The P-Bruins fell victim to poor special teams play and inconsistent goaltending in the home-opener on Friday, falling 5-1 to the Falcons after surrendering two power play goals, two short-handed tallies and a strike on a delayed penalty. With perceived number one goalie Nolan Schaefer in Prague with the parent Bruins, Matt Dalton garnered the start but let up four goals on 16 shots before being pulled in favor of rookie Michael Hutchinson. The rookie net-minder only faced one shot in his first professional appearance, allowing a goal late in the third period to Grant Clitsome.
Saturday, however, inspired Providence fans with a more realistic depiction of what the club may be capable of this season, grabbing a 5-1 lead on the road at the MassMutual Center before eventually logging a 6-5 win at Springfield. A total of 12 different players registered points in front of Hutchinson, who earned the win with 31 saves in his first pro start following a 32-win campaign for London in juniors a season ago. It was the first-year players who led the charge as first star Maxime Sauve recorded his first career hat trick and defenseman Steve Kampfer matched the talented forward with three points of his own, including a goal and two assists. Not to be left out, popular Providence returnees Kirk MacDonald and Jordan Knackstedt also added goals, MacDonald’s second in as many nights.
“What we didn’t do on Friday night, we did on Saturday night,” said P-Bruins head coach Rob Murray. “We got ourselves a big lead early, came out flying and had puck possession. A lot of times you think about the very first shift of every game –- where does the puck end up? On Saturday night, we were in Springfield’s zone the whole time and, Friday night, we lost the draw at center and we ended up in our zone the whole shift. So, sometimes momentum can be dictated off a first shift and it showed conversely as far as Friday to Saturday.”
Now through two games, the P-Bruins sit in a five-way tie for third place in the crowded Atlantic Division. The Portland Pirates lead the way after winning both of their games this weekend by a combined 11-6 margin.
Rob Murray’s Player of the Week: Max Sauve
“My player of the week would have to be Maxy Sauve with three goals on Saturday night. They weren’t deflections off his skate or anything like that. Two of the goals he made happen all by himself. The second and third goals, he out-willed the opponent and was able to score the goals. The first goal was a goal where he went to the dirty spot of the ice right in front of the net and got the rebound off a shot from the point and put the rebound in. Those three goals didn’t come easy. He worked for them. His skill really kind of showed through.”
The P-Bruins expect to have a pair of new faces in their lineup this weekend, goaltender Nolan Schaefer and defenseman Matt Bartkowski. Both players traveled overseas with Boston, but neither appeared in a game for the big club.
The following are Murray’s expectations for both men this season:
Schaefer: “Experienced goaltender, sort of like what we had with Danny Sabourin last year. He gives Boston a little bit of a safety net as far as if either Tuukka [Rask] or Timmy [Thomas] were to get hurt. It’s a hard position to put a young guy in, Hutchinson or Dalton, or [Adam] Courchaine for that matter. These guys are just coming in their first year so a guy like Nolan Schaefer is a buffer for that and he’s a confident goalie that has had some very good success in our league and, actually, he’s done well when he’s been up in the NHL also. So, again, the experience of him coming and hopefully the familiarity factor of him being a PC grad will have him feel excited to be here and play well.”
Bartkowski: “Obviously, he has kind of come out of nowhere as far as everybody’s concerned, other than us that know of him. He is a seventh-round pick by Florida originally and Boston got him thrown in a trade last year and obviously someone in the Boston organization really liked him. He’s come in and he fought for a spot in Boston and he’s a good skating, strong hockey player with good offensive instincts. He really jumps into the play. He’s up the ice all the time. He’s an exciting guy to watch as far as that goes because he can move up and down the ice with the best of them. Between him and Steve Kampfer, there are a couple of guys that are going to play this year that you’ll be surprised they’re rookies because of the way they play. You would think by the naked eye that they were veteran type players.”
Gone for Now
With Bartkowski’s presence giving Providence nine defensemen, the club assigned two to the ECHL on Tuesday.
Ryan Donald, a first-year pro out of Yale, and Alain Goulet, a second-year product who spent all of 2009-10 in Rhode Island, are both bound for Reading, where they are expected to see more regular playing time in different situations. Donald is a physical, enforcer-type, ready to get his feet wet in the pro game after a brief tune-up in Springfield late last year, while Goulet is an offensive-minded blue-liner who is still getting better.
That leaves a defensive core of Yury Alexandrov, Bartkowski, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Kampfer, Nathan McIver, Jeff Penner and Cody Wild.
Veteran captain Jeremy Reich, back in Providence following a year in the New York Islanders’ system, finds himself just three goals shy of 100 for his professional career. Now in his 11th season, the left wing has scored 95 AHL goals while playing for Providence, Bridgeport, Houston and Syracuse, plus two NHL goals as a member of the Boston Bruins during the 2007-08 campaign. Reich has totaled 220 points over 666 career regular season games.
Though only two games have passed this year, Max Sauve has already set a career-high in goals with a league-high three following Saturday’s hat trick. The rookie forward netted two goals in six games during his first pro stint for Providence late last year. Fellow rookie Steve Kampfer, meanwhile, has matched his career-best in points with three, showing the same one goal, two assist totals that he put up in his short six-game run in 2009-10.
Goals: Maxime Sauve (3)
Assists: Steve Kampfer, Lane MacDermid (2)
Points: Kampfer, Sauve (3)
Plus/Minus: Jeremy Reich (+3)
PIM : MacDermid, Nathan McIver (7)
Short-Handed Goals:Kirk MacDonald (1)
Shots: Jamie Arniel, MacDonald, Sauve (7)
The P-Bruins get back into action with three games this weekend, beginning Friday night at 7:05 p.m. at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center as the club takes on Springfield for the third straight game to open the season. The clubs are 1-1-0-0 head-to-head and, after Friday, will not meet again until December 11. The Falcons, last in the Atlantic at 1-2-0-0, are led by Tom Sestito’s league-high five points, including two goals and three assists, plus a stunning 27 penalty minutes. Michael Blunden sits right behind Sestito with four points, including three goals. In net, Dan Taylor has seen the majority of the action, going 1-2-0 with a 2.83 GAA and .913 save percentage.
On Saturday, Providence travels to New Hampshire for a 7 p.m. meeting with the Manchester Monarchs. Dwight King, David Meckler and John Zeiler each pace the 1-1-0-0 Monarchs with three points, while former NHL’er Erik Ersberg starred between the pipes in his only game this year , a 2-1 comeback win at Bridgeport.
The P-Bruins return home on Sunday for a 4:05 p.m. tilt with another 1-1-0-0 club, the Hartford Wolf Pack. 20-year-old rookie Kelsey Tessier has shined to open the year with two goals, two assists and a plus-four rating through his team’s first two games. Chad Johnson has been the only man to occupy the crease for the future Whale, compiling a 3.04 GAA and .880 save percentage.