Playing host to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, the Ottawa Senators took to the ice with some St. Patrick's Day flair, sporting green jerseys for the warm-up skate. Yet, by the time the puck dropped, the Senators had switched back to their usual home reds. Hockey fashion critics breathed a sigh of relief. Welcoming the Adirondack Phantoms on Friday and the Norfolk Admirals on Saturday were the Binghamton Senators, doing their best impression of Christmas trees. Seriously, how amazing and ridiculous would one of these look as a collector's item?
Don't bother checking online, I already did.
The jersey offered mixed fortunes for the hometown club, as they dropped a 3-2 decision against Adirondack on Friday, only to turn around and decisively handle Norfolk in a 5-1 drubbing. The loss to the Phantoms was Binghamton's second in a row, losing Wednesday to the Rochester Americans who more than doubled them in shots. Derek Grant's seventeenth of the season had been the lone goal of the game.
Cole Schneider's third period tally brought the B-Sens level with the Phantoms, but a goal with five minutes left in regulation spoiled the rally. Lawson again faced a barrage, allowing 3 on the 36 that were directed his way. Stephane Da Costa was the only other B-Sen to beat Brian Boucher, who made 28 saves on the night. An added obstacle for Luke Richardson's squad was their march to the penalty box, as Binghamton took the final six calls of the night, including a double minor to Darren Kramer in the second. Most likely, the officials didn't want to face any accusation of calling Phantom penalties. Jokes are fun.
Things improved markedly on Saturday night, as the team cruised to an easy 5-1 victory and their third Saturday win in a row. The Saturday streak is only notable because Binghamton has played on each of those Fridays. Norfolk opened the scoring, Mark Stone answered a minute later with his ninth of the year, a tap-in from the doorstep on a phenomenal pass from Stephane Da Costa. The B-Sens would add two more, courtesy of Chris Wideman's second AHL tally and Jean-Gabriel Pageau's seventh. The team didn't give in to any fatigue and came out firing again in the second period, adding a goal from Wacey Hamilton who crashed the net and found a loose puck waiting in the crease. Finally, in the third period, Michael Sdao, who had already earned his first fighting major in his second professional game, scored his first professional goal.
The weekend saw standout performances from Stephane Da Costa and Chris Wideman. Wideman made some stellar defensive plays and added a goal, for good measure. He struggled with the transition to the professional game earlier in the year, but seems to have turned a corner. Da Costa was terrific in the offensive end, scoring a top-shelf slapshot and showing off his excellent vision with the pass to Mark Stone.
If you've gotten this far, I'd appreciate some credit for making through the entire Binghamton breakdown without making any jokes about the luck of the Irish. I mean-- did you see that jersey?
It's playoff season in the CHL and there are a number of Sens prospects in action for you to keep your eyes out for. Indeed, of the eight players Ottawa currently has competing in the CHL, only one of them isn't advancing to the playoffs in his respective league. That player is Jakub Culek, who's been missing with a shoulder injury since the end of November and thus would be unlikely to have suited up anyhow. There has been no further updates on Jarrod Maidens. One can assume the Owen Sound Attack will be without the forward for the duration of their playoff run. The Attack do have first-round pick Cody Ceci. The numbers mean the following Sens prospects will advance along with Ceci to CHL playoff action: Chris Driedger (Calgary Hitmen), Francois Brassard (Quebec Remparts), Stefan Noesen (Plymouth Whalers), Matt Puempel (Kitchener Rangers) and defender Jordan Fransoo (Victoria Royals).
In Sweden, Mikael Wikstrand's season has ended with Mora missing the playoffs. Wait a second: does this mean there might have been some negative repercussions to losing Anze Kopitar and Bobby Ryan for the last two months of the season?!
AHL Playoff Eligibility
The AHL has operated in the past under a 'clear day' system, whereby players have to be on the team's active roster by a certain date- usually one week after the NHL Trade Deadline.
This year, things have changed. The AHL isn't operating under the clear day system anymore. Or, at least, not as stringently in the past. Instead, this year's clear day is the end of the AHL regular season.
The clear day rule did not apply to junior players.
Senators prospect whose junior season ends while Binghamton's goes on will be eligible of joining Luke Richardson's club in the playoffs. Before I'm accused of tempting the fates, the Binghamton Senators are thirteen points clear of the last spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs, with fourteen games to play. Yeah. If they miss, I'll eat that one.
So, if any of the aforementioned CHL playoff players happen to meet an early exit from the fight for the Memorial Cup, don't shed those tears I know will be welling up inside. After all, it may give us an earlier chance to see them play professional hockey and could offer valuable experience, the likes of which we have been witnessing the past two years on the Sens' NHL roster.