P-Bruins Week in Review
The Providence Bruins had three home games versus divisional opponents this weekend, and by taking four of a possible six points against them they maintained their place in the postseason picture. With a pair of victories and one defeat, the team remains fourth in the Atlantic Division at 31-22-7-2 and 71 points. In addition to their wins, the P-Bruins also showed improved special teams play this weekend. Their power play, which had been struggling of late, converted at a rate of 28.6% while their strong penalty killing group allowed just one goal on nine opponent power play attempts.
The P-Bruins began their weekend with a back-and-forth battle with the Hershey Bears Friday night. Hershey grabbed an early lead, but a pair of second period power play goals from Jordan Szwarz and Paul Carey gave Providence a 2-1 lead into the third period. The Bears tied things up late and forced a six-round shootout, but ultimately Anton Blidh's first career shootout goal in the final round gave the Bruins a 3-2 win. The two clubs faced off for a rematch Saturday in what turned out to be a battle for third place. The rookie duo of Trent Frederic and Urho Vaakanainen put Providence ahead in the second period, but the Bears boasted a 3-2 lead late in the game. Paul Carey took over from there, potting the tying goal with seven minutes left and the eventual game-winner 12 seconds into overtime to give the P-Bruins a 4-3 victory. Providence welcomed Springfield to the Dunk on Sunday to conclude their weekend, but despite netting the first goal of the game by Vaakanainen, the team fell to the T-Birds by a 3-1 final.
Clifton and Carey lead the way
Defenseman Connor Clifton and winger Paul Carey were crucial to the team's success this weekend, each posting a pair of multipoint games in the two P-Bruin wins. Clifton and Carey picked up assists on the team's first goal of the weekend and Clifton earned the primary assist on Carey's second period goal Friday. That duo continued to dominate Saturday, as Clifton had helpers on both Carey's tying and game-winning goal. Each player had four points this weekend and are on a torrid pace of late. Carey has 10 points over his last nine games, scoring six goals during that time. Clifton has eight points in his last eight games and easily leads all Bruins defenders with 27 points on the season. The two were rewarded for their strong play, as Boston recalled each of them March 13.
Vaakanainen finding his offense
Urho Vaakanainen failed to light the lamp during the first 30 games of his pro career, but something has clicked offensively for the talented blueliner as of late. He has four goals and five points over his last four contests, including a pair of goals this weekend. His tallies came at crucial points too, as each of his goals gave Providence the lead. A 2017 first round draft pick, Vaakanainen certainly looks more comfortable and balanced with his game and is likely the top call-up option should Boston need a left shot defenseman.
In addition to losing Carey and Clifton, Boston also called up Trent Frederic March 11. Frederic played well this weekend, recording a goal, assist and two fights. He took Lee Stempniak's place on Boston's roster, as Stempniak returns to Providence after a two-game stint in Boston. The P-Bruins shook up their fourth line this weekend, sending Brett McKenzie back to the ECHL and signing Conor Riley to a PTO. Riley skated in all three games this weekend for the team this weekend, but was released from his PTO March 12.
Two new faces joined the P-Bruins this week, as both Cooper Zech and Karl El-Mir signed PTOs with Providence now that their college seasons are complete. Zech played at Ferris State University this season, and the 20-year old defenseman scored eight goals and 20 assists for 28 points over 36 games. El-Mir spent the last four seasons playing with the University of Connecticut, and the 22-year old forward posted 62 points over 118 games with the Huskies.
After spending a nice stretch of time at home with 11 of their last 13 games at the Dunk, the P-Bruins hit the road for Pennsylvania this weekend. On Friday night, they head to Allentown for a 7:05pm face off with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. They then take on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Saturday night at 7:05pm, hoping to avenge a shootout loss against the Penguins earlier this month. Both teams are just behind the Bruins in the standings, and with time running out to make a push, Providence has a chance to solidify their postseason position by taking care of business.
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