I guess we’ll begin with the top news story: The Bruins signed 2022 second-round draft pick Matthew Poitras to a three-year entry-level contract the team announced on Friday. With a June 1, 2023 deadline to ink Matias Mantykivi to his entry level contract, time is ticking away.
Moving on to the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, Ryan Mast and his Sarnia Sting entered the week trailing Jackson Edward and the London Knights 0-2 in the Western Conference Finals. Game three would shift the series to Sarnia beginning Tuesday.
Sarnia would take game three by a 5-3 score to get back into the series. Both Mast and Edward have been in a more shut down role than in the past. Both players went pointless in this game and both finished a minus-2. I’ll be brutally honest here: Neither player had a particularly strong defensive showing, especially Edward who went for a stick check instead of trying to keep his man wide that resulted in one goal and then laying out against one of the best passers in the league on the PK for another goal when the latter was in a no danger area where he could have forced a shot.
Things were better for both players in game four on Wednesday as Sarnia came out on top by a 6-3 score to even the series at two each. Mast had two helpers on the night, both coming on perfectly placed stretch passes from his own zone to the London blue line. Mast would finish the night a plus-3 while Edward finished a plus-1 and wasn’t on the ice for any of the six goals against.
The series shifted back to London on Friday with the series squared at two a piece. Edward decided that anything Mast could do, he could do better. He assisted on the goal that put London ahead to stay and then assisted on the eventual game winner by breaking up a play at his blueline, feeding a teammate and then jumping into the play and driving the net to cause a distraction. London would win it to take a 3-2 series lead.
Game 6 would turn out to be the finale as London defeated Sarnia on Sunday 5-1 to capture the Wayne Gretzky Trophy and the Western Conference Championship. They will face the winner of Peterborough and North Bay for the J. Ross Robertson Cup for the OHL Championship and a chance at the Memorial Cup. Both Mast and Edwards went pointless on Sunday and finished the series with 2 assists each.
For Mast, it wasn’t a great offensive series and there was a drop off in his production compared to the regular season, but he was cast in more of a shut down role. How did he do? Of the 23 goals London scored in this series he was on the ice for 3 5-on-5 goals and 1 powerplay goal. Already under contract, Mast will likely join the Providence Bruins for next season.
We all knew this was coming, but on Tuesday University of Massachusetts head coach Greg Carvel made it official welcoming Dans Locmelis to the incoming class of 2023-2024. If you’re waiting to see if Locmelis will make the Latvia National Men’s Hockey team for the IIHF World Championships, the Latvia Hockey Federation will hold a press conference on Tuesday May 9 to announce the roster.
One word: Disappointing.
Trailing their best of five series 0-2 to the Hartford Wolf Pack after two losses at home, the series would shift to Hartford where the Baby B’s were in a must win situation. Providence would take the game by a 6-3 but don’t be fooled by the score sheet. There were two empty net goals by Providence and goaltender Brandon Bussi was once again key for Providence stopping 28 of 31 shots he faced and giving his teammates a chance. Justin Brazeau led the way with 2 goals for Providence and Jack Ahcan, who was deservedly named the game’s first star, had a goal and an assist. The win came at a heavy cost as a predatory hit by Adam Clendening on Fabian Lysell sent the Bruins top prospect to the room with a concussion and would be finished for the series. Clendening was handed a 3-game suspension by the AHL.
Game four went Friday night and Providence was shut out for the second time, this time 4-0 and thus ending their season. Bussi did all he could do stopping 28 of 31 shots he faced while at the other end the Bruins could not convert on any of their 31 shots on goal. Going 0 for 5 on the powerplay certainly did not help. I know that fans will question the lineup and suggest that there were players sitting out that could have helped the PP but, in the end, I’m not sure the result would have been any different.
A scary incident happened early in the third period. Michael Callahan was racing after a puck in his own end when Will Lockwood nailed him with a questionable hit. Callahan was carried off the ice on a stretcher but was seen later outside the Bruins dressing room up and about. Lockwood was given a major for boarding and a misconduct and will likely face disciplinary action.
Just like the big club, there are decisions facing Providence this offseason and the team could be facing a makeover. Vinni Lettieri, Connor Carrick, Jack Ahcan, Nick Wolff, Matt Filipe and Joona Koppanen are free to sign anywhere on July 1.
Players that are on AHL only contracts free to sign anywhere on July 1 include Jacob Wilson, J. D. Greenway, Grant Gabriele, Josiah Didier, Eduards Tralmaks, Alex Olivier Voyer and Brazeau. Restricted free agents under NHL contract that will need qualifying offers are: Samuel Asselin, Shane Bowers, Marc McLaughlin, Kai Wissmann, Kyle Keyser, Michael DiPietro and Bussi. Jakub Lauko fits in here but is likely a full time NHL’er next season. Word is Wissmann will be returning to Germany next season and frankly, I am surprised he hasn’t been named to Germany’s roster for the World Championships.
That’s a lot of bodies that could be moving out. Coming in full time are likely Mason Lohrei, Ryan Mast, Trevor Kuntar, Brett Harrison and maybe Frederic Brunet.
Here is how Providence is shaping up for next season. I have intentionally left out Lauko, Steen and Mike Reilly for now:
The Bruins look to be set down the middle, so much so that Harrison may get most of his time on left wing. Wing also isn’t an issue depending on who they want to bring back. The real issue is at right defence where only Mast is under contract. Even if they do decide to bring Brunet in, he is a left side blueliner where that could create a logjam. Goaltending could become an issue as only Bussi is waiver exempt. While I do believe DiPietro would clear waivers, I also believe there might be some interest in Keyser, however limited that might be.
I should also note that on July 1, the cap hits for Lysell, Harrison and Mast also drop because of the slide rule.
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