The Providence Bruins’ struggles in the early season continued Friday, the team dropping their fifth contest of the first seven to open the season – this time to their hated rivals from up Rte. 146, the Worcester Sharks.
The P-Bruins nearly completed a comeback, but Worcester goaltender Alex Stalock was solid when it mattered and veteran forward Bracken Kearns notched a pair of powerplay goals – including the game-winner to earn the Sharks’ victory.
One could certainly term the B’s ‘snake-bit’ after another night where a few small bounces either way could have meant a different outcome. After the game, Providence Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy said, “I don’t want to play the ‘what-if’ game to be honest with you… we lost the game, we got behind again… one of these days, we’re gonna get some pucks to bounce our way.”
“Tonight was a night of posts and all you can do is keep putting pucks to the net. The guys can’t get discouraged… [However] some of these games if we’re a little tighter defensively, or get an extra stop – we’d be in overtime or a shootout… We’ve gotta be sure that a one-goal deficit doesn’t become two or three…”
Responding to a question about Ryan Spooner’s relatively new spot between Jordan Caron and Chris Bourque, Cassidy said: “Five-on-five we haven’t clicked with anybody. We gotta start scoring goals five-on-five.”
Later, Cassidy opined: “I think we’re all a little frustrated – I think we should be. No one should accept losing. That frustration at some point has to turn into anger and an “enough’s enough” attitude about losing and losing at home.”
Facing their first ‘homestand’ of the year – a mini three-game stand that will keep them at the Dunk through next Friday – the P-Bruins were looking for their first win in the friendly confines of the DDC this season and deny the Sharks their first road win of the campaign (and first since March 3 in Providence, a span of 12 away games without a win).
Goaltender Michael Hutchinson dropped his fourth straight contest. Despite giving up three goals on twenty shots, he saw his save percentage climb to .838 during the match.
The opening frame saw plenty of action. Just over seven minutes in, Tim Kennedy tipped a point-shot by Nick Petrecki past Hutchinson for the game’s opening goal with John McCarthy adding an assist.
The Bruins cashed-in on one of the three powerplay opportunities they were handed – a two-man-advantage goal tallied by Carter Camper (his first of the season) after a nifty cross-ice feed from Ryan Spooner found him shortside. Jamie Tardif added his third assist of the season on the play.
The contest didn’t remain even for long. The Sharks picked-up their first PP goal of the night when Bracken Kearns deflected a Danny Groulx shot past Hutchinson for the go-ahead tally, with Sena Acolaste grabbing the secondary assist on the marker.
Two heavyweight bouts brought the crowd to its feet: Lane MacDermid and Frazer McLaren danced at center-ice in a spirited session which left both men bruised and the fans hoarse; and Bobby Robins and the Sharks’ big Brandon Mashinter traded heavy rights.
The second frame saw more of the same. The teams expressed some genuine disdain for each other via some impressive post-whistle scrums. After boarding a Shark, Christian Hanson was dispossessed of his lunch-money by a much-smaller Acolaste in a decent match.
However, the Sharks also added to their goal-total with Kearns’ second powerplay score of the game, after Jon Matsumoto took the puck away from Chris Bourque after a failed D-zone clearance. Kearns backhanded the biscuit past Hutchinson to extend the lead.
The Bruins’ fought hard to get back in the game. The Sharks kept the action in the Baby B’s end for two-thirds of the frame, forcing hurried zone-exits and turnovers.
Then, the P-Bruins struck back. Maxime Sauve scored after some excellent movement with the man-advantage. Bourque and Torey Krug earned helpers on the tally. “It was a great play by Bourque and Krug…” said Sauve after the game, “… and it just left the open-net so I put it in.”
With five minutes remaining, the Bruins swarmed the net but Stalock held firm and denied their myriad opportunities to earn his third win of the young season.
Sunday, Providence Bruins will play host to the St. John’s IceCaps in the first meeting between the divisional rivals this season.
Follow Bob Mand on Twitter at @HockeyMand
Bob is a Boston Bruins Correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He lives in the Boston Metro Area with his wife, Amanda and their five-year-old son, Cormac.