P-Bruins GameDay — A rare visit from Charlotte Checkers

PROVIDENCE – The Providence Bruins will look to widen the gap between themselves and the Charlotte Checkers tonight at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

The third-place P-Bruins are four points ahead of the fourth-place Checkers in the Atlantic Division. With 21 games left, Providence’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 34.

The teams split two games in Charlotte in November. The Checkers crushed the P-Bruins, 8-2, in the first game. Providence won, 2-1, in a shootout the following afternoon.

The Checkers have not played in Providence since March 4, 2011. Trent Whitfield had 2-1-3 in the P-Bruins’ 4-2 win that night. Riley Nash had a goal for Charlotte.

Paul Postma will play his first game with the P-Bruins tonight. He’ll play the right side with Tommy Cross.

Zach Senyshyn will return to the lineup after missing two games with a lower-body injury.

Jakub Zboril and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson will miss the weekend with upper body injuries.

Charlotte will be without Andrew Miller, who is injured. Miller is tied for second in scoring in the AHL with 51 points in 53 games.

PROVIDENCE LINEUP

Fitzgerald-Szwarz-Czarnik

Agostino-Hennessy-Cehlarik

Hargrove-Cave-Senyshyn

Blidh-Porter-Hickman

Cross-Postma

Breen-Lauzon

Johansson-Clifton

McIntyre in goal, back up is Binnington

SCRATCHES: Zboril, JFK, Payerl, Acolatse

Providence visits Hartford for a 3 p.m. game on Saturday.

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

gameon

It was a solid weekend for the Providence Bruins as they won two out of three games. They beat Bridgeport, 5-3, at home on Friday, lost at Hartford, 2-1, on Saturday, then defeated the Wolf Pack at home on Sunday, 2-0.

“For the most part, we played pretty well,’’ coach Jay Leach said of Sunday’s victory. “Obviously, we had some new energy in the lineup, a couple of additions to the back end. And some of our kids – especially (Emil) Johansson and (Connor) Clifton – played a nice game for us.’’

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** Barring any last-minute deals at the NHL trade deadline on Monday, it looks like the P-Bruins’ roster will remain mostly intact, though they did lose Rob O’Gara.

*** Zane McIntyre leads all AHL goalies with six shutouts. He has five shutouts in his last 12 starts.

*** Peter Cehlarik broke a 17-game goal-less streak on Saturday night. He had four shots that night and six more on Sunday. “He had a good weekend. It’s a good step for him. He’s starting to hold on to pucks and he was really skating,’’ said Leach.

*** Johansson, a very underrated prospect, had a strong weekend. He jumped into the rush to score a nice goal on Friday. He made a good entry on Sunday that culminated in a goal by Colton Hargrove. And he assisted on Providence’s only goal on Saturday.

*** Hargrove scored goals on Friday and Sunday. With 14 goals in 37 games, he’s already matched his career-best, but it took him 66 games to reach 14 in 2015-16.

*** After scoring only 5 goals in 3 games during the previous weekend, the P-Bruins put up 5 on Friday.

*** In his best game with the P-Bruins, Matt Beleskey scored a goal and set up another on Friday.

*** Josh Hennessy’s goal on Friday was the 150th of his pro career.

*** Jordan Szwarz had 1-2-3 on Friday.

*** Anton Blidh was plus-3 with an assist on Friday.

*** The Charlotte Checkers will be at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Friday, a welcome change from the usual parade of Bridgeport, Springfield and Hartford.

BAD

*** The power play went a combined 0 for 10 on Saturday and Sunday.

*** Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson had no shots on both Friday and Saturday.

UGLY

*** The collision between JFK and Brendon Smith of Hartford on Sunday was scary.

*** Injuries: JFK (upper body), Jakub Zboril (upper body), Zach Senyshyn (lower body).

P-Bruins GameDay — Zboril out with upper-body injury

PROVIDENCE – After a busy morning in the front office, the Providence Bruins will finish the weekend by hosting the Hartford Wolf Pack this afternoon.

Matt Beleskey, traded to the New York Rangers this morning, will go down the hall and play for Hartford this afternoon.

Jakub Zboril will sit out today with an upper-body injury. Zach Senyshyn will miss his second straight game with a lower-body injury.

Chris Breen was signed to a two-way contract by Boston and is on NHL waivers, so he isn’t available today. He had been on an AHL contract.

Former Northeastern defenseman Colton Saucerman was signed to a PTO and will be in the lineup today. He has 4-32-36 in 52 games for Manchester of the ECHL.

