The Providence Bruins ended 2022 on a high note, winning their last two games and taking four out of six points on their tough Pennsylvania road trip.
They started the week with a tight 1-0 loss in Hershey against the first-in-the-AHL Bears on Wednesday.
On Friday, Providence’s struggling power play came to life with a pair of goals in a 4-3 victory at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton despite being outshot, 39-27.
Back in Hershey one night later, the road-weary P-Bruins showed tremendous character in grinding out a 4-3 win despite being outshot, 41-21. The Bears, rested and ready after not playing on Friday, tied the game at 5:39 of the third, but Providence quickly responded with Chris Wagner’s power play goal at 7:05, which turned out to be the winner.
Here’s the good, bad and ugly.
— The P-Bruins finished the calendar year in second place in the Atlantic Division with 43 points and a .694 points percentage in 31 games. They are 18-6-5-2.
— If you’d told me at the start of the season that Providence would have only six regulation-time losses in their first 31 games I’d have said you were crazy.
— Chris Wagner was a beast all over the ice in the third period of Saturday’s win. He scored the eventual game-winner on the power play seven minutes into the period, then had some tremendous shifts on the penalty kill and won important defensive zone faceoffs as the clock ran down.
— Georgii Merkulov had a productive weekend with a goal and an assist against the Penguins on Friday and two assists against the Bears on Saturday. With 6-17-23 in 28 games, he leads the team in assists and is second in points.
— Oskar Steen hadn’t been producing a lot on offense in the last couple of weeks, but that changed on Friday when he buried the game-winner with 2:49 left. He also recorded two assists that night and chipped in with another helper on Saturday.
— The power play broke a drought with two goals on Friday and another one, for the game-winner, on Saturday.
— After the Pens’ Alex Nylander fell down and lost the puck in the neutral zone, Vinni Lettieri put a perfect pass on the stick of Oskar Steen for the winning goal on Friday.
— After giving up a goal in the first minute on Saturday, Keith Kinkaid delivered a strong performance with 38 saves, including some 10-bell stops with the game on the line.
— Luke Toporowski got a nice break in Saturday’s game when, without a better option, he lofted a backhander toward the goal from a foot inside the blue line and it somehow landed in the net behind Hershey goalie Hunter Shepard.
— Brandon Bussi continues to lead the AHL with a .936 save percentage.
— Jakub Lauko snapped a one-goal-in-15-games slump with an impossible angle goal on Saturday.
— Connor Carrick’s slapshot goal on Friday might have been the hardest shot by a Providence Bruin all season. He leads the team’s defensemen with 3-14-17 in 26 games.
— Brandon Bussi undoubtedly would like to have back the bad-angle shot by Valtteri Puustinen of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton that got past him on Friday.
— After a tough game on Friday, the P-Bruins had to face a Hershey squad that didn’t play the previous night.
— On Saturday, Providence gave up a goal only 27 seconds into the game.
— Hershey had nine power plays to only three for the P-Bruins on Saturday.
— Jakub Lauko didn’t help the cause when he took a misconduct and a game misconduct for abuse of officials four minutes into the third period on Saturday. The tired P-Bruins could have used his legs as they tried to close out the win.
— Injured: Johnny Beecher, Kyle Keyser, Eduards Tralmaks, Matt Filipe