After a quiet week, Belleville was back at it with four games in seven days. In typical Belleville fashion, they only won one out of four, letting two games slip away in the third period.
Wednesday, December 13 - Belleville 4, Binghamton 3 (SO)
After a bleak week, the Senators took an important point from their division rival at home on Wednesday night. This game was a nasty affair. Just over 16 minutes into the opening frame, former Toronto prospect Viktor Loov came flying in at Filip Chlapik and clipped him. It’s lucky for all parties involved, especially Chlapik, that Loov didn’t make direct contact.
Filip Chlapik almost gets his head taken off. Chaos ensues.— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) December 14, 2017
Then, Colin White is involved in a weird, slow moving wrestling match.
Wild night in Belleville! pic.twitter.com/uOzuezrfEY
A big brawl ensued with a total 68 penalty minutes assessed to eight different players. Notably, Christian Jaros was injured in the scrum and hasn’t played since - reminding us all that fighting is dumb, unnecessary and can do more damage than good.
Back to hockey! The Senators allowed their former hometown team to go up 3-0 but staged a comeback in the third period. Filip Chlapik would start the scoring by tipping in a Jordan Murray point shot after some hard work by Max Lajoie. Five minutes later, Gabriel Gagne squeaked a puck through Ken Appleby’s legs to narrow the Binghamton lead to 3-2. Belleville had picked up steam and spend the next 10 minutes trying to even the score. With about 2.5 minutes left in the third period, Ben Harpur found the back of the net to force extra time. Jim O’Brien moved the puck to the point and Harpur’s shot found it’s way through traffic. The crowd at Yardsmen Arena was fired up after this one.
Colin White scored on Belleville’s first shootout attempt and Chris Driedger turned away all three Binghamton shooters to pick up two points for the Senators.
Gabriel Gagne: Gagne still managed to score a goal in this one, on an individual effort, despite playing mostly with Max McCormick and O’Brien. With proper linemates, there’s a chance Gagne could be a lethal player at the AHL level with his size and shot. I would love to see him play regularly with Chlapik or White as his centre.
Max Lajoie: Nobody can replace Thomas Chabot’s vision and ability to move the puck on Belleville’s blueline but Lajoie does a good job of limiting the impact. He was smart with his passing and his tenacity on the puck was a big reason why Belleville scored their first goal of the game.
Chris Driedger: Driedger saved 32 of 35 shots in 65 minutes of play including 13 of Binghamton’s 14 first period shots. If it weren’t for Driedger, the Sens might have been down by more than one after the first frame.
You can catch the highlights here.
Friday, December 15 - Manitoba 7, Belleville 3
Another night, another shlacking. This one started on a great note as Gagne buried another goal in the first minute of play. Shortly after that, Andrew Hammond’s goal post stopped former Senator Buddy Robinson on a breakaway after Lajoie fumbled a pass on the point. Manitoba scored three unanswered goals after that, putting Belleville in another hole. Spoiler alert: this time, there was no climbing out.
With less than two minutes left to play in the second period, and trailing 3-1, DiDomenico found Chlapik in front of the net and he buried it top corner on the powerplay to close in on the Moose. The dynamic duo of McCormick and O’Brien would connect on a nice backdoor feed to tie the game. If it weren’t for my earlier spoiler, I bet you’d be on the edge of your seat right now.
Unfortunately, Manitoba scored four unanswered goals in the third period. Robinson ended the game with a goal and four assists against his former organization.
Filip Chlapik: Chlapik is on a bit of a streak and is finally being deployed with optimal linemates. He started this one lined up with Jack Rodewald and White and was given plenty of powerplay opportunity. And it all worked out. Who’d have thought.
Colin White: For the first time in what feels like a century (it was a couple games), White didn’t spend his ice time with Mike Blunden and Chris Kelly and had a pretty great showing against Manitoba.
Gabriel Gagne: Leading goal scorer, biggest guy on the ice, hard to miss him and for good reason. He’s quickly emerging as a favourite for me most games. There’s still some footwork that needs improving. If only he could play with better linemates, we could see what he’s really capable of.
Here are the highlights.
Saturday, December 16 - Binghamton 5, Belleville 2
In the Senators return to Binghamton, the Devils got the best of them this time around. Coach Kleinendorst made one particular roster decisions as a response to the loss against Manitoba and it really hurt this group. He moved White back to a line with Kelly and Blunden which completely stifled the already limited offensive potential of this group of forwards.
