After a seemingly endless offseason, the Belleville Senators are back!
Each Wednesday from today until the end of the (hopefully long) season, you can expect weekly recaps of the BSens from yours truly - with a few other posts sprinkled in between. With a new coach, many new players, a newly exclusive official ECHL affiliate and a renamed place to call home, there are lots of things to talk about as the season progresses. But let’s get down to business!
Saturday, October 6 - Utica 3, Belleville 1
It was a quiet start to the first game of the season for Belleville. It took almost 24 minutes of playing time before Joseph LaBate opened the scoring for the Senators. LaBate, one of the Senators offseason free agent signings, jammed the puck in off a Boston Leier shot that rang off the end boards. Unfortunately, the lead lasted all of ten seconds before Brendan Gaunce beat Mike McKenna clean off a slick feed from (sigh) Jonathan Dahlen.
The Utica Comets would add another goal at the end of the period to take a 2-1 lead. Following this, things got a bit ugly.
Things got cleared up and the Comets would add an empty net tally at the end of the third period to seal the deal.
Drake Batherson - While Batherson didn’t find the scoresheet in his first game, he did manage three shots on net and was one of the more dominant players in the advanced stats department - courtesy of @BSensAHL on Twitter.
Christian Jaros - Jaros had some health concerns last season and he’s a player I was looking forward to seeing play full-time this year. He managed a shot on net but, more importantly, he made smart plays and exited his zone efficiently.
Mike McKenna - While he didn’t manage to pick up the win in his first game, he can’t be faulted for the goals that went past him. Saving 26 of 28 shots is exactly the type of goaltending Belleville will need behind them to have a successful season.
You can catch the highlights here.
Friday, October 12 - Manitoba 2, Belleville 1
The second game of the season was a stronger effort. McKenna made his second straight start and another new member of the team scored his first goal.
This time, it was the opposition that got on the scoresheet first as former Bruin/Leaf/Panther/Sabre Seth Griffith beat McKenna glove side off the rush. It took over a period of hockey but the Senators answered with Rudolfs Balcers’ first as a Senator. The most exciting line Belleville has ever seen (literally) made this one look easy. Chlapik sent a crisp pass to Batherson who fired a shot on net. Balcers quickly potted the rebound to get the Senators on the board.
Mason Appleton ended up getting a rebound past McKenna to win the game for the Moose in the third.
Our New Favourite Line - The chemistry between Balcers, Chlapik and Batherson started showing in this game. But more on that later...
Mike McKenna - Hard not to give a shoutout to McKenna again. For a second straight game, McKenna allowed only 2 goals, this time on 30 shots. I may have been (and still am) a critic of the McKenna signing but I have to admit it is paying off early.
Here are the highlights.
Saturday, October 13 - Belleville 6, Manitoba 2
Remember earlier when I mentioned we’d talk more about the Balcers-Chlapik-Batherson line some more?
Just over a minute into the game, Balcers opened the scoring for the Senators on a great pass from Chlapik. Manitoba managed to tie it up halfway through the period before the line that should never be split up got back to work. Towards the end of the period, Batherson tipped home a Julius Bergman point shot for his first professional goal.
Halfway through the second frame, Jack Rodewald fed Chlapik off the faceoff for his first of the season. Balcers and Batherson both found the net again before the Senators eventually took home their first two points of the season in a decisive six goal effort.
Drake Batherson - Two goals, two assists.
Filip Chlapik - One goal, three assists.
Rudolfs Balcers - Two goals.
Filip Gustavsson - In the excitement of the offensive production, we can’t forget about Gustavsson. He was recalled to Belleville and made his season debut against Manitoba. I think that he’d definitely like one of the two goals against back but stopping 33 of 35 shots is a fantastic way to start his season.
Here are the highlights of Belleville’s first win of the season!
With a new boss behind the bench and many new (more skilled) players in the lineup, one of the bigger question marks surrounding the BSens this year is coaching and player deployment. It’s incredibly early but Troy Mann has shown early he’s not afraid to play the kids, putting Chlapik, Balcers and Batherson on one line. It may have been line shuffling due to the injuries in Ottawa and recalling Nick Paul, but I’m hoping their production encourages Mann to give this trio a longer look.
You may be asking yourselves - what happened to Logan Brown? Brown had a decent opening game against Utica. He didn’t make his way onto the scoresheet but you could see the skill and patience Ottawa is excited about. Unfortunately, true to form, Brown didn’t make the trip to Manitoba and is sidelined with an injury.
The BSens are hosting Binghamton tonight for their home opener and will be hosting Hartford and Rochester this weekend.
While we get deeper into the season, I’d love to hear from you about topics you’d like covered regarding Ottawa’s AHL club. Let me know in the comments!