An entertaining and productive season for the Providence Bruins crashed and burned in the first round against the Hartford Wolf Pack.
After finishing at the top of the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference in the regular season, the P-Bruins fell behind, two games to none, at home in the first two games of the playoffs and couldn’t dig their way out of the hole.
They played their best game of the series on Wednesday in Hartford and earned a 6-3 win, but they were outplayed in a 4-0 loss on Friday and lost the series, three games to one.
“Disappointing for sure. You look back at the two home games, that’s probably the most disappointing. When you punted the first two games of the series it’s tough to claw your way back in,” coach Ryan Mougenel said after Friday’s loss.
“A lot of good lessons for all of us as a staff, and obviously for some young players – how tough it is in the playoffs and what you have to do to win. Hartford did a real good job of showing us what it takes to win. We weren’t willing to do what they were willing to do.”
Despite finishing first, Providence wasn’t the same team after a 12-day layoff between the end of the regular season and their first playoff game. Hartford deserved the win.
“(The Wolf Pack) did a real good job of limiting our time and space and swarming us,” said Mougenel. “They were on top and us and they were above us. One way for us to nullify that is to play behind them. We had some players that were pretty stubborn in doing it. They learned pretty quickly that Harlem Globetrotter hockey doesn’t win in the playoffs.”
For the final time this season, here’s the good, bad and ugly.
— Brandon Bussi was Providence’s best player in the final two games and throughout the series, making some outstanding saves.
He committed highway robbery, as Johnny Pierson used to say on TV38, on Lauri Pajuniemi with the P-Bruins ahead by a goal late in the third period on Wednesday. It was one of the best stops of this or any season.
Pajuniemi had cut Providence’s lead to 4-3 with a goal at 13:34. Shortly after, when there was a stop in play and Bussi came to the bench, he told his teammates, “That’s one’s on me, boys. They aren’t getting any more.”
His next save was the incredible glove save as Pajuniemi bid for the tying tally.
Bussi had a fabulous rookie season. His battle level is elite – he never gives up on the puck.
— Justin Brazeau scored twice and had seven shots on goal in Wednesday’s win.
— Luke Toporowski gave Providence a three-goal cushion on Wednesday as he scored a pretty power play goal on an individual rush and finish in the second period on Wednesday
— Jack Ahcan’s unassisted breakaway goal in the third period of Wednesday’s win increased Providence’s lead to 4-2. It gave his team some breathing room and ended up as the game-winning goal. He earned an assist on Luke Toporowski’s power play goal earlier in the game.
— Joona Koppanen’s not a fighter but credit to him for immediately going after Adam Clendening after the Hartford defenseman’s dirty hit on Fabian Lysell.
— Josiah Didier had two assists on Wednesday.
— You never want to see a player wheeled off on a stretcher as Mike Callahan was nine seconds into the third period on Friday. Fortunately, Callahan was up and walking around after the game. Will Lockwood of the Wolf Pack received a five-minute penalty for boarding and a game misconduct on the play.
— Providence didn’t put nearly enough heat on Hartford goalie Dylan Garand. The P-Bruins were shut out twice in four games. Six of the seven goals they scored in the series came in Game 3 and two of them were empty netters.
— The P-Bruins have scored nine goals in their last six playoff games.
— Adam Clendening of Hartford was suspended for his hit that concussed Fabian Lysell. Ryan Moungenal was on the money when he called the hit “predatory and cowardly.”
— Injured: Marc McLaughlin, Fabian Lysell, Jakub Lauko, Trevor Kuntar
Though he’s not a fighter, Providence’s Joona Koppanen (45) didn’t hesitate in going after Adam Clendening (5), who threw a dirty, dangerous hit on Fabian Lysell. Koppanen went right at Clendening.