Providence, RI: Growing pains continue to plague a young Providence Bruins squad. Despite their first win of the 2018-19 season, the Bruins dropped the next two on consecutive nights. They currently sit near the bottom of the AHL standings, and only have a few weeks left to recover in enough time to compete for a playoff spot again.
Game 3: PVD Bruins (0-2-0) @ HFD Wolfpack (2-1-0)
Nuts and Bolts:
Hartford on the Ropes:
Providence took the Hartford ice on a mission to erase mistakes made last weekend. Providence coach Jay Leach elected to start his 4th line of Bruins prospects Anton Blidh, Colby Cave, and former Texas Star Austin Fyten. After surrendering the first shot on goal, the line forechecked its way into the Hartford zone, establishing a solid presence. When the Wolf Pack pushed back, McIntyre held the pups off the score sheet with confident goaltending.
The Bruins were soon rewarded for their responsible play. Six minutes into the first period, Connor Clifton recovered a loose puck Cameron Hughes attempted to pass. Clifton hit Mark McNeill up by the Wolf Pack blue line, and gained the offensive zone. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson had snuck behind the Wolf Pack defense, and received a centering feed from McNeill through traffic. Forsbacka Karlsson froze the Hartford netminder, and tucked it into the net.
Wolf Pack Pressures Providence:
Hartford would not let the period end without tying the game. Providence defensemen Chris Breen and Jakub Zboril lost a board battle in their own zone, allowing the Wolf Pack to regain possession of the puck. Off a long drive, Chris Bigras fired a shot intentionally wide of the net. Neither Breen nor Zboril were covering Hartford’s Lias Andersson, who tipped his teammate’s shot over McIntyre. Each team had a few more chances, but the first period ended in a tie.
Hartford took command of the game in the second with a go ahead goal off the stick of Bobby Butler. Providence’s Jordan Szwarz attempted to clear the puck but Peter Holland stuffed him at the blue line, winning a puck battle and fed Butler. McIntyre could not set in time, and Butler rifled the shot by the Providence goalie. Later in the third, Hartford struck again, as Tim Gettinger batted a puck out of midair and past McIntyre for a 3-1 lead.
Bruins Claw Back:
Providence would not go quietly into the night. With 8 minutes left in the game, an energetic shift by the Bruins 4th line cut the lead to one. Austin Fyten and Colby Cave won an offensive zone puck battle, with Cave dropping a pass to Anton Blidh. From the right faceoff circle, Blidh ripped a shot short side, beating Dustin Tokarski between the glove and leg pad. Less than two minutes later, off a defensive zone draw, Jakub Zboril hit Peter Cehlarik with an outlet pass. Cehlarik fed Karson Kuhlman, who turned on the jets and blasted into the Wolf Pack zone. Kuhlman’s shot was stopped, but Trent Frederic charged into the zone, crashed the net and scored off the rebound. As the third period ended, Hartford made a critical mistake; former P-Bruin Rob O’Gara went for a line change and John Gilmour stepped on to soon. Hartfort touched the puck, and the whistle blew sending Providence to the powerplay. While the Bruins could not finish the game in regulation, Cody Goloubef capitalized on the powerplay in overtime to give the Bruins their first win.
Game 4: PVD Bruins (1-2-0) vs. HFD Wolfpack (2-1-1)
Nuts and Bolts:
From Bad to Worse:
Returning home after their first victory, Providence skated out onto the Dunk eager to begin a winning streak. Through the first fifteen minutes of the first period, Providence relentlessly forechecked. They created several scoring chances early, but key saves from Hartford’s Marek Mazanec and bad puck bounces held them off the scoresheet.
Trouble began with almost six minutes remaining in the period. Peter Cehlarik coughed up the puck on a sloppy zone entry at the Wolf Pack blue line, and Peter Holland redistributed the puck off a smart bank pass. Teammate Bobby Butler skated in on Dan Vladar and took a shot for a rebound. Providence defenseman Chris Breen whiffed on a clearing attempt as the Butler shot’s rebound whistled through Breen’s legs. Thus, Hartford’s Ryan Gropp easily walked into the slot, picked up the loose rebound and fired it past Vladar.
Adding insult to injury, Gabriel Fontaine and Lias Andersson combined for a shorthanded bid. Providence’s Jakub Zboril had pinched far up the half-boards to keep the puck alive in the offensive zone, but allowed Fontaine to slip behind him. After losing the ensuing board battle, the Wolf Pack thus had an odd man rush toward Vladar. Providence rookie and lone defenseman Urho Vaakanainen dropped to the ice in an attempt to take away the cross-crease pass. However, Fontaine patiently waited and saucer passed the puck over Vaakanainen for a quick snap-in goal by Andersson.
Too Big a Hill to Climb:
Deflated, the Bruins mustered no pushback in the second period. Providence had tension written all over their faces; as a result, passes went into teammate’s feet or opponent’s sticks, shots went wide, and frustrations mounted. Hartford added two more goals between the second period, leaving the Bruins in a daunting four-goal-deficit.
Finally, the Bruins broke the shutout late in the third period. Hartford had been caught with too many men on the ice, and consequently Providence got a powerplay. The Bruins moved the puck around the powerplay umbrella with urgency, pinballing from Peter Cehlarik to Ryan Fitzgerald to Zach Senyshyn in quick succession. As a result, Marek Mazanec was caught out of position, and Senyshyn tallied his first goal of the season.
Off the ensuing faceoff, Providence’s fourth line crashed their way into the zone, with Colby Cave charging straight for the goal. As he arrived, teammate Anton Blidh sent a shot pass toward Cave, who redirected it past Mazanec for the second Providence goal of the night.
