Providence finishes with best record in AHL Slow start ends in 9-game streak

PROVIDENCE, RI – The Providence Bruins have finished the regular season with a flourish, winning thProvidence Bruins_Hershey Bears 012_phn_nikeir last nine games of the year in all different manners and starring all different players. With a roster of nearly 30 players, it has been a new hero every night in an ever changing line-up.

After 19 games at the beginning of the 2012-13 AHL season, the Bruins had 9 victories, 8 losses and 2 shoot-out losses (SOL). They were in last place in the Atlantic Division and 28th in goals scored, through a quarter of the season. Things appeared similar to previous seasons, where finishing scoring chances was the norm and lack of scoring doomed the squad.

The need for more scoring and finishing was addressed in the summer of 2012. It took a while for things to jell on offense for the Bruins this season, but it sure ended with a drastic improvement. No less than 12 players have at least 10 goals this season for the Providence club.

Their leading scorer this season was rookie center Ryan Spooner, who finished with an exclamation point in Sunday’s regular season finale against a desperate Norfolk Admirals team. Spooner notched a hat-trick, including the game winner with 21 seconds left in regulation time to defeat and eliminate Norfolk from the AHL Playoffs.

Spooner, 21, played in 59 games for Providence this season and scored 17 goals Providence Bruins_Norfolk Admirals 001_phn_spoonerand led the team in assists, with 40. His 57 points bests the last three Providence Bruins season’s scoring leaders. Along with fellow rookies, defenseman Torey Krug and goaltender Niklas Svedberg, they formed a nucleus that spelled trouble for the rest of the AHL.

The Bruins leading goal scorer was Jamie Tardif who scored 30 goals and led the team in power-play goals as well with 13. Craig Cunningham played in all but one game this season and improved on last year’s team high total of 20 goals by netting 25 this season.

Other Bruins with 10 or more goals includes, Carter Camper, Torey Krug, Chris Bourque, Christian Hanson, Kyle MacKinnon, Justin Florek, Jordan Caron, Graham Mink, and recently traded Maxime Sauvé. Providence has not seen those kinds of numbers for some time.

In February the Bruins began to really click and in 11 games, they got 8 wins, had only 2 regulation losses, and 2 (SOL)Providence Bruins_Manchester Monarchs 017.i_phn_hutch. Providence worked hard, getting 18 out of 22 possible points in February and never looked back. Home or road it didn’t matter, the team won 10 more games out of 14 in March.

April was a clean sweep, winning all 9 games played. The Bruins last defeat was to their first round playoff opponent, the Hershey Bears. The Bruins lost 3-2 on March 30, in Hershey, after Providence blew a 2-0 lead. Providence repaid the Bears with their own 3-2 victory back in Providence. This time they won, after leading 2-0, despite allowing Hershey to tie it up. Jamie Tardif scored his (30th) goal with about nine minutes left to seal the one goal victory.

Since that quarter mark of 19 games, the Bruins won 41 times and dropped only 13. Finishing the 2012-13 season as Regular Season Champions is remarkable considering there were so many unknown variables in regard to so many first year players. There were questions about who would be the starting netminder. Would it be Michael Hutchinson or Swedish rookie Niklas Svedberg? As it turns out, goaltender Niklas Svedberg has been awardProvidence Bruins_Portland Pirates 080_phn_kruged so much hardware that he’ll need to rent a storage unit to contain it all and “Hutch” finished strong with a 2.30 GAA and a .914 SV%. Goaltending questions have been answered.

The last time the Providence Bruins were in the playoffs was 2009, they were eliminated in the Conference Final by, you guessed it, the Hershey Bears. The two games played this season between the two teams proved to be very close, hard hitting, and fistic affairs. Jamie Tardif has 3 goals for Providence in the two games played. Jared Knight and Torey Krug have multiple points against Hershey.

Providence has everything in place to make this an even more memorable 2012-13 AHL season. Hosting the AHL All-Star Classic in January and making a run at the Calder Cup the same season, is great for the city of Providence and its loyal fans, which finished 3rd in attendance this season.

Can the Providence Bruins bring AHL President Dave Andrews and the other AHL officials back to Rhode Island one more time this season? I don’t see why not?

Photo by Thomas Chace

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