After a scoreless first period, the newly acquired Michael Latta opened the scoring for Binghamton five minutes into the second frame. Ten minutes later, Gagne banked a shot off the back of Appleby to even the score. It wasn’t the prettiest goal but every goal counts - wow, I sound like my father. After the Devils regained the lead, captain Blunden would score his first of the season as he deflected Griffin Reinhart’s point shot. The Senators held the tie for 20 seconds until Loov beat Driedger to make the game 3-2. There was a good chance they could tie the game up one more time (after all, they’d already done it twice that game) but unfortunately the Devils scored again - this time 18 seconds later - to take a 4-2 lead and that was all she wrote.
Chris DiDomenico: DiDo found himself playing with Chlapik and Rodewald and the results were there. There were a number of noticeable plays that didn’t lead to anything but I’d love to see this line continue to work together. If you subscribe to Guy Boucher’s theory that you find which pairs work together and play them as such (Brassard and Stone at the beginning of the year), I think Chlapik and DiDomenico would be a pair for Coach K.
Filip Chlapik: I don’t need to say anything else here.
Gabriel Gagne: While his goal was scored from behind the net on a fluke play, he still manages to produce despite his linemates (are you noticing a trend?).
Here are the highlights.
Wednesday, December 20 - Rochester 3, Belleville 1
I had already written the recap for the first three games by the time the puck dropped in this one with the title “Belleville Splits Four Game Week” ready to go... I was trying to send positive vibes to the BSens but it wasn’t enough.
Last night, it took Rochester and Belleville over 40 minutes to open the scoring as Rochester centre Sahir Gill scored a few minutes into the third frame. The same player, who I’d totally heard of before last night, scored again one minute later to give the Americans a 2-0 lead. After giving up a third goal, it wasn’t until the final minute that the Senators were able to break Linus Ullmark’s shutout when Daniel Ciampini, recalled from Brampton following Chlapik’s recall to Ottawa, scored his third goal of the season. Blunden retrieved Ciampini’s dump in, White came in as the second man, swiftly moved the puck from behind the net to Ciampini’s tape at the top of the crease and the shutout was broken.
Colin White: White played with Francis Perron and Blunden and, while that’s only one good winger, he was all over the ice last night. I was happy to see his hard work pay off with an assist in the final minute of play.
Daniel Ciampini: It wasn’t a perfect game for Ciampini but scoring a goal immediately upon being called up from the ECHL is exactly what you need to do if you’re looking to stick with the club. He had a few noticeable gaffes but a few solid plays as well. Drawing even on the good vs. bad as a call-up works for me.
The Penalty Kill: There wasn’t a third player who stood out for me but the penalty kill went 6 for 6 against a very good Rochester Americans team. Rochester sits second in the division (17-6-6) and is also the highest scoring club in the division (3.3 goals per game). Just like their parent club, Belleville has struggled on the penalty kill this year so it was nice to see their kill be perfect last night.
At time of publishing, the highlights for this one had not yet been posted. I will update when it happens!
I’ve been told parents and teachers alike are “not allowed to pick favourites” but I’m neither of those things so I can. My favourite BSen, Filip Chlapik, was recalled yesterday.
I went into this a bit on Twitter but, for those of you who don’t follow me (why not??) you may be wondering what has happened in the last few months to see Chlapik get recalled over White or Gagne. For me, it boils down to Chlapik being more of an offensive weapon than White and being more capable of playing at the speed of the NHL than Gagne. I still believe White will be an impact player for Ottawa, as soon as this season, and Gagne is definitely on his way, but Chlapik’s play in the past month and ability to earn Coach K’s trust has been crucial in him being recognized with this call up. As you know from my rantings on Coach K’s deployment, the kids don’t play much. Over the past month, we’ve begun to see Chlapik chip away at those important minutes and get top powerplay time - and he’s scored three goals in his last five games because of it.
Belleville has a tough stretch ahead as they face Syracuse, Toronto (x2), Laval and Providence before we enter 2018. All four of these teams are ahead of Belleville in the standings and two of them (Toronto and Providence) lead their respective divisions.
If there’s a perfect time to go on a winning streak, it’s now. If I’m the coach, I’m matching skill with skill in the next five games because if you want to skate with a skilled team like the Marlies or Bruins, 20 minutes of the veteran grinders isn’t going to do it.