Second year head coach Jay Leach elected to roll the dice, and pulled Vladar for the extra attacker. Further, the Bruins seemed renewed by their quick strikes, and continued pouring the pressure on. With fifteen second remaining, the Bruins gamble payed off. The Bruins caught Hartford in a spin cycle, as the latter tried to clear the puck. Colby Cave shoveled the puck forward off the broken clearing attempt. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson caught this shovel pass, and sent a nifty saucer pass to Anton Blidh at the far post for an easy tap-in goal to bring the game within one goal.
Nevertheless, the comeback wilted on the vine as the Bruins hardly had time left to obtain the equalizer. Hartford escaped with their lead intact as the Bruins rallied.
Game 5: PVD Bruins (1-3-0) @ SPR Thunderbirds (1-0-2)
Nuts and Bolts:
The Providence Bruins and Springfield Thunderbirds fought the battle of attrition Sunday afternoon in a 3:05 PM matinee. This game marked the end of this weekend’s three games in three nights for both clubs. Fatigue showed in the way both teams played, as both committed several lazy penalties in quick succession. Each team had discrete 5-on-3 man advantages, but only Providence capitalized. As the Providence powerplay ended, Peter Cehlarik took a feed from Urho Vaakanainen along the half-boards and sizzled a pass to an ungraded Zach Senyshyn by the Springfield left goalpost. Senyshyn one-timed the pass up and over Springfield netminder Sam Montembeault to put the Bruins ahead by one. Providence dodged a bullet earlier in the period, as Zane McIntyre was out of position during a flurry of activity in his own zone. As McIntyre tried to recover, Ludwig Bystrom parked in the middle of the Providence crease, and the ensuing Springfield goal was called off for goaltender interference. Providence ended the first stanza up by one.
The next period heavily favored the Thunderbirds, who abused the Providence defense for three goals. The bleeding began at 18:44 of the second, as a sloppy Bruins clearing attempt was repulsed back into their own zone. Through a series of missed defensive assignments, the Thunderbirds Dryden Hunt plucked the puck off the half-boards, fed to Paul Thompson by the goal post. Thompson made a nifty back pass across the crease to Harry Zolnierczyk streaking in for an easy snap-in. Fifty seconds later, Springfield’s goaltender Sam Montembeault identified Providence in the middle of a line change. He sprung a long pass to Zolnierczyk who fed Anthony Greco streaking past the scrambled Providence defense. Greco made no mistake with his shot, going goalpost and in past McIntyre. Finally, off a failed clear by Zboril, the Thunderbirds held the puck in the zone. Anthony Greco carried the puck to the goal stripe, and threaded a pass through several disoriented Providence skaters to teammate Jonathan Ang. The initial shot by Ang was stuffed by McIntyre, but he committed too hard to that save, and was out of position for the rebound.
Hits Keep Coming:
Providence responded to the onslaught with a quick strike of their own. Connor Clifton caught a rolling puck in the high slot and immediately passed to Mark McNeill down low by the right goal post. McNeill put a quick bad-angle shot on Montembeault, and the puck trickled out for an easy tap-in by a hovering Colby Cave. The momentum did not last long, as Springfield answered the Providence proximate goal with another three goal deluge. Providence tried to mount a comeback, with a powerplay goal off the stick of Ryan Fitzgerald. However, in a continuation on a theme, it was too little too late.
Plus: + The Providence Bruins secured their first win of the season beating the Hartford Wolf Pack on the road in Hartford.
+ Senyshyn, Forsbacka-Karlsson, Frederic, Blidh, Goloubef, and Fitzgerald all tallied their first goals of the season this weekend.
+ Senyshyn has two goals in two games, opening the score Sunday, and helping close the gap Saturday night.
+ Providence scored two powerplay goals this weekend, while only allowing one powerplay goal against.
+ Vaakanainen continues teasing the masterful play the Bruins drafted him for. His play along the half boards during powerplays, and his offensive traffic controlling were on full display this weekend. His gap control and defensive instincts need work, but will develop as the season progresses.
+ Providence roared back from zero to three goals in under five minutes before their comeback bid fell short against the Wolf Pack Saturday night.
Minus: – The Bruins failed to convert on two discrete 5-on-3 powerplay opportunities against Springfield.
– The Bruins defense has been porous lately, failing to clear the crease, creating turnovers in their own end, and making outlet passes onto the sticks of opponents.
– Jakub Zboril had a brutal weekend: on the ice for all three goals against Friday night and two each Saturday and Sunday. Of all the turnovers caused by Bruins defensemen, his were some of the worst. His outlet passes more often than not became scoring chances against.
– After posting a respectable win in overtime Friday, Zane McIntyre reverted to a puddle in the crease Sunday afternoon. While the defensive breakdowns in front of him were not his fault, several times he over-committed to one save. This anchored him to one spot in the crease, unable to make a follow-up save.
– Dan Vladar experienced his first ugly loss in a Providence Bruins uniform. The Wolf Pack piled on four goals Saturday before the Bruins could answer with goals of their own.
– Scary moments for Jordan Szwarz Friday night after he took a skate blade to his leg and immediately left the game. Szwarz did not play the following night, but did return to action Sunday afternoon.
– Providence digs itself into a deeper hole in the standings with only one win in five games. An early hole makes securing a playoff berth later on significantly more difficult with each loss.
– Providence has repeatedly failed to make clean breakout passes, and relies on broken, sloppy zone entries to generate scoring chances. As a result, most offensive opportunities are turned back at the opponent’s blue line, or manage one shot on goal before the puck is recovered by opponent’s defensemen.