Providence Bruins: 23-23-3 (49 pts – 7th)
Springfield Falcons: 16-26-8 (42 pts – 8th)
The Providence Bruins came into today sitting at 7th out of 8 in the Atlantic Division, exactly tied at 0.500 in 9th place in the Eastern Conference with the Norfolk Admirals of the East Division. The Falcons, on the other hand, are in dead last in the AHL. No surprise there, as they’re the Oilers’ AHL affiliate. The Peebs played the Falcons Saturday in Springfield as well in a decisive 8-2 win. The re-arrival of Adam McQuaid, Drew Larman and Trent Whitfield combined with Brad Marchand’s recent return from injury probably contributed to the numbers there; they dropped a 2-0 decision to the Manchester Monarchs in Larman and Whitfield’s return debut, but I’m chalking that up to both the fact that Manchester is #1 in the Division, currently on a hot streak, and it’s possible Larman and Whitfield just needed time to readjust to the AHL pace.
Providence comes into the game on a rampage; a quick goal from MacDonald less than two minutes in, followed by two more, from Hamill and Arniel. Ten minutes into the game, and Providence already has a three-goal lead. Around 14 minutes in, Springfield takes a penalty. Of course, as a fan of the Boston Bruins, I’m just sitting there thinking “well, power play, let’s just hope they don’t let Springfield score shorthanded.”
Twenty seconds in, Brad Marchand snags an awesome pass from Mikko Lehtonen. Click, click, boom – Peebs are up 4-0. The power play is a little more frantic in the AHL, not quite as efficient and organized in its setup the way it is at the NHL level, but something about its frenzy makes it effective. An interference penalty on Craig Weller puts the P-Bruins on the penalty kill with about a minute and thirty seconds left in the period; here, luckily, the Peebs take a cue from their older brothers an hour north. Their penalty killing percentage is 0.821; best in the league is the Hershey Bears at 0.900. The P-Bruins have a way to go to catch that, but last night, it looked pretty good.
The second period started up with the P-Bruins outshooting the Falcons 13-6. The nice thing about the minor leagues is that it’s generally not frowned upon if you want to move your seats; we shifted from sitting at about the red line to sitting behind Springfield goalie Andrew Penner. I’m sitting there racking my brains for why the name sounds so familiar, and then my friend says “Ooh, I like the little rainbow stripe on his helmet.” I look up, and there it is – a blue, yellow, and red stripe that leads right to a white and yellow eagle.
Andrew Penner is a callup from the Colorado Eagles! I CAN’T ESCAPE. (The Colorado Eagles are the CHL team that played in Loveland, CO, where the Tampa Bay Lightning played a preseason game against the Phoenix Coyotes, and also exactly 15 minutes from where I lived for 6 months.) The Eagles are technically an affiliate of the Lightning, hence the reason for the preseason game; however, Penner was never drafted. He is also one game away from setting an Eagles franchise record for wins in a career.
Anyways, so the seats were pretty great, right behind the goal judge, who kept turning around and teasing us for taking so many photos of Penner. Oops?
The P-Bruins clearly had the momentum going in this game; they came out and killed the last few seconds of the Falcons’ power play. Play was very back and forth for the first few minutes; 7 minutes in, Jason Pitton decides he wants to try to swing the momentum Springfield’s way, and picks a fight with Jordan Knackstedt.
Tale of the tape: Pitton’s 6’2, 215 lb. Knackstedt is 6’2, 195. First AHL fight of the season for both guys, although Pitton’s had a few fights in the ECHL this year. The win goes to Knackstedt. No momentum for Springfield. They follow it up with a penalty; Kip Brennan, who happens to be a -17 on the year, goes to the box for interference. 45 seconds later, Trent Whitfield capitalizes – power play goal number two for the night, from Marchand and Lehtonen. Larman takes a penalty; the P-Bruins kill it, and turn it around for another Trent Whitfield goal right after the penalty expires.
No more goals in the 3rd, but it’s still a fun period to watch. The power play finishes up the night 2-for-4, which is better than anything the big club can muster up; Jamie Arniel (5’11, 183…NOT a big guy!) takes on Charles Linglet (6’2, 215) and wins; final shots-on-goal total is 31 for Providence, 28 for Springfield. Dany Sabourin made 28 saves in this shutout win; Penner made 25 stops. Captain Whitfield has a 4 point night, with 2 goals and 2 assists; Brad Marchand has a 3 point night, with 1 goal and 2 assists. The whole game, I kept marveling at how much more the P-Bruins move their feet than the big B’s do right now; again, their power play is more frantic than the big team’s and probably is less effective against some of the better AHL teams; despite that, the big club could do to take some hints from the energy of their minor league team.
This game was 100% catharsis; I can’t even talk about how amazing it felt to watch our team score SIX GOALS. Get on this, big Bruins. Of course, McQuaid’s been called back up to replace Mark Stuart in the Boston lineup; maybe he can bring some of the P-Bruins’ recent mojo up I-95 with him.
#1 Trent Whitfield
#2 Brad Marchand
#3 Dany Sabourin