Zane McIntyre starts in goal against Hartford’s Brandon Halverson.

Providence is coming off a 2-1 loss in Hartford last night.

“We just didn’t play very well,’’ said coach Jay Leach.

P-BRUINS LINEUP

Fitzgerald-Szwarz-Czarnik

Agostino-JFK-Cehlarik

Blidh-Cave-Payerl

Hargrove-Hennessy-Hickman

Johansson-Clifton

Lauzon-Acolatse

Cross-Saucerman

Binnington will be McIntyre’s backup.

P-Bruins GameDay — Porter in for Senyshyn

The Providence Bruins will be looking to make it two wins in a row when they face the Hartford Wolf Pack on the road tonight.

Jordan Binnington will get the start in goal for the P-Bruins.

Providence snapped out of an offensive funk with a solid 5-3 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Friday night.

“We’ll take the goals. You will not hear me complain about that,’’ coach Jay Leach said.

“For most of the game, we managed the puck well. When we didn’t, they obviously had some opportunities. We can clean up a few things, but we got some goal-scoring, which is what we were looking for.’’

Jordan Szwarz led the way with 1-2-3 and Matt Beleskey had 1-1-2 on Friday.

“He was good on the walls and obviously he had a nice goal and he set up a nice goal. It was a good game for him,’’ Leach said of Beleskey.

Zach Senyshyn will miss tonight’s game with a lower-body injury. Chris Porter will take his place.

PROVIDENCE LINEUP

Fitzgerald-Szwarz-Czarnik

Agostino-JFK-Cehlarik

Hargrove-Hennessy-Porter

Blidh-Cave-Beleskey

Cross-Clifton

Breen-Johansson

Lauzon-Zboril

McIntyre backs up Binnington

SCRATCHES

Senyshyn (lower body), Hickman, Payerl, Acolatse

The P-Bruins will finish the weekend on Sunday with a 3 p.m. game against Hartford at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

game

The Providence Bruins had a solid weekend, earning four of six points. All three games were decided by one goal. The P-Bruins posted a 1-0 shootout win at home against Bridgeport on Friday night, a 2-1 overtime victory at Springfield on Saturday, and a 3-2 home loss to the Thunderbirds on Sunday afternoon.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** Brilliant work on the penalty kill by Rob O’Gara, Jeremy Lauzon, Colby Cave, Austin Czarnik and Zane McIntyre in holding Bridgeport off the board on back-to-back shorthanded situations in overtime on Friday night.

*** The give-and-go between Kenny Agostino and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson that culminated in Agostino’s OT goal on Saturday was a thing of beauty. In addition to Saturday’s goal, Agostino scored in the shootout on Friday.

*** Austin Czarnik buried the shootout winner on Friday and had three assists in three games. He is sixth in the AHL in scoring with 13-32-45 in 41 games.

*** McIntyre posted his fourth shutout in nine games on Friday night.

*** Ryan Fitzgerald continues to play well. He had goals on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

*** Josh Hennessy had a strong weekend, setting up two goals on Saturday night and scoring one on Sunday.

*** The P-Bruins got a major break when Bridgeport’s most dangerous offensive player, Josh Ho-Sang, wasn’t used in the shootout on Friday night.

*** Providence is 6-2 in shootouts. Their six wins is second in the league.

*** The P-Bruins continue to draw strong crowds and is fourth in the AHL with an average of 8,195. Providence helped fill Springfield’s building again, too, drawing 6,793 on Saturday, 2,000 above the Thunderbirds’ average.

BAD

*** Atrocious call by referee Cam Voss at the end of regulation time on Friday, whistling Tommy Cross for unsportsmanlike conduct after a scrum. It should have been matching minors on Cross and Ben Holmstrom, who started it by jabbing Cross in the midsection with his stick, then grabbing onto Cross and refusing to let go. Voss showed no feel for the game by ringing up only Cross.

*** Peter Cehlarik is riding a 16-game goal-less streak.

*** The P-Bruins scored only five goals on the weekend.

UGLY

*** Injured: Chris Breen (lower body), Chris Porter (upper body).

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

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The Providence Bruins had a good weekend, taking five out of six points against quality opponents. They beat division-leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 4-0, at home on Friday, defeated Bridgeport, 3-1, on the road on Saturday, and lost in a shootout to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 3-2, back home on Sunday.

