Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

Vinni Lettieri beats Joel Hofer of Springfield in the shootout on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Providence Bruins)

It wasn’t a perfect weekend for the Providence Bruins, but it was pretty close as they earned five out of six points.

The P-Bruins got off on the right foot by scoring a late goal to beat the Charlotte Checkers, 2-1, at home on Friday.

In Springfield on Saturday, they scored a late power play goal to force overtime and then earned the extra point by winning the shootout against the Thunderbirds, 4-3.

In a rematch back home on Sunday, Providence trailed by two goals with less than three minutes left, then stunned the T-Birds with a pair of five-on-three power play goals to send the game to OT. Springfield prevailed in the shootout, 3-2, but the P-Bruins took home a well-earned and unexpected point given the way the first 57 minutes went.

“There were a lot of positives. I really like our team. I like the kids. We’re finding ways, which is good,” said coach Ryan Mougenel. “We played not great (on Sunday), but it’s to be expected in a three-in-three. We’re still finding our way, building some chemistry.”

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.


— It wasn’t just a good weekend for Vinni Lettieri, it was a great weekend.

After setting up a goal on Friday, he stepped up with a big-time game on Saturday. He registered seven shots on goal and tied the game with a power play tuck with 29 seconds left in regulation and an extra attacker on the ice. Then he buried the only goal in the shootout as Providence won the game. Lettieri bettered that performance on Sunday, scoring twice in 45 seconds on 5 on 3 power plays to tie the game and send it to OT. He then scored Providence’s only goal in the shootout.

Lettieri is tied for the team lead in scoring with 5-4-9 in eight games and is tied for the league lead in power play goals with four.

— Providence received a month’s worth of favorable calls from the referees late in Sunday’s game. Then they took advantage with a pair of 5-on-3 goals.

— Fabian Lysell scored a goal on Friday and added assists on Saturday and Sunday. He had a nice backcheck on Saturday that prevented a Springfield scoring chance. He’s tied with Vinni Lettieri for the team scoring lead with 2-7-9 in six games.

— Georgii Merkulov made plays all weekend. He had an assist on Friday and two more on Sunday. He has 4-4-8 in eight games.

— Luke Toporowski continues to produce. He dished the puck to Oskar Steen for the GWG on Friday. He went to the front of the net to pot his third goal of the season on Saturday and he fed Vinni Lettieri for a goal on Sunday. With 3-4-7 in eight games, he’s getting a good start on earning an NHL contract.

— Keith Kinkaid stopped 34 shots and all three Springfield attempts in Saturday’s shootout win.

— Nick Wolff threw the clean hit of the season on Friday, flattening Charlotte’s Gerry Mayhew. It’s unfortunate Wolff was injured on the play.

— Connor Carrick recorded assists on Friday and Saturday and made a great defensive play to thwart a scoring chance in OT on Saturday.

— Johnny Beecher played his best game of the season on Friday and scored his first goal of the year on Saturday.

— Oskar Steen’s first goal of the year was the winner on Friday. He had eight shots on goal on Sunday.


— They’ve gone five straight games without scoring in the first period.

— The P-Bruins were outshot 17-9 in the first period on Saturday.

— Providence is giving up a lot of shots. They gave up 30 on Friday and Sunday and 37 on Saturday. Going into Sunday’s game they were allowing 33 shots per game, more than all but two teams in the AHL.

— They allowed the first goal once and the first two goals twice over the weekend.

— Providence’s next three games are on the road against Utica, Springfield and Bridgeport. They are 2-0 away from the AMP so maybe road games don’t belong in the bad category.


— Injured: Nick Wolff, Matt Filipe

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

Despite missing two games, Fabian Lysell leads the Providence Bruins in scoring with a goal and five assists for six points in three games. (Photo courtesy of Providence Bruins)

Playing their first three-in-three weekend of the season – with all the games at home — the Providence Bruins came away with three of a possible six points.

They were 20 minutes away from maybe adding another point or two, but faltered in the third period on Sunday.

Providence earned a point in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Bridgeport Islanders on Friday. They beat the Utica Comets, 2-1, on Saturday. And they dropped a 2-1 decision to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Sunday. It was their first loss of the season in regulation time.

“I thought today we played two great periods. We absolutely fell asleep in the third. It’s tough because the guys played so hard and so well for two periods. It’s a lesson learned. Hopefully it’s just a one-time lesson,” said coach Ryan Mougenel after Sunday’s game.

“We’re playing pretty consistent. I like a lot of things in our game. We’ve been, for the most part, pretty good.”

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.


— Georgii Merkulov scored twice against Bridgeport on Friday and set up a goal by Vinni Lettieri on Saturday. Just as important, his play without the puck is trending in the right direction. He dove to block a shot from the point in the dying seconds of the second period on Sunday.

— Sammy Asselin scored his first goal of the season and played an excellent two-way game on Saturday. On Friday, when Bridgeport’s Hudson Fasching threw a hard hit on Chris Wagner, Asselin immediately jumped in.

