The Providence Bruins openedtheir 2012-13 preseason with a 4-1 victory over the visiting Springfield Falcons at Marlborough’s New England Sports Center. Alternate captain Jamie Tardif scored two goals (including the game-winner) and the P-Bruins engaged in several fights in their first match of the autumn.
A bit of fortune and effort helped the Bruins take the lead early. Rookie Jared Knight’s heavy forecheck forced an errant pass right into Tardif’s chest, and he collected the puck in the slot and put one high stick-side by Curtis McElhinney under five minutes in to period one.
Knight was a stud for much of the game – easily his best performance since the beginning of camp – making great north-south plays on the attack, blocking shots, playing physical and just missing a goal with a shot off the elbow of the post.
“I liked him tonight,” said Head Coach Bruce Cassidy, “in the scrimmages he was just OK… he attacks well off his off-side. Those are ‘NHL’ plays to me when you beat a guy wide, create a little separation, use your body and [Knight] went backhand-forehand off the bar. Those are things he’s going to have to do when he gets to Boston.”
In the second, Tardif tallied the eventual game-winner on with the man-advantage, shoveling a David Warsofsky rebound past McElhinney. Knight’s presence at the net-front was a factor here, again.
Tardif said his second goal was the result of “… hard work from the D-man getting the shot through … I happened to be the lucky guy sitting in the slot with an empty net.”
Then came the fisticuffs. Miami of Ohio grad Alden Hirschfeld dropped the mitts for the first time in his career versus Springfield’s Dalton Smith. He threw a couple wild rights but Smith got the takedown. Minutes later, the more experienced Tyler Randell got the better of the Falcons’ Nathan Moon. In the third, Ryan Button drew a long bout with Theo Ruth and managed to earn a ‘decision’ with some uppercut connections towards the end.
“When you get into any exhibition game – no matter what level – guys are fighting for jobs,” said Tardif. “… [The lockout] adds a little pressure, but at the end of the day, that’s hockey: Everyone competes, everyone wants to win whether it’s an exhibition or the last game of the season.”
Of his scrap, Hirschfeld said, “… I wasn’t going out there looking for it. I felt [Smith] took a run at Florek… just sticking up for a teammate.”
Hirschfeld stated that he and his teammates were just trying to “keep things simple” and get in on the forecheck. The forward also implied that, while they hadn’t practiced special-teams much, their hard-work as a penalty-kill unit made them successful.
With under five minutes to go in the second stanza, Matt Pistilli extended the lead to three, firing a one-timer through the sprawling McElhinney’s five-hole after a brilliant feed from Kelsey Wilson. Tardif had a partial break towards the end of the third for a chance at the hat-trick, but the puck wouldn’t settle.
Florek closed the P-Bruins’ scoring, ripping a wrister off of the glove of the Falcons’ new goaltender, Matt Clemente on the powerplay. Craig Cunningham grabbed the assist on the play.
Springfield closed-out the game with a goal from Patrick Kennedy late but Providence easily handled its preseason opener thanks to a pair of powerplay goals and solid penalty-killing.
Powerplay-scorer Tardif acknowledged that personnel could be the key to their success, “… no matter how you look at it, our powerplay has a lot of skilled guys… last season we struggled a bit scoring goals on the powerplay… but Boston and Providence brought in a lot of good players to help that – one being [Chris] Bourque… I think everything’s going to fall into place as the season gets going.”
Despite their (preseason) ‘opening-night success’ this is a young team – almost half of the invitees are first- or second-year pros. First star of the night Tardif has an “A” on his chest, and he takes that responsibility to heart. Tardif’s leadership “… is something that comes naturally – and something I pride myself on… I like being that older guy to direct the young kids in the right way.”
Zach Trotman was grimacing as he went to the bench following a blocked-shot off his hand/wrist in the third. No word on the severity of the injury (if any).
Ryan Spooner looked very comfortable running the B’s offense from the half-wall and while he was held pointless, he created some significant offensive pressure both with and without the man-advantage.
The P-Bruins outshot the Falcons 29-27, but Hutchinson only had to make 12 stops to earn the victory. Niklas Svedberg gave up the only Springfield goal, but made several big saves including a great side-to-side denial of Matt Calvert’s one-timer.
Former Colorado College captain Ryan Lowery (who spent last season in-between the OKC Barons and Stockton of the ECHL) impressed on several forays up the ice and some excellent puck-movement. Darkhorse candidate to join Providence or S.C.-bound? You decide.
Follow Bob Mand on Twitter at @HockeyMand