“With our schedule and our opponents, we did a really nice job this weekend, did a lot of good things,’’ coach Jay Leach said.

“Our first period (on Sunday) was our best period of the weekend. In the second period we stopped managing pucks — is that fatigue? In the third period we were able to manage that. I was really proud of the group because they really buckled down. There were a lot of excuses with the travel and the schedule, and we really dug in. For me, the weekend was a stepping stone for us and some of our younger players. It was encouraging.’’

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** With two goals and two fights, Adam Payerl had his best weekend of the season. He brought a lot of grit and compete to the lineup. Kudos to Payerl for fighting Mike Cornell on Saturday after the Bridgeport defenseman’s hit on Peter Cehlarik.

*** The P-Bruins kept their foot on the accelerator all night on Friday, piling up 43 shots, including 22 in the first period.

*** Jordan Szwarz had four assists during the three weekend games. He has 1-10-11 in his last nine games. For my money, he’s the best 200-foot center in the AHL’s Eastern Conference.

*** With a goal and four shots on net, Zach Senyshyn had a strong game on Saturday after missing four games with an upper body injury. The goal snapped a 15-game dry spell.

*** Matt Beleskey deserves credit. He could have sat back and collected his money last month when he was hit by a puck and broken his orbital bone, but he missed only a handful of games. On Sunday, he could have taken the rest of the afternoon off after again getting hit in the face. Instead, he put the full shield back on and returned to the game.

*** Thanks to three goals in seven minutes early in the game on Saturday, the P-Bruins forced the Sound Tigers to chase the game all night.

*** Colton Hargrove had goals on Friday and Saturday. He fought Bridgeport’s Seth Helgeson after a late hit on Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson.

*** Tommy Cross had goals on Friday and Sunday.

*** Zane McIntyre posted his second straight shutout against the Penguins on Friday.

*** Jeremy Lauzon and Ryan Fitzgerald had six shots each on Friday.

*** Jordan Binnington was good in Bridgeport, stopping 36 shots.

*** Providence scored four power play goals over the weekend.

BAD

*** JFK makes plays even if he’s not shooting the puck. Still, you’d like to see him shoot more. He had no shots on both Saturday and Sunday.

*** Bridgeport on Saturday and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday both had the night off before playing Providence, which played three games in three nights.

*** The P-Bruins had only 16 shots on Saturday.

*** Lauzon got caught out of position on the second goal by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday.

UGLY

*** There were two dangerous hits in the Bridgeport game. Kyle Burroughs boarded Chris Porter and knocked him out of the game and Steve Bernier boarded Emil Johansson. Both were called for minor penalties, but could have been more.

*** Injured: Chris Breen (lower body), Porter (upper body).

P-Bruins GameDay — McIntyre vs. DeSmith

PROVIDENCE — Figure on a low-scoring game when the Providence Bruins and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins meet at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center tonight.

The P-Bruins are third in the AHL in goals against with 117, while the Pens are fourth with 118.

The last time the Pens were in town three Fridays ago, Providence squeaked out a 1-0 win on a Tommy Cross power play goal in the third period in a very entertaining and well-played game.

The P-Bruins haven’t scored much lately, with only 22 goals in their last 11 games.

Austin Czarnik, Providence’s top scorer, is on recall in Boston.

Three of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s top five scorers won’t be available tonight. Zach Aston-Reese and Teddy Blueger are up with Pittsburgh and Ryan Haggerty is out for a while with a lower-body injury.

The Penguins are first in the Atlantic Division with a .689 points percentage. Providence is third with .609.

Zane McIntyre (.904 save percentage) will start in goal for the P-Bruins. Casey DeSmith (.917) will start for the Pens.

Zach Senyshyn, who has been out with an upper body injury, is expected to return on Saturday night in Bridgeport. Chris Breen (lower body) will miss his third straight game.

PROVIDENCE LINEUP

Agostino-Szwarz-Hargrove

Blidh-JFK-Fitzgerald

Cehlarik-Cave-Payerl

Beleskey-Hennessy-Hickman

 

Zboril-Cross

Lauzon-O’Gara

Johansson-Clifton

 

Binnington is the backup

SCRATCHES: Senyshyn, Porter, Acolatse, Breen

Bruins draft pick Swayman off to strong start with Maine

PROVIDENCE – Jeremy Swayman is making a splash in his freshman season at Maine.

With a Hockey-East-leading save percentage of .926, the 19-year-old goalie from Anchorage, Alaska, is making the Boston Bruins look smart for drafting him in the fourth round last June.