— Joona Koppanen has played well all season and was rewarded with his first goal on a power play on Sunday. He continues to be one of the best defensive centers in the AHL and has five points in five games.

— Kyle Keyser played an excellent game in Saturday’s win. Utica came on strong in the third period, but Keyser held the fort with 10 saves to hold a one-goal lead. He is 2-0 with a .933 save percentage.

— For the second week in a row, Chris Wagner turned in a standout game on Friday night. He scored a goal, was credited with six shots and probably had at least five hits.

— It was a pro debut to remember for Joey Abate. On Saturday, he fought Utica heavyweight Mason Geertsen and sacrificed his body to block two slapshots late in the game to help preserve Providence’s one-goal lead.

— On Sunday, the fourth line of Abate, Alex-Olivier Voyer and J.D. Greenway chipped in with some strong shifts in the offensive end that swung momentum in Providence’s favor.

“They provided some energy for sure. They did a good job. (J.D.) Greenway’s really taken a step in the right direction,” said Mougenel.

— Providence fell behind by two goals to Bridgeport, but showed good resilience by tying the game and earning a point by taking it to overtime.


— Tough start for Johnny Beecher. He has no points and no shots on goal through five games.

— Providence has had 26 power play opportunities, tied with the Henderson Silver Knights for the most in the AHL. But the P-Bruins’ PP is only 25th in the AHL at 15.4 percent. Koppanen’s goal on Sunday snapped a 0-for-15 stretch with the man advantage.

— Wilkes-Barre/Scranton outshot the P-Bruins 10-1 early in the third period on Sunday and took over what had been a scoreless game with a pair of goals in 1:57.


— Injured: Fabian Lysell, Eddie Tralmaks, Matt Filipe

Providence’s Joey Abate dropped the gloves with Mason Geertsen of Utica in the first period on Saturday night. (Photo courtesy of Providence Bruins)

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

Rookie Fabian Lysell scored the game-winner on Friday, then handed out three assists on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Providence Bruins)

The Providence Bruins started their 31st season this weekend with a bang.

They won their first two games and they did it in entertaining fashion with contributions from veterans and from rookies, who scored the game-winning goals in both games.

The P-Bruins beat the Bridgeport Islanders, 3-1, at home on Friday night, then topped the Springfield Thunderbirds, 4-3, on the road on Sunday.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.


— Keith Kinkaid was outstanding with 42 saves in Friday’s win against Bridgeport.

— Fabian Lysell scored the game-winning goal against the Islanders, then turned in a dazzling performance on Sunday with three assists against the Thunderbirds. Georgii Merkulov potted the rebound of Lysell’s shot for his first helper. Then the 19-year-old Swede made a brilliant pass to set up Vinni Lettieri’s power-play goal and dished the puck to a wide-open Luke Toporowski for another goal.

— Georgii Merkulov scored a goal in each game and made some nice plays. He’s not timid about going to the hard areas. His goals were scored from close range and he was knocked down both times.

— Vinni Lettieri had a good weekend with an assist on Friday and a goal and an assist on Sunday.

— Luke Toporowski scored his first goal as a pro on Sunday and it was the game-winner. He beat T-Birds goalie Joel Hofer with his blazing wrist shot.

— Chris Wagner turned in an excellent weekend. His performance on Friday was particularly strong as he scored a goal and threw half a dozen hits.

— Providence’s penalty kill rose to the occasion in keeping Springfield from scoring during a four-minute power play in the first period on Sunday.

— Captain Josiah Didier hustled in from the blue line to bury a rebound on Sunday for his first goal of the season.

— Kyle Keyser bent but didn’t break, making 33 saves in Sunday’s win.


— Fabian Lysell took hooking penalties in the third period of both games as Providence guarded a lead. On Friday he skated into traffic with the puck and absorbed a big hit. The sooner he learns not to put himself in situations like that, the better.

— The P-Bruins gave up a lot of shots — 43 on Friday and 36 on Sunday

— Three times Providence took the lead in Springfield and all three times they allowed the tying goal within minutes.


— Injured: Eddie Tralmaks, Matt Filipe.

— Misspelling Keith Kinkaid’s name a bunch of times, as I did, is ugly. For someone who’s been doing this as long as I have, it’s inexcusable. I’ll be better.

Fabian Lysell was flattened by Jeff Kubiak of Bridgeport in the first period on Friday, but picked himself up and scored his first goal as a pro a few minutes later. (Photo courtesy of Providence Bruins)

P-Bruins season preview

The spotlight will be on Providence Bruins rookies Johnny Beecher (19) and Fabian Lysell (22), both first-round draft picks. (Photo courtesy of Providence Bruins)

The name of their building has changed and so have some of the faces on the roster.

But one thing that remains the same for the Providence Bruins is the expectation that they will again be in the playoff hunt in the AHL’s Atlantic Division.

The puck drops on the P-Bruins’ 31st season at the newly christened Amica Mutual Pavilion – formerly the Dunkin’ Donuts Center — on Friday night.

