In a quiet week, which included the AHL All Star festivities, Belleville pulled of a shootout win against Binghamton and a regulation loss against Bridgeport. A win followed by a loss pretty much sums up the season for the Senators. For a team that desperately needs to string together an historic February winning streak to have any chance at the playoffs, it wasn’t the best start to the month given neither of their opponents have particularly elite lineups.
Friday, February 2 - Belleville 3, Binghamton 2 (SO)
The Senators kicked off February on a decent note, taking down their former affiliate 3-2 in a shootout. Steve Santini opened the scoring for the Devils with a point shot through traffic. The Senators responded quickly as Nick Paul deflected a Ben Harpur point shot for his fourth goal of the season. In the second period, Belleville gave Devils forward Jacob MacDonald an absolute gift as he was left alone on the doorstep and Danny Taylor was well out of position. It only took a few minutes of play in the third for the Senators to tie the game up, however.
The Real Macoy Erkamps sent a shot through traffic that beat Eddie Lack cleanly. This was definitely a game where “pucks on net” made all the difference as three of the four goals scored in regulation were shots from the point.
Taylor turned away all four Binghamton shooters and Ethan Werek potted the game winner with a patience shootout move.
Gabriel Gagne: Although Gagne was held off the scoresheet, there seemed to be a hop in his step coming out of his first AHL All Star Game experience. He had five shots on net, two of which were decent scoring chances.
Ben Harpur: It’s not a secret that I’m not as convinced of Harpur’s future as an NHL blueliner as, say, Pierre Dorion might be. That being said, his game has rounded out more as he’s spent more time in the AHL this season. He had four shots on net and an assist in this contest.
Danny Taylor: Taylor stopped 36 of 38 shots on net in this one and, other than Binghamton’s second goal, he looked solid throughout.
Here are the highlights.
Saturday, February 3 - Bridgeport 3, Belleville 1
Belleville turned to Taylor in net on a back to back after his solid performance on Friday night. It was a move that puzzled me, mostly because playing goalies on a back to back usually isn’t the best idea. Taylor rewarded Coach K’s decision by putting together a 0.889 SV% against the Tigers. Now, his numbers on paper don’t exactly tell the whole story. As you’ll see in the highlights below, Taylor made a number of key saves throughout the game.
The first 50 minutes of the game were relatively close, although Bridgeport was the only team who could find the back of the net (three times). Filip Chlapik finally broke the shutout halfway through the third on a nice passing play down low from Nick Paul.
Filip Chlapik: In his second game back in Belleville after a short injury suffered with the big club, Chlapik was his dynamic self on Saturday night. He found the scoresheet and created a number of scoring chances. He leads Belleville skaters who have played more than 20 games in points per game (0.55).
Danny Taylor: Despite the save percentage, this game could have easily been 6-1 or worse if not for a few key saves.
Nick Paul: Paul has dropped off the map in the Senators’ prospect depth chart. The game he played on Saturday was the type of game where you see what the brass sees in his game. He was strong on the puck and created scoring chances (and a goal) for his linemates. Unfortunately, he’s had just a handful of those performances all season and only has 11 points in 32 games to show for it.
Here are the highlights.
The Injury Bug
You’ll notice you haven’t heard much about Christian Jaros or Maxim Lajoie from me in recent recaps. Jaros started off the season as one of my favourite D prospects and a frontrunner, for me, for a callup to the big club somewhere down the line. He has 12 points in 31 games in his rookie professional season and, when healthy, has been an absolute menace to play against in his own end. Unfortunately, Jaros has missed 16 games due to injury this season, for varying ailments.
Lajoie has had similar issues, missing 18 games so far this season. He has 7 assists in 30 games and has been one of Belleville’s stronger puck movers when he’s played.
I haven’t heard or seen anything about either player returning soon. Given the likely scenario where Belleville misses the playoffs, I’d love to see both Jaros and Lajoie return soon to play some worry free minutes and continue to grow their respective games at the professional level.
Belleville’s First All Star
Gagne had the honour of being the first AHL All Star in franchise history last week. This would have been my pick as well, considering Gagne leads the team with 15 goals in his second pro season. Gagne helped the North Division win the All Star Challenge by providing a goal and four assists through the tournament.
The Playoff Picture
Missing the playoffs is all but guaranteed in Belleville’s inaugural season. While they’re not mathematically eliminated, the chances are about the same as Ottawa at this point in the season. Last year, the final playoff spot in the East was occupied by the St John’s Ice Caps with 82 points. Currently sitting at 42 points with 28 games remaining, Belleville would need to go 20-8-0 or better to have a chance at that final spot. For a team that has struggled to string together winning streaks all season long, the Yardmen Arena is going to have to wait at least another 14 months before hosting its first playoff game.
Just like with the big club, one wonders when the coaching staff will finally start giving important minutes to the young players who mean something to the future of this franchise.