(Photo: Alan Sullivan)
When the puck dropped on Sunday at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, the Providence Bruins were on their third game in three nights. Such is the life of the hockey player in the AHL. They are often playing all their games from Friday to Sunday. However, that third game sometimes shows the tired legs of players who have already given their all in two previous physical matches, which is often the case when Providence plays the Springfield Falcons.
Having beat the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Friday night at “the Dunk” the PBruins traveled to Springfield for the first of the home-and-home series with one of their closest rivals. The two teams stare across at each other 14 times in the 2015-16 regular season. And when it comes to home-and-home bouts, there are definitely memories.
“Yeah, you don’t forget some of the hits you took last night or some of the battles you had. I mean, we see these guys a lot and we know that we’re going to continue to see them a lot in the future,” PBruins captain, Tommy Cross said. “So we try to make the right plays and be hard on them and you definitely don’t forgive some stuff overnight, so it kind of boils over.”
As the first period drew to a close, Springfield had outshot Providence 13-8, but Malcolm Subban kept the Falcons off the scoreboard. With the exception of a crosschecking on Frankie Simonelli, the teams remained disciplined until the last minute of the period when a tussle between Falcon Phil Lane and PBruin Anthony Camara resulted in roughing calls, with an extra two for Lane. This afforded Providence a power play that they would take into the second period, though they would not be able to capitalize on it.
It would not be until 10:08 of the middle frame that either team would find the back of the net, and it would be off the stick of PBruin Austin Czarnik, with assists from Brandon DeFazio and Alexander Khokhlachev. Czarnik struck just 12 seconds into the power play from a hooking call on Ross Mauermann—who with the Providence College Friars won the NCAA Frozen Four in 2015, when Providence’s Noel Acciari was friend instead of foe.
“I think it started during intermission; [Butch Cassidy] came in and said ‘Hey we need to push ourselves,’ that we were playing too soft. And I think guys took that to heart and you know we went out there second period, picked it up, and third period we just hung with it,” Czarnik said after the game. “And obviously in overtime, big four-on-three kill, which was huge for us. It’s a good time for them to capitalize, but we were able to hang in there and stick it out and then able to get the shootout goal.”
The Falcons would not back down and would respond with their own goal just 2:02 later in the period, at even-strength, when Jordan Swzarz got his third on the season assisted by Justin Hache and Christian Thomas. The score would remain knotted at one throughout the remainder of regulation despite the Falcons consistently outshooting Providence 35-29.
The three-on-three overtime became a four-on-three power play for the Falcons with Acciari—who appears to be more comfortable in his game since returning on Sunday, January 3, from a broken jaw —getting whistled for slashing 3:33 into the extra inning.
Ultimately it would come down to a shootout with Subban denying all three of Springfield’s shooters and Providence’s Khokhlachev getting it past Niklas Treutle.
There was a lot of north and south play with little results, which certainly contributed to the low scoring game, but the power play has been improving for Providence, which is certainly something that head coach Cassidy is pleased with. He is also pleased with Acciari’s progress since returning, though the rookie is still sporting a full-face shield while his jaw continues to heal.
“I thought he was real rusty last Sunday. Yesterday was his best game, he was around the puck and scored that empty net goal, but he had some looks,” Cassidy said postgame. “Kind of a two-on-one, like he did today, a couple of shots around the front of the net. So he’s getting back to getting his chances from being heavy and hard in front of the net.”
Providence will be back in action this weekend with three home games in four days. They will take on the Albany Devils of the North Division on Friday, Jan. 15, at 7:05pm. After having Saturday off, they will have two matinees on Sunday, Jan. 17, against the Portland Pirates at 3:05 and then on Monday, Jan. 18, for the Martin Luther King holiday, against the Hartford Wolf Pack, also at 305.