On Friday night, the Providence Bruins hosted the Springfield Falcons at the Dunkin Donuts Center for the final meeting of the two teams for the regular season. It was destined to be an emotion packed game without anything else going on as the two teams battled for first in the conference. With a Providence Bruins win, they would clinch the conference and possibly have a chance to clinch the most points in the league depending on what else happened. However, if the Falcons pulled off a win, the Bruins would need at least three points in their remaining two games to win the conference.
“The guys knew going in that we could clinch the conference and maybe the highest point total,” Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy said. “But, that wasn’t our main focus. We knew the Falcons would bring a tough game.”
It was clear that emotions were high between the two teams when the first scuffle broke out less than a minute into the game. Cody Bass of the Falcons was the only one to come away with a penalty as he went to the box for roughing. It was just after the penalty expired, though, that the Bruins struck first. Craig Cunningham put home his 24th of the season after tipping a shot from the point. The assists went to Zach Trotman and Jared Knight.
The next goal would come on the next penalty of the game. Nick Drazenovic of the Falcons got two minutes for a check to the head along with a 10-minute misconduct. Just 8 seconds into that penalty, Carter Camper fielded a pass in front of the crease from Chris Bourque and easily put the puck into the wide open net. Torey Krug earned the other assist. Krug finished as the only Bruin to average a point a game against Springfield.
“I’m not sure why I was so successful,” Krug said. “They’ve been towards the top of the conference all season, so maybe I make myself work harder.”
But, the Falcons wanted to let everyone know that they knew what was at stake. Just 14 seconds after Camper put his Bruins up 2-0, Matthew Ford tipped in a shot from the left point with assists to Will Weber and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault. The Falcons had a surge of momentum and scored another goal just 29 seconds after their first. This time it was Audy-Marchessault snapping the shot from the right circle with the assists going to Ford and Weber.
The score remained tied going into the first intermission. When the teams took the ice again, it was clear that it was still tense. Springfield had a 5 on 3 advantage but could not convert before the first penalty ended. The powerplay did not go unused, though, as Blake Parlett gave Springfield the 3-2 lead with assists to Sean Collins and Boone Jenner.
Colby Cohen of the Bruins missed a big chance to tie the game after failing to convert on a breakaway. It would prove to be okay, though, as captain Trent Whitfield earned a breakaway of his own and was able to get the puck past Falcons goalie Curtis McElhinney with Cohen earning the assist. With just 1:14 left to go in the period, another scuffle broke out behind Bruins goalie Niklas Svedberg. The officials had a difficult time breaking everything up, especially after Bass from Springfield and Christian Hanson from Providence started exchanging punches. Once they sorted it all out, Springfield came out with the man advantage.
But the moment that stole the show on the night came as the second intermission started. Prior to the start of the game, the Bruins had shown a tribute to the Boston Marathon Bombing and announced they were collecting money to donate. Immediately following the second period, the Bruins made the announcement that the second suspect in the Boston Marathon Bombing was in custody. The whole building erupted with cheers as people celebrated. While Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy says it was not something you could talk about, the excitement at the start of the third was high.
“We didn’t hear the announcement, but Kevan (Miller) came in and told us what happened,” Cassidy said. “The guys were following it all day and were glad it was over.”
The Falcons found themselves in the penalty box early in the third. It was not until Spencer Machacek took a tripping penalty that the Bruins were able to recapture the lead. Boston area native Chris Bourque took a hard shot from the point to put the Bruins up 4-3 with Jaron Caron and Cunningham earning the assists. Caron sealed the win from the Bruins at 12:52 as he beat the lone defender as well as McElhinney to put his team up 5-3. Cunningham earned his second assist of the night and Tommy Cross also picked up an assist.
Although Providence was not trying to think of what a win would mean for their season, the excitement was undeniable. When the game ended, they knew that they had won the Eastern Conference. Just over an hour later, the Texas Stars fell to the Houston Aeros. With that loss, the Bruins sealed the highest point total in the league. The Bruins have two more regular season games and then start up the first round of the playoffs on Friday, April 26th.
Photo Credit: Providence Bruins