Providence has put very competitive teams on the ice on a regular basis recently and the latest edition should be no exception. The team has an interesting mix of exciting rookies and good veterans.

Over the summer, the Bruins worked to surround the young players with “really good character, veteran guys, guys who have been through some of these battles at both (the AHL and NHL) levels and who want to win and continue to get better,” said Evan Gold, Boston Bruins assistant general manager.

“One thing we wanted to do is get a little more offensive, be able to score a little easier at times on the power play and five on five, and then I think there was a focus on adding a little bit of length and size to the back end. We’re really excited about the mix in terms of talent and competitiveness,” he said.

Heading into his second season as head coach, Ryan Mougenel liked what he saw in training camp.

“Speed is going to be a big part of who we are. It feels like we’re really fast in practice, much faster than last year,” he said.

“(Management) did a real good job of recognizing high quality people, which for me is one of the most important things when you are adding pieces around young players. I think there’s going to be some hiccups and some growing pains, but that’s what we’re here for, to navigate that.”

Here’s how the team looks:


Providence has a good mix up front.

Lettieri is a proven AHL player with 47- and 48-point seasons under his belt. He has a wicked shot and has been a point-per-game scorer in the league the last two seasons.

It should be interesting and entertaining to track the development of first-rounders Fabian Lysell and Johnny Beecher and free agents Marc McLaughlin, Georgii Merkulov and Luke Toporowski.

Lysell projects as potentially the most electric offensive player to wear a Providence sweater since David Pastrnak. He can fly and has an excellent scoring touch.

At 6-foot-3 with blazing speed, Beecher can be a runaway train on skates. It remains to be seen if he will be a point-producer as a pro, but his size and skating ability will likely generate chances for him and his linemates.

Many observers believe McLaughlin played well enough in camp with Boston to make the team. It wouldn’t be a surprise if his stay in Providence is a short one.

Merkulov, who scored 20 goals as an Ohio State freshman last season and impressed with the P-Bruins in a late-season audition, has superb hands and hockey IQ. It’s been a while since the P-Bruins had a skilled Russian in the lineup but Merkulov fills the bill.

Toporowski, a free agent signed out of the WHL, is a shooter, plain and simple. At the Prospects Challenge last month and in training camp he showed no hesitation to get to inside ice even though he’s under-sized. He has a bomb of a shot and he unloads it at every opportunity.

Returnees Joona Koppanen, Chris Wagner, Oskar Steen, Sammy Asselin, Justin Brazeau are all capable players. Curtis Hall, Alex-Olivier Voyer and J.D. Greenway provide depth.

If his preseason performance is any indication, free agent Joey Abate will get under the skin of opposing teams in short order.

Eduards Tralmaks and Matt Filipe start the season on the injured list. Tralmaks, looking to build on a 14-goal season last year, could be back by the end of October.

“Offensively, there’s a lot of creative players. There’s a lot of players with tons of courage who play the right way, like Marc McLaughlin,” said Mougenel.


You can never have too many defensemen. Providence starts the season with nine.

Entering his third pro season, Jack Ahcan is the team’s best puck-mover and the most offensively talented defenseman. Look for him to be one of the best players not only in the Atlantic Division but in the entire league.

Josiah Didier is a stout defender who provides peerless leadership as team captain.

Free agents Kai Wissman, Connor Carrick and Dan Renouf look like solid additions.

Nick Wolff, coming off a solid training camp with Boston, brings a physical presence and is good on the penalty kill.

Mike Callahan and Victor Berglund are developing prospects. Rookie Jacob Wilson rounds out the group.

“Our back end is going to have that Bruins identity – hard and tough to play against,” said Mougenel.


Boston signed free agent Keith Kinkaid over the summer to provide depth behind NHLers Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman.

Kinkaid has 167 games of NHL experience under his belt. In the AHL, he’s played well against Providence on a number of occasions.

“We think we’ve added a very capable veteran guy, good person, who is going to lead the group,” said Gold.

Kyle Keyser starts his second full season with the P-Bruins. Rookie Brandon Bussi was sent to Maine of the ECHL, where he is expected to see plenty of action.

“Goaltending should be strong. Keyser really had a lot of growth at times last year. The net’s up to them, they’re going to compete for it and I love the fact that Bussi is going to push from below,” said Mougenel.


You just never know in the American Hockey League.

The regular season is a six-and-a-half-month battle of attrition. The roster you start with is often not what you finish with.

Veterans aren’t a lock to play as well as in previous seasons. Prospects that are expected to thrive as they arrive from college or junior hockey or Europe don’t always do so.

Callups, injuries and trades can wreak havoc.

The P-Bruins have made the playoffs every year since 2012. They’ll make the playoffs this year, too.

Get your popcorn ready. The fun starts Friday night.

Providence rookie Joey Abate fights Springfield’s Nick Isaacson in a preseason game on Oct. 8. (Photo courtesy of Providence Bruins)