“A lot of it has to do with the teammates around me — blocking shots, making plays to get the puck out of our end. A lot of my success has been team success. It’s been a team effort the entire way. All that matters to us is the two points at the end of the game,’’ he said over the phone this week.

Swayman and the Black Bears will be in Rhode Island on Friday night to play Providence College. They dropped a 3-0 decision to the Friars in Belfast, Ireland, in November as Swayman stopped 35 shots.

PC assistant coach Kris Mayotte coached Swayman — who is 6-foot-2 and 183 pounds — with the U.S. team at the World Junior Championship last month in Buffalo.

“Big, strong, athletic kid. Competes. Hard-working. Likes to be coached,’’ Mayotte said.

Swayman played for Sioux Falls of the USHL last season, where he was a teammate of Friar Jason O’Neill.

In the 2015-16 season he made the jump from Alaska high school hockey to the U-18 Pikes Peak Miners. That wasn’t the plan heading into the season, but it ended up working out well for him.

“It was a pretty crazy deal. I tendered to the Kenai River (Alaska) Brown Bears in the NAHL. I ended up not making the team, so I was kind of in a scramble to find a team. I was still set on playing juniors, but there was kind of a pipeline from Alaska going to this team in Colorado that I’d heard of a little bit in Pikes Peak,’’ Swayman said.

“I got a hold of the coach and told him my situation. In Alaska hockey at that time, there weren’t any legit U-18 teams. (Moving) to Colorado was one of the best decisions of my hockey career. The coach, Greg Vanover, took me under his wing and really gave me every opportunity to succeed. I learned what hard work was, that’s for sure. It’s definitely a reason why I’m here today.’’

Swayman has adjusted well to Hockey East, posting a 12-7-3 record for the surprising Black Bears. He said he is always working to simplify his game.

“It’s a positioning game. You learn to relax during games and get your positioning down. It helps you see the puck a lot better. I’m always working on that every game, getting your angles and your positioning down and getting your feet set to stop the puck,’’ he said.

Swayman has assistant coach Alfie Michaud, who backstopped Maine to the 1999 NCAA title, working with him in Orono. Another former Maine great, 1993 NCAA champ Mike Dunham, is keeping a close watch, too, as goalie development coach for the Bruins.

“They’ve got a young team and, playing in Hockey East, there are going to be some learning curves. He’s handled it well and he seems to be enjoying it, which is the key. It’s a good fit up there for him.

“He works hard. He wants to learn. He studies the game. His skating ability around the crease is very strong. Obviously, he’s going to need to gain more experience, as a young kid playing at the Division I level. He’s got the right mindset and the right attitude. He’s quick, he’s square to the puck. It’s just gaining experience, at that age,’’ said Dunham who was in Orono last Friday when Swayman stopped 36 Merrimack shots in a 4-3 overtime win.

“Gave his team a chance to win. That’s what you want.”

Swayman appreciates Dunham’s input.

“Mike Dunham has been really instrumental in helping me as a player. He’s been to several of my games and he’s always been right there asking what I need help with and giving me pointers. I’ve picked his brain quite a bit and I’ve used a lot of his tools and put them into my game.

“He’s telling me to enjoy the process. He’s been there and told me some pretty good stories. To get that connection right off the bat with a guy like him has been a really good thing. It’s been cool to create a relationship with him,’’ Swayman said.

When the Black Bears were in Providence to play Brown in early January, the team attended a P-Bruins game at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, where Swayman could be playing down the road.

“It was really cool. It was definitely a pro atmosphere. The game was fast and the rink was amazing. It gives me more motivation to get to that next level,” he said.

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

hart

The Providence Bruins continue to tread water, splitting a home-and-home against Hartford over the weekend. Providence won at home on Friday, 2-1, in overtime, then lost on the road, 3-1, on Saturday.

“We were not good,” coach Jay Leach said of Saturday’s game. “We’re consistently inconsistent. I’m not even worried about (putting only 17 shots on Hartford’s net). We literally gave them 3 goals. We didn’t have more shots because we couldn’t get out of our zone.
“We didn’t make simple plays. We’re trying to save the world. We made blatant mistakes that end up in the back of the net and then we’re trying to play catch up the whole game, as opposed to getting ahead of it and playing simple.”

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

*** With Boston GM Don Sweeney watching, Austin Czarnik was all over the ice in Friday night’s win, scoring both goals and earning a recall to Boston.

