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Gustavsson and Daccord Stand Tall, BSens Keep Rolling

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Filip Gustavsson and Joey Daccord combined for 127 saves across four games, posting a collective 0.941 SV% to lead Belleville to a 2-1-1 week.

Jonathan Kozub/Manitoba Moose

It was another week of winning for the Belleville Senators and, quite frankly, I’m never going to get tired of it. While this past week wasn’t perfect, the BSens were able to add five out of a possible eight points to their resume, pulling them back into a tie for first place in the North.

To make matters even better, Belleville was gifted with reinforcements on Saturday afternoon after Ottawa sent Drake Batherson, Rudolfs Balcers and Filip Chlapik back to the AHL as they kicked off the NHL All Star Break. Marcus Hogberg was given the week off and will remain with the NHL squad following his stellar performance in place of Anders Nilsson.

Wednesday, January 15 - Manitoba 3, Belleville 2 (OT)

Here are the highlights.

  • Filip Gustavsson was between the pipes and stopped 33 of 37 shots (0.892 SV%).
  • Belleville received some scoring help from depth players as Parker Kelly found Joseph LaBate open in front of LaBate’s fifth of the year.
  • Josh Norris, Alex Formenton, Erik Brännström and Logan Brown connected for a b-e-a-utiful goal.

Saturday, January 18 - Belleville 4, Grand Rapids 3 (SO)

Here are the highlights.

  • Joey Daccord got the start, stopping 43 (!) shots, tying Gustavssons record for most saves in one game by a rookie goaltender.
  • Belleville erased a 3-1 deficit with third period goals from Morgan Klimchuk and Michael Carcone.
  • Frank Corrado chipped in a pair of assists.
  • Brown and Vitaly Abramov scored in the shootout to secure the win for Belleville.

Monday, January 20 - Belleville 3, Rockford 0

Here are the highlights.

  • Gustavsson was back in the net, recording his first AHL shutout.
  • Batherson, Balcers and Chlapik returned to the lineup. Batherson reunited with his old line of Norris and Abramov, Balcers joined Formenton and Brown and Chlapik anchored the third line with Klimchuk and Carcone.
  • Norris scored his 22nd of the year, breaking him into the top five in overall AHL scoring.
  • Confirmed: Formenton is still fast.

Tuesday, January 21 - Milwaukee 2, Belleville 1

Here are the highlights.

  • Daccord stopped 27 of 29 shots against.
  • The trio of Batherson, Brown and Balcers connected for a powerplay goal, the lone goal for Belleville’s night.
  • There were very few penalties in this one, leaving most of the work to even strength.
  • Daccord made a ridiculous save.

Let’s Talk About the Others

Here at Silver Seven, we’re an Ottawa Senators blog. That, of course, includes plenty of news and notes about Belleville but I am very aware that I often write about the exciting prospects that are going to carry Ottawa during its years of Unparalleled Success™. Usually, this coverage is at the expense of some of the Belleville players who are instrumental to Belleville’s success but aren’t necessarily penciled into Ottawa’s future lineup. Let’s change that today, shall we?

The first player who has immediately stepped up in the absence of players like Batherson and Balcers is Carcone. The 23 year old from Ajax, Ontario has been impressive since the calendar turned to 2020, compiling five goals and two assists through nine games played. One of the things I’ve loved about his game recently is his increase in shot volume. In that same nine game span, Carcone has averaged 3.3 shots per game. This is up from his usual 2 shot per game metric that he averaged from the start of the season to the end of 2019.

On top of that, last week he put together a tidy little first period hat trick against the Manitoba Moose. Yes, you read that correctly. A hat trick. In the first period of the game.

The other player who has taken advantage of the playing time available by the promotion of a few top six forwards is Klimchuk. After last season was derailed by an injury - and with the injection of many top flight prospects - I wasn’t sure where Klimchuk would fit for Belleville this season. On the season, his 14 points in 31 games isn’t exactly impressive but in his last eight games, he’s contributed three goals and three assists, playing a little further up in the lineup than he had been earlier in the year. What this tells me is that, down the stretch and into the playoffs, Belleville has two forwards outside of their insanely talented top 6 who are capable of contributing offensively. As we learned last year, you can’t rely on one line to produce all of your offense because it that dries up, you’re toast.

Luckily for Belleville, the offensive talent runs deep in this lineup.

Rounding Out The Blueline

Since the start of the season, this lineup has been very top heavy. There were a lot of questions surrounding the blueline and how the Belleville Senators were going to solve their defensive woes. The first step to this was returning Brännström to the AHL and it has worked wonders. The small but mighty star pivot has 12 points in 13 games since being reassigned and his ability to move the puck has been a blessing to this otherwise unimpressive group. After that, things get a little hazy. As I’ve noted in previous weeks, Max Lajoie has been fine but hasn’t played to the level that is expected of a player who played a large chunk of last season in the NHL. Christian Jaros has been riddled with injuries, so it’s been tough to gauge where he’s at in his development.

The good news? Help appears to be on the way as early as the middle of next month. Earlier this month, Pierre Dorion appeared on TSN 1200 and was asked about the status of Christian Wolanin. It sounds like, if his progress continues as planned, the target return is mid-to-late February and the destination is likely Belleville. Being able to ride Brännström, Wolanin and Lajoie down the left side would be a huge boost for Belleville heading into the playoffs. Not to mention, if Wolanin has been keeping in shape, he’ll be fresh and hitting his stride just as the AHL playoffs get underway.

Let’s cross our fingers that the timeline works out as planned and Wolanin can join Belleville for what I hope to be a decent playoff run.