Affiliate Report: Maine clinches ECHLPlayoff spot, Windfall again in first place

For Boston Bruins‘ minor league affiliates Providence and Maine, the excitement of making the playoffs quickly turned to disappointment as both teams were eliminated in the first round of their respective postseasons last week.

The Providence Bruins, who entered the playoffs as the three-seeded in the Atlantic Division, lost their final eight contests across regular and postseason play. Providence faced the six-seeded Bridgeport Islanders in the first round, a matchup that hadn’t been favorable in the regular season, and dropped a pair of 2-1 heartbreakers in overtime.

In Maine, the Mariners lost in their opening round series of the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Playoffs to the Reading Royals (Philadelphia Flyers), 4-2. Maine entered last week down a game in the series and facing elimination with Game 6 and 7 on the road, but the Marines were denied in a 2-1 defeat on the road to close a strong first season as a Boston affiliate.

36-25-11, 83 points, 3rd in Atlantic Division

Right as the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Providence Bruins looked in a position to finish that season as the AHL’s top team and a clear favorite for a Calder Cup title. But the remainder of the season was cancelled and that team, arguably one of the best in Providence history, never got its chance.

Providence won a division title in 2021, a 25-game abbreviated season in which they faced three opponents, but didn’t participate in the postseason. And so, in 2022 Providence seemed all but destined for a deep playoff run, especially during long stretches of the season where the team dominated opponents and held first place in the division.

But midway through April, the wheels came flying off with a six-game losing streak to end the regular season. In the playoffs, facing six-seeded Bridgeport, Providence fought hard but came up short in a pair of 2-1 overtime defeats.

In Game 1 of the best-of-three series, Jakub Lauko put Providence in front late in the second period, but Bridgeport tied it up just 1:07 into the final frame. In overtime, Arnaud Durandeau netted the winner for the Islanders to take Game 1 heading back home. Troy Grosenick, who battled injuries much of the second half of the year, made 30 saves in a strong effort.

Grosenick again played well in Game 2, stopping 32 shots in a 2-1 defeat. Providence trailed 1-0 late in the third before Nick Wolff netted the equalizer to force overtime. But again, Bridgeport, this time through Aatu Raty, fired in a sudden-death winner to clinch Game 2 and the series sweep.

Player of the Week: Troy Grosenick — One of the unsung heroes of the regular season, Grosenick was easily the top player for Providence during its postseason series defeat. The goaltender, 32, provided experience and steadiness on the backend for Providence and was instrumental in pacing other goaltending prospects like Kyle Keyser and Brandon Bussi.

Maine Mariners

33-31-8, 74 points, 4th in North Division

Trailing 3-2 in a best-of-seven series heading back to Reading, Maine needed to dig deep. The Mariners were coming off heartbreaking 3-2 loss at home in Game 5 but had been the better team during the three games in Portland.

In Game 6, a 2-1 loss, Maine set the tone as Nick Master struck for the third time in the series to give the Mariners a lead. Trevor Gootch tied things up for Reading in the second period before Jacob Pritchard fired the Royals in front midway through the third. The Mariners outshot Reading 15-8 in the final period, but the comeback effort fell short and the season came to an early end.

Callum Booth took over in net as Maine alternated netminders throughout the series and made 31 saves in Game 6.

Player of the Week: Nick Master — A goal, four shots, and a plus-1 rating seals Master as the top player for Maine during their final game of the postseason. Booth played well enough to earn the stick taps despite the loss.

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