Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Providence Battling Hartford For Home Ice

March 25, 2009
by T. Chace Jr.

Providence wearily arrived home after a 2-1 win in Rochester on March 8th to end their eight games in thirteen night road trip against some of the AHL’s top teams. They managed to garner seven points despite winning only two games and losing two of their best players in a deadline trade to help their parent club in Boston. Top prospects, Martins Karsums and Matt Lashoff, were given new addresses to finish their seasons. Three shootout losses accounted for the remainder of their points.

With a few days off before their next game, the team concentrated on reinvigorating themselves for what stands to be a battle for home ice in the playoffs in the very tight Atlantic Division. With nearly every remaining game in the season pitting the P-Bruins against division rivals, the fight for home ice should provide for great excitement and a preview of the playoffs. By collecting three straight wins over the weekend of March 13-15 against Portland, Springfield, and Lowell, the P-Bruins remained in first place over the red hot Hartford Wolf Pack. Despite a dismal power play of late, Providence continues to stay in every game with hard work and solid goaltending.

After having success last weekend, Providence lost a hard fought battle to Albany at home 1-0 in a shootout loss on Friday, March 20th. Goaltender Tuukka Rask, incensed that Albany’s first shootout goal in the fifth round should not have counted, completely lost his temper after Albany’s Harrison Reed scored in the sixth round. Rask voiced his displeasure with referee Frederic L’Ecuyer and then tried to storm off the ice only to be frustrated further because the gate to the runway was locked. Upon entering the runway, he threw his stick and a milk crate out on the ice which riled up the already wild crowd and resulted in fans throwing objects onto the ice. Rask watched from the bench on Saturday as backup Kevin Nastiuk played well, but suffered a loss to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 3-2, at the Arena at Harbor Yard.

Providence and Rask returned to The Dunk on Sunday to face off with the Hartford Wolf Pack who had jumped ahead of Providence for first place in the standings. Two early goals by the Wolf Pack deflated the large crowd who eagerly hoped for the biggest game of the season. Head Coach Rob Murray stated “it was kind of hard at first, down 2-0 in such an anticipated game, it was like letting the air out of a balloon, and it was not working out like we thought it would.” Fortunately, star defenseman Johnny Boychuk scored halfway through the period to close the gap at 2-1. The Bruins tied the score early in the second period on a goal by Zach Hamill only to lose the lead again on a Brian Fahey goal at 11:40. Once again though, as they have all season, the P-B’s battled back to tie the game with a Kirk MacDonald score with just fifteen seconds left in the period. Providence came out flying in the third period and swarmed the Hartford zone which caused two ill advised penalties that gave the Bruins a two man advantage. Providence wasted little time, as Boychuk scored again on a huge blast from inside the blue line. “It’s the law of averages; Johnny shoots so much, and has such a powerful shot, when he gets it on net, it usually goes in,” Murray said. Wacey Rabbit scored an empty netter to seal the deal.

With Hartford looming again on the schedule for two more games, it should be a wild finish to the regular season. Chances are that both teams will get home ice in the first round, but that won’t satisfy either one of these old rivals as they battle for first place in the Atlantic Division.

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