All’s well that ends well.
The Providence Bruins were in an 0-2 hole and in danger of losing first place in the Atlantic Division to the Hartford Wolf Pack on Thursday afternoon in Marlboro, but they turned it on in the final 30 minutes and rolled to a 6-3 win in the last game of the season.
It’s the second year in a row Providence has won the Atlantic Division. They finished with a 15-6-2-2 record and a .680 points percentage.
“In a year where we were not really sure which way is up, the one thing we did know was today at 1 o’clock we had an opportunity to either win or lose a division title. Those opportunities don’t come around too often and our guys certainly took full advantage of it,” said coach Jay Leach.
Zach Senyshyn, Oskar Steen and Sammy Asselin finished with 1-1-2 for the P-Bruins. Jack Studnicka and Pavel Shen both had two assists.
Down by two goals halfway through the game, Providence received a jumpstart in the form of a goal from an unexpected source as Ian McKinnon fired home a wrist shot for his first goal of the season.
“I don’t know if there’s a more popular guy in the room than Mac, so that certainly does give us a boost,’’ said Leach. “At that moment, there really was not a lot going on for us. Really not much cooking. Then Mac buries it, yeah, there was a lift, absolutely. The guy’s been fighting for us since he got here. He certainly got us going.’’
With the victory, the season ended on a very positive note for three of Boston’s better prospects – Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen and Dan Vladar — all of whom had strong games on Thursday.
Here are three quick hits.
Studnicka had his ups and downs in the AHL this season, but finished strong. He was never better than on Thursday, when the swagger that he displayed during his rookie season a year ago was back.
“Jack’s all in. He’s been very invested in improving himself and he’s got a lot of expectation for where he wants to be as a player and he’s putting the time in right now and will continue to, I can guarantee you that,’’ said Leach.
“I was happy to see him buzzing, really, from the get-go, and putting everything in on both sides of the rink the way that we know Jack can do it. I certainly was impressed. That was probably his best game down here for us.’’
Boston’s first-round pick in 2017 had a hop in his step on Thursday. He defended strongly and, with Providence shorthanded, he joined the rush and fired home his first goal of the season to tie the game at two late in the second period.
“Our back end was a little timid to start, a little tentative, but once we got skating, which is obviously the key to Vaaks’ game, we were off and running. He’s been very good on the kill recently, especially in zone, defending with his feet, making sure he’s in lanes. It was fitting for him to score a shorty like that because he’s really been doing a nice job for us on the kill,’’ said Leach.
Vladar kicked out 32 of 34 shots and finished the season with a save percentage of .923, fifth in the AHL as of today. However, his record is only 3-4-3, mainly because he didn’t get much run support in his starts.
He played very well on Thursday, making a number of timely saves.
“For lack of a better term, I think he was big in the net today. It looked like he was on the top of his crease. He had a couple off-the-rush shots against – and they were trying to pick him high – and he stood tall in there. He was stout, in position, using his body to his advantage,’’ said Leach.
“He certainly dug in. When we were down 2-0, he didn’t let them go up by three, which would have been a tough hill to climb. He was great for us.’’