Despite a raucous crowd of more than ten thousand cheering them on, the Providence Bruins fell to the Manchester Monarchs 3-1 at the Dunkin Donuts Center on Opening Night in of the 77th American Hockey League season.
The Providence Bruins began the 2012-13 season with great expectations thanks to a significant influx of rookie and veteran talent. With the NHL locked-out, the Dunk was packed as the AHL affiliates of the last two Stanley Cup-winning franchises took to the ice to kick-off their respective AHL seasons.
Jamie Tardif scored the only goal for the Bruins and the team continued last season’s trend of struggling with the man advantage – going 0 for 5 on the night (including a five-on-three opportunity). “They beat us on special teams, plain in simple,” second-year head coach Bruce Cassidy stated bluntly in a post-game interview.
The Providence Bruins lost even though they significantly outshot and out-chanced their opposition, forcing the Monarchs’ Martin Jones to make 29 saves while Manchester only put 21 on-net.
The opening period was a tale of three stretches. Through the first five minutes, the Baby B’s dominated, tallying six shots while controlling the pace and territory. For the next ten minutes, the Monarchs took it to the B’s, denying outlets and outshooting Providence thanks to a powerplay and the efforts of forward Andrei Loktionov.
But the third stretch of the first twenty belonged to the denizens of the Dunk. The boys in gold pressured Manchester, leading to the only goal of the frame. Ryan Spooner moved deftly into the attacking zone, working the 2-on-1, shooting the puck low off the pads of Jones, who was unable to deny Jamie Tardif on a second-chance opportunity. Tardif’s shot squeaked through the Monarchs’ goalie’s pads and the P-Bruins held that lead through the end of the frame.
The Bruins controlled the play through much of the second stanza. Possession was in their favor – as were the shots, and with a late powerplay things seemed to be fully in their favor. But Loktionov produced a magical shorthanded dangle (his second of the game) with two P-Bruin defenders sliding on the ice to deny him. They failed and the Russian center ripped a point-blank shot over Hutchinson’s glove to even the score with seconds remaining in the period.
Cassidy commented on the goal after the game: “Right before they got that shorty, we walked right down the pipe – we missed the net. It’s a game-changing situation… it certainly gave them some [momentum]… I think that was the key swing of the game.”
“We want to be an aggressive team, we want to push the pace, but we have to be intelligent when we do it,” said Cassidy.
The third saw more disappointment for Providence. Andy Andreoff put home another less than two minutes into the third (on the powerplay) and Linden Vey sealed the deal with a marker off a juicy rebound in the low slot.
Said Cassidy, “I don’t care what level of hockey you’re at, no matter how many goals are scored on a given night, the majority of them are ‘working’ or ‘dirty’ goals – no different than their powerplay goal. They got it to the net, we got pushed around in front of our net and they banged home a rebound. That’s the way goals are scored.”
Despite out-shooting the Monarchs again in the frame, the P-Bruins were unable to capitalize and dropped the game, 3-1.
“The crowd always supports us, they’re a great crowd. We gotta give ‘em something to cheer about… it’s one game… we’re not going to hang our hat. ”
The Sauve-Spooner-Tardif line created much of the team’s offense. The three forwards produced nine shots between them, the only goal and were a combined plus-three. They played somewhat inconsistently, but their high skill level was on-display throughout the evening. Cassidy suggested that the trio “…generated the most chances for us.”
Andrei Loktionov – Earned the first star of the game and really drove the attack for the Monarchs throughout. He could have had a few more points on the evening easily… like the Bruins, the Los Angeles Kings are a top team now and own a deep core of prospects, and Loktionov arguably tops that core.
Michael Hutchinson – I thought he looked solid on the evening despite his low save-percentage. He denied several high-danger opportunities and displayed solid lateral movement and mobility despite enduring offseason surgery. The only concern might be the rebounds he gave up, but we’ll have to see if that pattern continues.
Scratches – Zach Trotman and Ryan Button sat out on defense; Kyle MacKinnon and Justin Florek watched from the press box among forwards.
Follow Bob Mand on Twitter at @HockeyMand