*** Jordan Szwarz made a beautiful play to set up Czarnik’s OT goal on Friday.

*** The line of Ryan Fitzgerald, Szwarz and Czarnik combined for 17 of Providence’s 50 shots on Friday. Fitzgerald had 7 and Szwarz and Czarnik had 5 each.

*** Zane McIntyre made a terrific save late in regulation time on Friday, sending the game to overtime.

*** Both P-Bruins’ goals on Friday were on the power play.

*** Chris Porter had 7 shots on goal on Friday.

*** Colton Hargrove couldn’t have gotten a better bounce off the end boards on his goal in Hartford. He has 10 goals in 28 games after scoring 8 in 67 games last season.

BAD

*** Providence went from 50 shots on Friday night to only 17 on Saturday.

*** Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson had 1 shot on Friday and none on Saturday.

*** Peter Cehlarik had only 1 shot in 2 games and his fumble on the power play led to Hartford’s first goal on Saturday.

*** The Kenny Agostino-Szwarz-Fitzgerald line combined for only 2 shots in Saturday’s loss.

*** Providence has managed only 5 goals in the last 3 games.

*** The P-Bruins gave up a shorthanded goal on Saturday. They’ve allowed 8 goals while on the power play, tied for third-most in the AHL.

*** Providence has earned 9 points in its last 10 games.

*** Jeremy Lauzon was minus-2 on Saturday and is minus-5 in his last 5 games.

*** A slow change by the defense led to a 2 on 1 and Hartford’s second goal on Saturday.

*** Tough weekend ahead for the P-Bruins. They play first place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton twice at home and Bridgeport on the road. The Sound Tigers, who have given Providence fits, are idle on Friday night before playing the P-Bruins on Saturday. The  Penguins have Saturday night off before playing Providence on Sunday.

*** The next four weekends for the P-Bruins will be 3-in-3s.

UGLY

*** Injured: Chris Breen (lower body), Zach Senyshyn (upper body).

3 quick hits from Bruins-Leafs

BOSTON — The playoffs are still a couple of months away, but Saturday night’s thoroughly entertaining 4-1 victory by the Boston Bruins over the Toronto Maple Leafs was a tasty postseason appetizer.

Here are three quick hits from the game:

ANOTHER CHANCE FOR CZARNIK

Austin Czarnik’s been on fire for the Providence Bruins lately and it was nice to see him rewarded with a callup. Not only did Czarnik play well in his 9:07 of ice time, he set up Torey Krug’s power play goal in the second period.

Kudos to the Bruins coaching staff for playing to Czarnik’s strengths by using him with the man advantage, even if it was for only 32 seconds.

“I didn’t know what to expect coming into tonight so it was nice to get (power play time) and we scored on one of them so it was perfect,” Czarnik said.

“I think he was good,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “Lots of energy, on the puck, made a play on the power play which we’re used to seeing him make. So, I thought that whole line (with Frank Vatrano and Sean Kuraly) did their job pretty well, other than maybe the shift with a minute to go where they got hemmed in their own end a bit, but no complaints, and that’s what we need.”

WINNING CHEMISTRY

After Charlie McAvoy’s own goal in the first period, there was no bad body language on the part of Tuukka Rask. Instead, he went to McAvoy and told him not to worry about it.

That kind of response goes a long way.

“He’s an unbelievable teammate and an unbelievable player,” said McAvoy. “I’m kind of feeling a little upset there, obviously it’s a bounce you can’t really control, but to
have him come and tap me on the pads there and say “hey, no worries, it’s fine,” that meant a lot to me as far as focusing and getting back into the game.”

The Bruins have built some good chemistry, which should serve them well as they navigate the peaks and valley’s of the stretch drive and postseason.

“I think it’s just another sign of what you’re seeing inside of our club, and in that particular case outside, but there’s a lot of that going on. Guys are working hard for one another, have each other’s backs,” said Cassidy.

MCQUAID DOING MCQUAID THINGS

Given Adam McQuaid’s lengthy injury history, you couldn’t help but cringe when he  blocked a William Nylander slapper on a Toronto power play in the third period.

Luckily, he was none the worse for wear.

“When you break your leg blocking a shot like he did earlier in the year and missed that much time, there might be some hesitancy to put yourself in harm’s way,” said Cassidy.

But, of course, McQuaid didn’t hesitate a bit.

“That’s Adam. He’s a soldier for us,” said Cassidy.