A late goal from rookie Kyle MacKinnon gave the Providence Bruins the push they needed to defeat the Springfield Falcons Friday night at the Dunkin Donuts Center. Anton Khudobin stopped 34 of the 35 shots he faced including a spinorama shot from Alexandre Giroux in the first period.
“When I get out there I just have to do what I can to help the team,” MacKinnon said of his time back in Providence after a brief loan to the Reading Royals. “Luckily I’ve had a good couple bounces here. I just want to play hard and work my way into the line up,” he said.
MacKinnon was loaned to Reading on December 2nd before being recalled on the 7th. He is not the only player to have spent time in the East Coast League this season as Yannick Riendeau and Ryan Button have as well and Everett Sheen debuted tonight on a call up from Reading.
“It’s good to talk to those guys, they’ve gone through the same things ou have so you know you’re not the only guy,” MacKinnon said, “We’re all kind of working towards the same thing so it’s good to have other guys doing the same thing you are and working for the same goals.”
Sheen’s debut comes only two days after he got the call up, on his birthday coincidentally. He was hoping to get called on sooner or later but was not expecting it.
The familiar faces from Providence as well as camp made the transition of leagues easier he said. “I pretty much know all those guys,” Sheen said, “It’s not coming to a completely different team so that’s kind of nice.” Having guys who’ve been in Providence to talk too as well had an impact. “Kind of getting to know the system a little bit through them, that helps a lot,” he said.
Sheen thought his debut went “pretty well,” noting that because of the structure it was a simpler game to play than down in Reading. “I made a couple mistakes out there but I was working hard,” the forward said, “A good first game to get used to the difference and the style between the coach and the AHL.”
Both teams came out loose in opening period with shots 18-16 in favor of Springfield. Both sides had good chances but it was the Falcons who jumped on the board first on the power play. After David Warsofsky took a tripping penalty, Giroux’s one timer from the left faceoff circle beat Khudobin at 10:52 to take the lead.
Providence had a shot on the power play in the opening period but the 29th ranked power play would not help the team as they ended up going 0-for-5 on the night.
Cassidy says the power play is a “work in progress” as it has been most of the season but the constant changing of the line up does not help to improve it. “Our second unit is a lot of guys who are no power plays guys a lot of the time. There might be a couple on it but it’s not natural for them,” Cassidy said, “At this level you need to work on it and get comfortable on it.”
Springfield had a couple more chances minutes later but Khudobin made the necasarry stops to keep them at bay. His best saves came with about seven minutes to go when Brett Lebda got a shot off but Khudobin made a pad save. David Savard tried to stuff in the rebound but Khudobin again denied the puck from crossing the line.
Josh Hennessy tied the game up at 16:50 when he came down the left wing with speed and wristed a shot past Manny Legace (36 saves) that hit the top right corner. Andrew Bodnarchuk got the helper on the goal. Neither team would score for the remainder of the period and the two squads would go to the dressing room with the scored knotted at one.
The free play did not bother Coach Cassidy too much but he did note that it is not a good recipe for his team to go down because of their lack of goal scoring. “I think as the game went on we were a bit more tru to form and how we want to play, how we need to play until we start scoring,” he said.
No goals were scored in the middle frame despite a power play for each team. Providence was flawless in their second penalty kill and did not allow one shot during the entire two minutes.
“After that [the power play goal] we decided to try to create a little bit more urgency up ice against them and not let them get set up, upset their chemistry on their way into the zone and it worked for us,” Cassidy said, “That’s one of the reason we were good after that, we didn’t allow them to set up and allow their best players to start making plays and as a result we got it done.”
Providence created a lot of opportunities in the final period but it took until the last three minutes for a goal to count. About halfway through the period Craig Cunningham got a puck past Legace but it was ruled that he got it following a whistle being blown so it did not count. MacKinnon’s goal at 2:39 did count when he backhanded a shot from Matt Bartkowski for the go ahead goal. An assist on the goal also went to Calle Ridderwall.
“We played well all night,” MacKinnon said following the game, “The puck just found me in front of the net and I was lucky to knock it in.”
The Bruins dominated the Falcons in the final few minutes of play to keep them from scoring again and pulled out a 2-1 victory.
Saturday night the Bruins travel to take on the Connecticut Whale who put up a fight in their last match when Providence beat them 3-2 and 72 penalty minutes were put up in the first period alone. They’re back at the Dunk Sunday to face the Bridgeport Sound Tigers before a Christmas Break.
For more photos from the game, check out the gallery here.