The Providence Bruins stormed through the preseason on September 28th by defeating the Springfield Thunderbirds, AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers, in what was a highly penalized game by a score of 8-1. It may have only been a preseason, but when I asked Providence head coach, Jay Leach, what this kind of win meant to the team, he said, “Well, it’s always good to win. It is only preseason, but it is nice to win. We were certainly to do a lot of things that we have been working on throughout training camp which was nice to see. I think that’s really how we’ll take it. It’s a step in the right direction.”
At the start of the first period, Springfield came out firing on all cylinders. The Thunderbirds started by playing exceedingly aggressive, including a nasty hit not even 30 seconds into the game when Adam Rockwood, number 11 for Springfield, collided with Urho Vaakanainen, number five for Providence. Providence made sure that they got some heavy hitting in as well, especially by Tommy Marchin, number 43 for the Bruins. Early in the game, Marchin was often seen to get in players’ faces on the ice and provide some strong hits for his team. Penalties came early in the game when Scott Conway, number 46 for Providence, was penalized for tripping only a little over two minutes into the game. This penalty proved to be costly when Patrick Bajkov, number 49 for Springfield, scored the first goal of the game off of an assist by Matt Mangene, Springfield’s number 57. However, this spark of offense was Springfield’s only goal of the game and they were shut down by a combination of lockdown Providence defense and an excellent performance by goaltender, Kyle Keyser, number 35 for the Bruins.
When I asked Leach about the team’s performance on the defensive side of the ice, he said, “We pride ourselves on our defense, whether it’s on the rush or inside our zone. So, we’ll just continue to harp on our standards within that. So, in our defensive zone, we want to make sure that we stop and that we’re closing, we’re talking, and able to sort out our reads, and off the rush we want to make sure that we have gaps, we’re able to get in people’s faces and use our sticks and hopefully we can squash those rushes when they come down on us.” The Bruins were able to work on their penalty kill and kill off every penalty they received except for the first one which resulted in that lone goal.
The Bruins also had a pretty hot offense, and even though it was a preseason game, it is always impressive when a hockey club racks up monster numbers like eight goals in a single game. It did not come from just one or two players either regarding scoring. Cooper Zech, number 25 for the Bruins, and Joona Koppanen, number 45 for the Bruins, were both able to score two goals each for the team, and that was only half of the goals scored. The other four were made by Alex Petrovic, number two for Providence, Paul Carey, number 27 for Providence, Samuel Asselin, number 11 for Providence, and Ryan Fitzgerald, number 19 for Providence. It got to the point where Springfield had to sub out their starting goaltender for backup, Ryan Bednard, at the start of the third who still managed to let in two additional goals.
On the Bruin’s offensive performance Leach commented, “I encourage scoring whenever we can. This is one of those things where we really have to just put it behind us and look for the next challenge. We all know that preseason is really just a tune up. But to answer your question on how we will continue to score goals, we need to continue to get to the net, we need to continue to execute off the rush, and we need to make sure we make it hard on their goaltenders to see pucks when we get pucks to the net.”
The Bruins were able to get the win and will continue to use that knowledge on opening night in Lehigh Valley when they play the Phantoms, AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers, on October 5th. When I asked coach Leach who would be starting in net that night, he said, “Giving me the hard stuff. We’re working on that. All three of our potential goalies have made it a tough decision for us. Right now, we got Daniel Vladar and Kyle Keyser with us, both played well this weekend, might have another coming. So, I can’t tell you, we’re going to have to battle it out this week and see where the chips fall come Saturday night.”