Cunningham Hat-Trick Highlights P-Bruins 7-1 Win

Craig Cunningham may not be on a lot of Boston fan radars, but his hat-trick on Sunday afternoon and team 2nd-best 17 goals show what an exciting young prospect this 22-year-old BC-native (drafted in 2010, 4th round, by the Bruins) is turning out to be.

The Providence Bruins went 2-0-0-1 this weekend, improving their overall record to 33-18-0-5 (71 points) in 56 games this season. They sit atop the Atlantic division and currently sit 3rd in the Eastern conference.

With less than 20 games left in the season, the P-Bruins are poised to make their first playoff appearance since the 2008-2009 season. That season, they finished 43-29-2-6 (94 points), 2nd in the division at the time. In the 1st round, they defeated the Portland Pirates 4 games to 1, then defeated the Worcester Sharks 4 games to 2 in the 2nd round. In the 3rd round – the Conference Finals – they lost 4 games to 1 to the Hershey Bears, who went on to win the Calder Cup in the next round. Were the playoffs to start today, the P-Bruins would face Hershey in the 1st round.

Some notable players on that 2009 P-Bruins team that went to the Eastern Conference finals include current Boston Bruins Brad Marchand, Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid, and Tuukka Rask – all of whom played in all 16 games of the postseason. That should give you a pretty good idea of 1. Why the AHL is important and successful in developing players and 2. How potentially good the P-Bruins team is this year and definitely how good the potential of the prospects on the team are.

After defeating the Worcester Sharks 3-1 in Friday night, the P-Bruins followed up with an unfortunate 2-1 shootout loss to the Springfield Falcons. They rebounded Sunday with a 7-1 win over the Portland Pirates, a team they needed to beat in order to maintain first place in the division.

Jordan Caron scored the lone goal for the P-Bruins in Saturday’s loss, sparked by being placed on the Buzz Saw line in the spot previously filled by Lane MacDermid. His Buzz Saw linemates, Christian Hanson and Bobby Robins, had the assists on Caron’s 9th of the season. Placing Caron on this line was a much needed spark for the struggling winger, who many thought would be a shoe-in for the open 3rd line spot in Boston this season. The positive results continued for Caron – and the P-Bruins whole team – into Sunday’s victory.

Ryan Spooner returned to the lineup on Sunday after missing a handful of games with a lower body injury. He has 2 assists, 1 shot, and a +1 rating. The P-Bruins top scorer was far from their top scorers Sunday, however, as many P-Bruins recorded multi-point games and even multi-goal games. Justin Florek had a 4 point night (2 goals, 2 assists) and Craig Cunningham, a former Vancouver Giant of the WHL (fun fact: he won the Memorial Cup with Milan Lucic), recorded a hat-trick.

Hanson scored a shorthanded goal, as well as the primary assist on Caron’s goal. In total, 11 different P-Bruins recorded at least one point: Florek, Cunningham, Hanson, Spooner, Caron, Kevan Miller, Matt Bartkowski, Tommy Cross, Bobby Robins, Alden Hirschfeld, and Kyle MacKinnon. In net, Niklas Svedberg made 29 saves on 30 shots, recording his 27th victory of the season.

Justin Florek opened the scoring at 7:23 of the 1st period when he beat Portland goaltender Mike Lee. Florek’s 6th goal of the season was assisted by Miller and Bartkowski. At 18:27 of the 1st, Providence struck again on the shorthand with Bartkowski in the penalty box. Christian Hanson converted on the shorthanded opportunity for his 8th goal of the season.

2:20 into the 2nd period, Cunningham scored his 1st of the night and 15th of the season on the power play, assisted by Spooner and Cross. Providence went 1-for-5 on the PP.

Portland struck next bringing the score 3-1 at 3:15 of the 2nd on Jordan Martinook‘s 5th of the season from Phil Lane and Chris Summers. Portland outshot Providence 15-7 in the 2nd period, but the score remained 3-1 going into the 3rd period.

Florek regained Providence’s 2-goal cushion at 4:31 of the 3rd period on his 2nd of the night and 7th of the season, assisted by Spooner (his 2nd of the night) and Robins. Cunningham made it a 5-1 lead at 7:53 with his 2nd of the night and 16th of the season, with an assist to Alden Hirschfeld.

Jordan Caron hit the 10-goal plateau at 13:17 of the 3rd period, getting assists from Hanson and Florek. With just over a minute left in the game, Cunningham completed the hat trick with his 3rd of the night and 17th of the season with helpers from MacKinnon and Florek – capping off Florek’s 4 point night as well.

Providence next plays on Friday, March 8th, at the Dunk against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Make sure to keep an eye out, because this team is potentially getting really awesome.

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