It’s been an incredibly curious season for the Belleville Senators. The year started with some wins and some losses. They followed that up with some wins and some more losses. But then on February 5th, something clicked. It likely had a lot to do with the chemistry developed between Logan Brown and Drake Batherson. You can make a pretty strong argument that Marcus Hogberg put the pieces of the North American game together around then, as well. But it takes a lot more than a few skaters and a goalie to string together a 17 game point streak. The most important part is that, on Monday afternoon, the BSens completed a third period comeback against the Toronto Marlies to move into a playoff spot for the first time in the history of this young franchise. But first, let’s look at the game that finally ended the streak.
Friday, March 7 - Cleveland 2, Belleville 1
It was bound to end but the BSens didn’t go down without a fight. Appearing in one feels like his millionth straight start, Hogberg stood tall steering away 28 of the 30 shots he faced.
The game started off on a familiar note. Just under two minutes into the opening period, Batherson finding Nick Paul in front for the one-timer to open the scoring. Later in the frame, the Cleveland powerplay went to work. Sam Vigneault ripped a wrist shot low on the blocker side and beat Hogberg to even things up. Moments later, a BSens point shot made it’s way towards the net and beat Jean-Francois Berube to give Belleville the lead back. Unfortunately, the officials quickly waved this one off as they believed Brown kicked the puck into the net. I and @SensProspects, however, disagree.
So this was called 'no goal' because Logan Brown kicked it in the net and I'm notttt sureeee about that. Tough 2-1 loss for Belleville. pic.twitter.com/STNy1TWeeV— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) March 8, 2019
It was an unfortunate turn of events but, of course, the show must go on. Shortly after this goal was waved off, the Monsters took a 2-1 lead as Nikita Korostelev banged home his own rebound. While the remaining periods had some scoring chances, the game would end as a 2-1 win for Cleveland. And just like that, Belleville’s point streak ended at 17 games.
Nick Paul - Paul continues to impress and appears to have figured out how to conquer the American Hockey League.
Marcus Hogberg - A 0.933 SV% is never something to be mad about.
Erik Brannstrom - He didn’t get on the scoreboard but his ability to move himself and the puck stood out to me.
Here are the highlights.
Saturday, March 8 - Cleveland 4, Belleville 0
Playing a back-to-back against a division rival when you’re on a hot streak should be an opportunity to grab four points and storm into a playoff spot. Unfortunately, Belleville’s Friday night woes slid into Saturday hard.
You knew it wasn’t going to be easy just under a minute into the game. A Cleveland point shot was deflected and severely slowed down on its way to the net. The puck slid slowly, but surely, past Hogberg for an early 1-0 Cleveland lead. About four minutes later, Kole Sherwood extended the Monster lead on an unassisted breakaway.
Then, things got ugly. First, Darren Archibald laid this questionably late hit on Cleveland’s Adam Clendening.
yikes Darren Archibald throws some massive hits pic.twitter.com/AMGM5pi4zY— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) March 9, 2019
Archibald avoided punishment for this one, which I can understand. But for me, it was too late and pretty unnecessary. Cleveland added a pair of goals to seal this one - one in the second, one in the third - before Sherwood was given a five minute major and eventual one game suspension for this hit on Belleville’s Jordan Murray.
Dangerous, dirty hit by Kole Sherwood on Jordan Murray as time expires. Cowardly play by Sherwood from start to finish.— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) March 9, 2019
Sherwood received a 5 minute major and will be suspended. pic.twitter.com/t3qad5efGr
Not only was this hit dirty it was wildly unnecessary considering it happened right at the end of a 4-0 game. All around, this was a poor effort from a Belleville team that’s been rolling for over a month. Here’s hoping this was a blip on the radar.
Logan Brown - Brown had five shots on goal and was one of the few players who appeared to show up to play on Saturday.
Here are the highlights.
Monday, March 11 - Belleville 5, Toronto 3
The BSens were in Toronto for a rare Monday matinee as the Marlies hosted the team for a March Break kids game. Just 30 seconds into the game, Archibald blocked a point shot that took him out of the play. The Marlies took advantage when Timothy Liljegren found Jeremy Bracco backdoor for an early lead. That lead didn’t last long as a finally healthy Jim O’Brien scored his first of the season. He took a feed from Jack Rodewald off the rush and beat Kasimir Kaskisuo clean through the wickets. The two teams exchanged some chances throughout the remainder of the first but neither could get on the board.
Halfway through the second, the Marlies regained the lead but it, again, didn’t last long. A few minutes later, Vitali Abramov finished a beautiful backdoor pass for his second goal as a Senator. Some fantastic passing from a skilled Toronto powerplay earned the Marlies the lead once again before the period was up.
The third period was what we’ve been used to seeing from Belleville over the past five weeks. The first goal of the period was a product of some sleek puck movement from Brown, Batherson and Paul. After a clean zone entrance, Brown fired the puck on net and Batherson cleaned up the rebound on his backhand. Two minutes later, Brown won a battle behind the net to find Batherson. Batherson quickly moved the puck to Paul for the goal. Batherson eventually picked up his second goal and third point of the evening on the empty net for a dramatic comeback victory.
The Trio™ - Paul, Batherson and Brown combined for three goals and five assists.
Jack Rodewald - His two assists were a huge factor, especially finding O’Brien on the rush for an important goal. He also had six shots.
Adam Tambellini - His backdoor pass to Abramov was one for the ages.
Here are the highlights.
In a season full of drama at the NHL level, it’s been wonderful escaping Ottawa to lose ourselves in an incredible run for the playoffs in Belleville. As of today, here’s how the standings look in the North Division:
What we’re seeing is a tight race for the playoffs. It’s fantastic that Belleville was able to come back and take two points from Toronto but it can’t be understated how much losing four points to Cleveland on Friday and Saturday impacts things. Yes, Belleville is four points up but they’ve also played two more games. Things are only going to get more interesting over the final 13 games of the season.
Looking ahead, Belleville welcomes the Laval Rocket to CAA Arena for a back-to-back this weekend. The Senators have won six of ten matchups against Laval this season and look to build on that starting Friday at 7pm.
It’s an exciting time to be a Belleville Senators fan. Here’s hoping we’ll get to see some playoff games sooner rather than later, right Vitali?
How #BellevilleSens fans feel waking up in a playoff spot #fortheB pic.twitter.com/dGwGRXcYGM— Belleville Senators (@BellevilleSens) March 12, 2019