(Photo: Alan Sullivan)
The puck dropped on the first game of the 2018 Prospects Challenge, hosted by the Buffalo Sabres, in which the Boston Bruins rookies took on their counterparts of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The first thing that was clear to those watching was how eager the players were to be back in a competitive environment. Both Trent Frederic and Kyle Keyser, following the game, vocalized how happy they were to be getting the season started.
The first period was all Boston as the Bruins outshot the Penguins 20-7. And with that fire power came three even strength goals. The first was off the stick of Cameron Hughes and assisted by Jakub Zboril at 7:50 in the opener. Twenty-eight seconds later, Jack Studnicka gave Boston some breathing room, assisted by Hughes (who now had a goal and an assist in the opening ten minutes of the game) and Daniel Bukac. With 1:03 remaining in that opening frame, Ryan Donato capitalized on a sloppy turnover by the Penguins to give the Bruins a third tally.
As things got underway in the second period, it looked like the Bruins were going to continue in the same vein. Just 1:09 into the middle period, Harvard University graduate Wiley Sherman notched a goal assisted by Donato (himself a Harvard alum) along with Axel Andersson, drafted this past June by the Bruins in the second round.
About two minutes after going up four goals, the Bruins got away from their game and found themselves cooling their skates in the penalty box. Cedric Pare was the first at 2:49 of the second, whistled for high-sticking. Zboril would enter the sin bin at 8:14 for roughing and, with 2:56 remaining in the period, Bukac would be sent off for a hold. Despite weathering the Penguins on the man advantage—in part due to the focus of Keyser between the pipes—it was clear that Pittsburgh was gaining momentum from each incident.
Going into the third period, the Bruins—holding the only goals, and for that matter the only penalties, on the score sheet—had denied any chances of the Penguins. Pittsburgh, though, wasn’t going to lay down and take it, showing signs of tenacity when Connor Roberts got his team on the scoreboard 2:17 into the final frame, assisted by Troy Josephs.
The Bruins woud have their only power play at 12:53 of the third, when Jordy Bellerive was whistled for a slash. They would be unable to capitalize. And with just 39 seconds left in the game, Adam Johnson, assisted by Sam Lafferty, would at least remind the Bruins that a game isn’t over until that final buzzer sounds, making the final score 4-2, and giving Donato the game winning goal.
“I thought that the first period we really supported pucks well and we got pucks in and we were able to attack, both off the rush and off the forecheck. I thought in the second they came at us. They were down three nothing, they were going to come at us. I didn’t think we were back on pucks and I thought we got a little lackadaisical and that we started to play in our own end,” shared Providence Bruins head coach Jay Leach, who is the bench boss for the B’s prospects. “So, I think my message or what I would like for them to take out of the game was ‘if we play the right way and we go north and we skate and take care of pucks and we attack, it’s hard to play against us.’”
The Bruins prospects will be back in action Saturday night at the HarborCenter, when they take on the Buffalo Sabres’ prospects—who also won their first game of the tournament, beating the New Jersey Devils 6-4.