It didn’t appear possible.
Down 3-2 with the remaining two games in Hershey, the Providence Bruins’ 2016-2017 season appeared to be in serious jeopardy. It seemed as though there just wasn’t enough puck luck that could bounce the P-Bruins way.
But, that’s why they play the game.
Coming off a huge 4-2 victory Tuesday night to force a Game 7, Providence completed the rally with another 4-2 win to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2009.
Led by Jordan Szwarz’s two goals, Wayne Simpson’s goal and two assists and Zane McIntyre’s 15 saves, the Baby B’s, coupled with two wins on the road last series vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, became the first team in American Hockey League history to win four road elimination games in a single playoff.
Szwarz lit the lamp for his first of two goals at 6:50 of the opening stanza to put Providence up 1-0 after outworking Hershey defenseman Aaron Ness in front. Simpson and Alex Grant were credited with assists.
Just over two minutes later, Hershey evened things up at 1-1 as Riley Barber tallied his first of the playoffs from Nathan Walker and Tyler Lewington. Providence outshot Hershey 10-6 in the first 20 minutes.
At 5:41 of the second, the combination of Simpson and Szwarz, with help from Chris Casto and Danton Heinen, would strike again. Casto sent and aerial breakout pass to Danton Heinen from one blue line to the next. Heinen batted the puck down and entered the Hershey zone, where he would dish it off to an open Simpson, who dumped a nifty backhander to a streaking Szwarz for the tip in to put Providence back on top.
Just past the halfway point of the second, Simpson himself would get in on the scoring act. After Alex Grant’s wraparound attempt was stopped by Vanecek, Heinen picked up the rebound and dished it back out to Grant, who had cycled to the front of the net. Grant’s spin-around backhander found an awaiting Simpson, who promptly tucked it past Vanecek’s right pad to give Providence a 3-1 lead.
Things would get tight before the end of the period, however. After McIntyre was called for a questionable delay of game penalty, Chandler Stephenson took advantage, one-timing a feed from Christian Djoos past McIntyre to cut the deficit to one at 16:16.
The third period was nothing short of nail-biting moments for Providence. After being unable to score on a carry-over power-play at the start of the final frame, Providence found themselves down a man themselves when Colton Hargrove was whistled for slashing at 7:01. But Providence’s penalty-kill, which had struggled all series, killing off only 79.16 percent (19 for 25) of Hershey power plays, stood firm keeping it a one-goal game.
With just 59 seconds remaining, Jake DeBrusk would put the icing on the cake with an empty-netter to put Providence up 4-2. When time ran out, the P-Bruins mobbed McIntyre in jubilation, having completed what seemed like an insurmountable comeback.
Providence advances to face the Syracuse Crunch, who had just knocked off the Toronto Marlies 6-3 in their own Game 7 on Wednesday night. Providence and Syracuse split two meetings this season, with Syracuse taking the first meeting at home 3-2 back on October 29 and Providence gaining some revenge on December 18 by a score of 3-1 in Providence. Providence will host Game 1 on Friday night with puck drop scheduled for 7:05.