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2022 Calder Cup Playoffs

Calder Cup Playoff Atlantic Division First Round Preview: #3 Providence Bruins vs. #6 Bridgeport Islanders

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – For the first time ever, the third seed Providence Bruins and sixth seed Bridgeport Islander will meet in the Calder Cup Playoffs. As part of an expanded playoff format for the American Hockey League, they will vie for a berth into the Atlantic Division Semifinals via a win in the play-in round.

Providence punched their post-season ticket on April 15, thanks to the Hartford Wolf Pack falling to the Toronto Marlies. This is the eighth consecutive trip to the Calder Cup Playoffs, 23rd overall, for the Bruins.

Meanwhile, Bridgeport was the last Atlantic Division team to clinch a playoff spot, doing so on April 22nd with a Hartford loss and their own victory over Springfield. Bridgeport will be vying for its first series victory since 2003. This is their second straight postseason where the team has qualified.

Final Regular Season Records:

Providence Bruins: 36-25-6-3, .576 points percentage (7th in Eastern Conference)
Bridgeport Islanders: 31-30-7-4, .507 points percentage (12th in Eastern Conference)

Series Schedule (Home team in BOLD with all times local): 

Game 1 – Monday, May 2 – Bridgeport at Providence – 7:05 pm ET
Game 2 – Wednesday, May 4 – Providence at Bridgeport – 7:05 pm ET
*Game 3 – Friday, May 6 – Bridgeport at Providence – 7:05 pm ET

* => If Necessary

Season Series Recap:

This is quite possibly the closest regular-season matchup that we will see in a playoff round this year. How close? Bridgeport’s record against the P-Bruins was 6-4-0-2. Meanwhile, Providence has a 6-6-0-0 tally against the Isle.

If that isn’t close enough for you, check this out: Both teams scored 38 goals against the other throughout the season.

On the ice for Providence are almost series point-per-game skaters like Jack Studnicka, Oskar Steen, and Justin Brazeau. Leading the charge in scoring in the regular-season series were Samuel Asselin, Eduards Tralmaks, and Cameron Hughes.

The Bruins have quite the tandem in net, with the veteran Troy Grosenick checking in with a 3-2-0 record and a 2.60 goals-against average and .915 save percentage against the Isles. Backing Grosenick up is young upstart Brandon Bussi, who played five games in the AHL after joining the team on an amateur tryout on March 30. He won his first two starts, settling into a 3-2-0-1 record to finish the season.

Leading the way for Bridgeport was Simon Holmstrom, with two goals and seven assists in 12 games against the two teams. Chris Terry had a particular affinity for scoring against the Bruins, with five goals and two assists in seven games.

However, their secret truly stands in the crease. They can rely on the veteran Cory Schneider, who helped close out Bridgeport’s season, playing in six of their last eight. His .921 save percentage was fifth in the AHL this season. Against the Bruins, he had a 2.60 goals-against average with a .923 save percentage across five games. Rookie netminder Jakub Skarek looks to factor in heavily, too, though his stats against the Bruins weren’t as stellar.

How Providence Wins:

In a best-of-three series, you can’t afford to take penalties and give the opposition any advantage. Unfortunately for Providence, they are the second-highest penalized team in the Atlantic Division with 898 regular season penalty minutes.

If they want to win, assuming they find themselves in penalty trouble against a lesser-penalized Isles squad, they must rely on their strong penalty-killing units. They chugged along at 84.5%, which was third in the league in the regular season.

Of course, Bridgeport’s power play units aren’t overly good, only converting at 16.4% (29th in the league), but, again, you don’t want to give any teams any chances in the playoff.

Their second key to success will be jumping out to early leads. That was just one secret in their toolbelt, as they scored the first goal on 39 occasions – fifth-most in the Eastern Conference. They had a 17-6-1-1 record when leading after the first period and a 23-0-2-1 record after the second.

Finally, they need to just get pucks on the Islanders’ goaltenders. When outshooting their opponents, the Bruins cruised to a 25-14-1-3 record. On the flip side, they struggled without the shot advantage going 10-11-4-3.

How Bridgeport Wins:

Bridgeport needs to rely on their regular-season points getters like Terry, Holmstrom, Otto Koivula, Andy Andreoff, and veteran Austin Czarnik if they want to move on to the division semifinals against either the Charlotte Checkers or Springfield Thunderbirds.

Like Providence, Bridgeport also enjoyed getting out to early leads, scoring 72 times in the first period – tied for third-most in the AHL. If they win, they’ll need to find a way to keep that part of their game while also limiting Providence from doing the same.

While the overall numbers for the Bridgeport power play were rather dismal, they found their groove down the stretch. In fact, special teams were crucial in securing a playoff berth. In fact, the power play scored in each of the last three games, including two goals on Apr. 16th at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Another check for the Islanders’ advantage column is that both they and Providence struggled a little coming into the playoffs. Both teams went 4-5-1-0 in the last 10, so the higher seed won’t be riding momentum here.

This series could easily go either way and will be an exciting best of three playoff round.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2021 season!

    Deana Weinheimer covers the Cleveland Monsters for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with her on Twitter @FPHMonsters.

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