If there’s one thing the young prospects in Belleville will be able to carry forward in their careers, it’s experience playing a long string of important hockey games. I’ve lost track of the number of times this team has stepped on the ice with the feeling that they absolutely must win. This week’s tough schedule included a matchup against first place Syracuse and a back-to-back including a game against the only team standing between Belleville and the AHL playoffs.
Wednesday, April 3 - Syracuse 1, Belleville 0
If Belleville pulls off a playoff spot, their first round opponent will be the Syracuse Crunch. While these two points were important (everybody drink), the BSens also needed to send a message that Syracuse should hope for Cleveland in round one.
It was a low scoring affair on Wednesday with the lone goal coming to Syracuse halfway through the game. The Crunch entered the zone on an odd man rush, Cory Conacher found Alexander Volkov who quickly moved the puck to Andy Andreoff for a clear shot on Marcus Hogberg. It was the only moment Hogberg wasn’t an absolute wall against Syracuse.
This game wasn’t without opportunities for Belleville, as there were multiple stretches where they applied pressure and had quality chances on the freshly signed NCAA goaltender Atte Tolvanen. Unfortunately, a recent wave of scoring woes continued and Belleville wasn’t able to get themselves on the board through 60 minutes.
Marcus Hogberg - Another outstanding effort from the big Swede.
Joseph LaBate - LaBate had an unsuccessful breakaway chance and drew a penalty on the play. He was noticeably active in the play, which was refreshing as he’s dropped off the radar during this run.
Jack Rodewald - With four shots on net, Rodewald did what he could to help his team get on the board.
Here are the highlights.
Friday, April 5 - Hershey 3, Belleville 1
On Friday night, Belleville hosted Hershey at CAA Arena for, you guessed it, a very important hockey game (drink!). With Cleveland continuing to win games, a win on Friday would have been perfect for Belleville to maintain their hold on a playoff spot. Unfortunately, we know how this story ends.
Scoring started early when Jayson Megna scored on the powerplay. After moving the puck around the perimeter, a shot was sent towards Hogberg. You could tell he thought he had squeezed tight enough to hold onto it but Megna saw the puck slip behind Hogberg and he jammed it in. Just before the end of the period, Vitaly Abramov responded with a powerplay marker of his own. The play started at the point as Jordan Murray found Rodewald in the middle of the ice. Rodewald slipped the puck to Abramov who stepped in and snapped it off the post and in.
That would end the scoring for Belleville but Hershey added another two in the second to take the game 3-1.
Vitaly Abramov - I love the speed and skill of this guy. He had a number of chances, including a goal, but also used his speed to carry the puck and win battles.
Jack Rodewald - An assist and five shots on net makes for a solid game for Rodewald.
Drake Batherson - He was held off the scoresheet but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. There were multiple occasions where his vision allowed for the BSens to maintain possession in ways that most of his teammates wouldn’t have been able to pull off.
Here are the highlights.
Saturday, April 6 - Belleville 3, Cleveland 1
Hey, would you look at that. An important game (drink!).
Now, we know that every game is important but this one, this was the most important two points of the season so far. As of Saturday, Cleveland was sitting three points ahead of Belleville with a game in hand. A loss to the Monsters would have likely ended any realistic hope for the playoffs.
Early in the first, Abramov got the BSens on the board for his second of the weekend. Streaking in, he used his speed to skate around the Cleveland defender and beat Brad Thiessen down low. Less than a minute later, Nick Paul threw the puck on net and Logan Brown out muscled the Cleveland defender to find the loose puck behind Thiessen to make it 2-0.
Cleveland came out strong in the second and got themselves on the board just a minute in. While on the powerplay, the Monsters moved the puck around up top for a bit until Zac Dalpe’s slapshot beat Hogberg clean on the short side to bring the game within one. The remainder of the second period saw the two teams exchange scoring chances but Belleville took the 2-1 lead into the locker room for the second intermission.
Late in the third, one of the Senators’ reinforcements got himself on the scoresheet for an imperative insurance goal.
: Four games in four nights is not a problem for Christian Wolanin, who delivered tonight's insurance marker, helping secure a vital two points for Belleville. pic.twitter.com/oLBferq04m— Joel Vanderlaan (@Joelvanderlaan) April 7, 2019
The BSens took this one 3-1 and kept themselves strongly in the playoff race.
Christian Wolanin - This was Wolanin’s fourth game in four nights across the NHL and AHL and he didn’t appear to be missing a step. His insurance goal was huge but his puck moving on the back end was vital through the game.
Marcus Hogberg - Cleveland Monsters, meet brick wall.
Vitaly Abramov - A fantastic opening goal to go along with a strong all around game.
Here are the highlights.
With Ottawa’s season over, Belleville has welcomed Wolanin and Balcers back to the team. This couldn’t have happened at a better time considering where they’re at in the playoff race and the fact they’re missing a ton of skill on the blueline from Erik Brannstrom. Last I had seen, Brannstrom was diagnosed as week-to-week and was rehabbing in Ottawa. If there’s an update to be had, I’ll be sure to post it here but for the time being, it’s safe to assume Belleville will finish the regular season without Brannstrom.
For the past few weeks, the Senators and Monsters were entwined in the playoff race but Cleveland held the advantage of a game in hand. Last night, that advantage disappeared and, much to the delight of BSens fans everywhere, they did so in a regulation loss to Rochester. This means Cleveland is sitting one point ahead of Belleville and each team has just three games left to play.
Belleville has a back-to-back against Toronto followed by one more meeting with Rochester to finish the season. Given where Toronto and Rochester are in the league, that might seem like the worst of the two schedules to finish things up. Fortunately for Belleville, Cleveland has one game against Toronto and a back-to-back against Charlotte left on their schedule. If you haven’t checked the AHL standings recently, Charlotte is at the top and it’s not particularly close.
Belleville kicks off the final week of the regular season tonight against Toronto and, well, you could say this is an incredibly important game (drink!).