As the puck dropped to start the game, it looked eerily as though there would be a possible replay of the less than stellar play of Providence as was seen in their Friday evening game against the Worcester Sharks, when just seconds into the game, Rob Flick was called for tripping. Flick had a small discipline issue on Friday evening in the third when he was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. But seeing the Bruins shorthanded just sixteen seconds into the first frame did not bode well. Add to this the fisticuffs between Providence Bruins Tyler Randell and the Phantoms Zack FitzGerald, and it could have seemed a little like déjà vu.
However, unlike Friday night, where the Providence Bruins, who to a man would tell you, didn’t play their best, this time the momentum was all theirs as the game progressed.
Of the 12 goals scored by both teams, five of them would be power play goals, including one five-on-three opportunity that the Bruins had going into the third period, which spoke volumes of the frustrations of the opposing team. Providence would capitalize on four of their five power plays, while the Phantoms would convert only one of their five.
Right-winger Seth Griffith would score four goals –one in the first, two in the second, and one in the third—and add an assist for a five-point night. His line mate, Alexander Khokhlachev would have an assist on three of Griffith’s goals, as well as one score by Jared Knight, and then would pot one of his own for, for his own five-point night. Tough guy Randell would have two goals, two assists and one fight. One more fisticuff and Randell would have had two Gordie Howe Hat Tricks—instead he had to settle for one fight and four points on the night.
As Providence Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, said after the game, the team needed this blow out.
“I told the guys afterwards, we all needed this; coach and players,” he said. “We’ve been in a lot of close games for about two months now. You need one of those every once in awhile so you can just breathe a little bit.”
After garnering only one point out of their Friday tilt against the Sharks, and falling on Saturday to the Manchester Monarchs–despite a lot of positives from the Bruins, the win on Sunday had the team feeling pretty good.
Randell’s fight with FitzGerald came just 6:28 into the first period, and got the fans roaring as he landed a few good ones—even though he seemed to take as good as he was giving. The fight was the result of some earlier chirping between Flick and Bobby Robins on the Providence bench and FitzGerald on the Adirondack bench.
The Pink Puck asked Randell if his fight helped get him into the game.
“I know it’s my job and stuff, being physical and getting the energy of the crowd is definitely a huge part of my game,” he answered. “It was nice to get it done early and get everyone pumped up and going. That definitely helped get me going for the game.”
It must have, because he would score an important goal with just 3:11 remaining in the first to put the Bruins up by two going into the first intermission. Even Coach Cassidy pointed to this goal as being important to damaging the psyche of the Phantoms.
“We needed that secondary scoring and tonight clearly we got it early. That was a big goal by [Randell]; good goal or bad, to take a two nothing lead into the first intemission.” Cassidy pointed out. “[The Phantoms] probably would have been, ‘Oh it’s only one nothing, that’s not bad,’ but that was a big goal for us. Those are the plays you need.”
Randell referred to the game as being one of those days where everything goes their way. And it certainly appeared to be that way, especially for Khokhlachev and Griffith. Khokhlachev just always seemed to find Griffith—who was given time and space—so that Griffith could get the shot on net. And from those shots came goals.
When asked by The Pink Puck if perhaps he was untouchable on Sunday, Griffith looked sheepish and humble.
“I just tried to get myself open,” he told The Pink Puck. “Me and [Khokhlachev] kinda got some chemistry going, so he made some nice passes to me. All I had to do really was just shoot it on net. And [Carson Chubak] wasn’t really in his net.”
Griffith made it sound very easy, and perhaps the final score makes it look like it was that easy. Griffith’s second of the evening, which was the Bruins’ fourth on the day (and came just 2:19 after Knight’s drought ended), would force Phantoms head coach Terry Murray to make a goalie change. It would slow the Bruins down, but just as in the first, with 3:03 remaining, the Bruins would score their fifth—Griffith’s third of the game and second of the period.
However, Griffith would also credit the great work, and sacrifice, of his teammate Randell. It was clear that the team knew they needed to win Sunday’s game, so they were already motivated, but The Pink Puck asked Griffith if Randell’s fight help get them pumped for a win.
“For sure. Everytime [Randell] or Bobby fights it gets everybody going. It gets everybody excited,” he responded. “You gotta give them a lot of credit. It’s not an easy thing to do and we have a lot of respect for them because they do that for us.”
Meanwhile for Knight, that goal in the second period had to feel good. He’d been struggling for some time to get one in the goal, and it was clear that a huge weight had lifted from his shoulders. You have to go all the way back to the Bruins game against the Hartford Wolf Pack on November 10, 2013 for his last goal. However, it is important to remember that he was injured and didn’t play in games from January 25, 2014 through February 16, 2014.
In discussing the attributes of Khokhlachev after the game, Coach Cassidy pointed out that though the first-year professional had struggled a little to understand the Bruins system, he commended Khokhlachev as a “high plus player.” And indeed he is. After Sunday’s game, he was a +13 with 18 goals and 28 assists for 46 points in 51 games on the season.
With Sunday’s win, the Providence Bruins remain third in the Atlantic Division, four points behind the St. John’s Ice Caps and moved up one slot to sixth in the Eastern Conference. They return to play at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Friday, March 14, when they will take on the Worcester Sharks again. Perhaps Griffith and Khokhlachev will continue to see who can get the most points.
Griffith was asked, by The Pink Puck, if he and his line mate had any money on the board after Sunday’s give and go points. He grinned.
“No, no money on the board tonight, actually,” he responded. “But I think we might have to this next weekend.”
It could be an interesting weekend if they do.