If there were any doubters left of the AHL, to whom it was NHL or no hockey at all, Saturday night's tilt between the Binghamton Senators and Syracuse Crunch forced them to turn their heads. For all of the positives and negatives that can be taken out of the game for Sens fans, and there's a fair amount of both, the game was undeniably entertaining. In spite of audio and video feed syncing (or, more accurately, lack thereof) that left AHL Live customers watching a grainy image two seconds behind Grady Whittenburg and Dave Schreiber's call of the game, the match was a seriously fun fan experience.
As we wrote about yesterday in the Nuggets, Robin Lehner's antics stole much of the show. He didn't take kindly to being repeatedly run by Crunch players and took his anger out on Riku Helenius. You know the rest of the story. After Lehner skated off the ice with a 'raise the roof' gesture straight from the vintage Chris Neil playbook, the B-Sens let up what had seemed to be an insurmountable lead and dropped a 6-5 decision in overtime. Slightly lost in the hubbub around the game was the fact that the B-Sens played two others on the weekend, finishing the hectic three-day sprint 1-1-1. At this point, Jared Cowen will be ready to laugh in his NHL teammates' faces if there happens to be a hint of complaint around three games in four days. The weirdness of the schedule is surely felt by Mika Zibanejad, Fredrik Claesson and Jakob Silfverberg, far more accustomed to the much more lenient Elitserien schedule. The B-Sens didn't even get to ice their bruises until 7pm on Sunday- the game was a 5:00 start. Thankfully for the B-Sens, their next three-day spree isn't for another month.
Hershey Bears 3, Binghamton Senators 2
Binghamton lost this game, but did show some fight towards the end and there were some notable performances to take out of it. Playing a Capitals farm team that most prominently features Dmitry Orlov and former B-Sen Ryan Potulny, Binghamton fell behind in the first period despite a pair of powerplay opportunities. With Jared Cowen off in the second, the Bears were up by a pair. A third period tally seemed to do in Binghamton, but they showed resilience and fought back. Led by captain Andre Benoit's shot from the top of the circle, Binghamton seemed to find new life in the final frame. Tyler Eckford blasted home a phenomenal pass from Mika Zibanejad on a 2-on-1 to make it a one-goal game with five to go, but that would prove to be all they could get past Dany Sabourin. In a jarring change from last season's trend of being seriously outshot most nights, Binghamton more than doubled Hershey on the shot chart, finishing up 44-21. Mike Hoffman has been a stand-out for the B-Sens so far this season, and Friday night was certainly no exception- he had ten shots on goal. Ten! Coaches like that, I think. I also thought Eric Gryba and Andre Petersson had promising nights, though they were left off the scoresheet.
Syracuse Crunch 6, Binghamton Senators 5
This must have been a huge disappointment for Nathan Lawson. After watching the Crunch steal in on a 2-on-1 and dance around Nathan Lawson for their first goal of the night, I had to turn off the game, thinking to myself, "Binghamton's up four, there's been a plethora of fights and it seems to have settled down. Not too much can happen, right?" Silly, silly Bobby. Owing to the NHL lockout, Lawson finds himself in an unenviable jam. He is on a team with two goaltenders to whom the organization obviously places priority. Not long removed from a stint in the NHL, Lawson doesn't belong in the ECHL and indications are he won't go. Tim Murray will have to do something, but whatever it is, Saturday night's thirty-minute performance did not make Murray's task any easier. Binghamton impressed at the outset of the game, getting ahead thanks to a strong presence around the net and terrific puck movement on the powerplay. Mike Hoffman led the charge in some aspects, as well- his assist on Pat Cannone's goal was a matter of pulling the puck through his own legs with one hand on his stick and goading the goalie out of his net before dishing it over to Cannone for a gimme. Though he has been derided a little bit for his lack of goal-scoring, Mark Stone had a fairly good night, putting a pass directly on the tape of Derek Grant's stick in the slot, as well as showing off his physicality and doing an excellent job finding open ice in the offensive zone. Binghamton spent eleven minutes in the first period on the penalty kill, thanks in large part to a five minute major assessed to Mark Borowiecki, and weathered the storm with relative ease. The mayhem started to unfold in the second period. Once Binghamton had worked their way to a 4-0 lead, the officials lost a handle on the game and didn't get it back until Robin Lehner was escorted to the dressing room. For all the fun of the first half of the game, Binghamton let up a five-goal lead to lose. If we are going to take the positives out of what we see coming from this group, we also have to accept the negatives. And that was ugly.
Binghamton Senators 2, Hershey Bears 1
Luke Richardson and his team deserve plenty of credit for this effort. Coming off their shock from the night before, complete exhaustion from back-to-back games and a loss to Hershey already on the weekend, they battled this one out. Hugh Jessiman has looked strong so far this season. He has played a physical game supported by evident offensive instincts and was rewarded with the overtime winner against the Bears. Andre Benoit had a goal and an assist on the night, leaving him one back of random comparable Matt Gilroy of the Connecticut Whale. Robin Lehner was back in the blue paint for Binghamton and opted to keep his sore knuckles to himself.
At 3-1-1, the B-Sens are two points back of the Crunch for the division lead. Their next game is Saturday night against the Portland Pirates. Binghamton will head to New Hampshire after the game to play the Manchester Monarchs on Sunday afternoon. Portland is in Maine, in case you're wondering. Not Oregon. That would be some fast driving to get to New Hampshire otherwise. Share your opinion on the weekend's games below!