ahcan) to Z (Zech) and everyone in between, the P-Bruins’ kids were good. Here are a few thoughts from the game.
1. THE GOALIE
Jeremy Swayman, the best goalie in college hockey for Maine last season, was solid as a rock with 29 saves against the youngish Hartford lineup. His positioning was sound and he was calm in the crease, though he did kick out a few rebounds. The Wolf Pack turned up the heat in the third period, outshooting Providence, 12-5 (if I recall correctly – haven’t seen any official stats) and Swayman stood tall, making some tough stops on close-in shots before Providence salted away the win on an empty net goal. He was selected as the No. 1 of the game and it was well-deserved. It was a promising start for the rookie heading into the opening of the regular season on Friday.
2. THE YOUNG D
Cooper Zech, Jack Ahcan and Nick Wolff – all signed as NCAA free agents — had strong showings. Zech opened the scoring, seeing a lane opening up and quickly moving in from the blue line to fire the puck past Adam Huska in the Hartford net. He retrieved pucks and moved them out of the Providence end with authority. Ahcan scored Providence’s second goal on a long wrister through traffic. He, too, moved the puck smoothly and handled it with confidence at the point on the power play. Ahcan looks to have a knack for not putting himself in a position to be overpowered by bigger players along the boards. Wolff, on the other hand, is all about using his size to muscle opponents. He defended hard and was in the thick of a couple of after-the-whistle scrums. His ability to handle fast forwards who take the puck wide will be something to keep an eye on, but opponents are going to know when he’s on the ice. He scored an empty net goal. It was a good day for all three defensemen (and for the guys who scout NCAA free agents for the Bruins).
3. THE UNHERALDED
Coming into the game, I didn’t know a lot about winger Alex-Olivier Voyer and defenseman Brady Lyle, a pair of 21-year-old free agents signed to AHL contracts out of the Canadian Hockey League. Both acquitted themselves well on Sunday. Voyer, from Sherbrooke, has good size at 6-2 and was around the puck a lot. Doesn’t appear to be a speedster, but he looks like he’ll be a solid bottom six winger for the P-Bruins. Lyle, from Owen Sound, played as advertised in this game, moving the puck with conviction and defending well. At 6-2, he wasn’t shy about using his size. All in all, neither player looked out of place. On to Friday’s regular-season opener.