Phil Varone scored a pair of shorthanded goals and added two assists while goaltender Matt O’Conner came up with 34 saves as the surging Binghamton Senators beat the North Division leading Crunch 4-2 at War Memorial Arena in Syracuse on Friday night. The win was the team’s seventh in their last nine as they make a push towards a playoff position.
With the start of the second half of the season underway, Binghamton (17-19-2-1) played their first game all week and took advantage of a tired Syracuse team as they are amidst a seven games in eleven day stretch. The rival Crunch (20-11-3-5) lost for only its fourth home game in regulation and are just percentage points ahead of the Albany Devils in first.
Sens rookie forward Alex Krushelnyski put his team ahead 1-0 2:40 into the opening period on a one-on-one showdown with Syracuse netminder Kristers Gudlevskis, as went to his backhand while falling to the ice after he took a stick to the chin by defenseman Ben Thomas, which required him to get stitched up to stop the bleeding.
Senators continued to be the aggressor, however the Crunch came back to tie it with a turnaround wrist shot from the slot by forward Jeremy Morin that sailed past O’Connor’s glove side for his eighth of the season. The goal would come off the faceoff deep into the offensive zone as the Senators defense was late to react.
In the second period, Binghamton with a tighter defensive effort that showed improvement in what was lacking in the first. They would also regain the lead as Varone scored on a shorthanded breakaway that beat Gudlevskis on the backhand for his team-leading 11th.
In the final 20 minutes, Varone worked the puck off a Syracuse turnover in the neutral zone and was set free for another shorthanded breakaway and got the best of Gudlevskis once again for his second of the game and 12th of the season, that silenced the home crowd and put Binghamton up by two, 3-1 with 9:29 left.
Syracuse would make it interesting late in the period with Gudlevskis pulled for the extra attacker and cut the lead to 3-2, as Yanni Gourde got credit with the goal as Cory Conacher’s one-timer caught the stick of Sens’ defenseman Andreas Englund in front and the puck deflected in past O’Conner with 2:53 remaining.
But Max McCormick would tally an empty-netter much to the relief of the Senators with 41.8 seconds left, as Syracuse with all kinds of pressure near the end in an attempt to tie it.
POST GAME NOTES
- Binghamton is all alone in 5th place in the North 3 points out of the final playoff spot currently held by the Utica Comets. Lots of hockey left as this team can smell it with another good effort on the road. Let’s hope they can bottle some of that energy up for Saturday’s home contest with Springfield.
- Varone is a pure goal scorer as he made his look easy and kept it simple. He was fired up and it rubbed off on the bench with his 4 point effort.
- O’Connor played well in his second straight game since Chris Driedger took his spot for Ottawa. Decent glove and looked focus, but mainly kept his rebounds down and kept the puck rather than kicking every shot to the side walls.
- McCormick stood out with his hustle and intense pace, I’m really going to miss this kid next year.
- Defenseman Ben Harpur was seen double shifting and playing on the special teams as the club really wants him playing more and in all situations. Still has trouble carrying the puck out of his zone though without turning it over.
- Power play appeared better with good puck movement on the cycle, but same old results going 0/4.
- Both clubs have won 2 with 6 remaining.
- Three Stars; 1st Varone, 2nd O’Connor, 3rd Morin.
- Akeson-Varone-Rodewald, McCormick-Flanagan-Robinson, Paul-Nehring-Perron, Krushelnyski- -Gagne. Englund/Kostka, Sieloff/Harpur, Rumble/Carlisle, Lepine. Zack Stortini a healthy scratch, Mike Blunden on IR with a concussion. Casey Bailey and Chris Driedger up in Ottawa.
Binghamton concludes the weekend with a date against the Springfield Thunderbirds on home ice tomorrow (Sat.) night.