The Belleville Senators kicked off their road trip with two wins as the club crossed the border to play Providence and Bridgeport this weekend.
On Friday night, the BSens faced off against the PBruins with a bit of an unforeseen tandem in net with Kevin Mandolese getting the start and Nick Commesso serving as the emergency backup. Both Matt Murray and Mads Søgaard entered the road trip banged up and neither were able to dress. The good news is Mandolese showed up and filled in admirably, posting a 0.960 SV% in the 4-1 win.
The first period saw Belleville’s veterans get the part started with Jake Lucchini and Scott Sabourin getting the road team on the board. Lucchini’s tally was his 10th of the season, marking the first time in since turning pro that the 26 year old would hit the double digit goal mark.
While Providence cut the lead to one in the second frame, Lassi Thomson and Chris Wilkie found the back of the net in the final period to secure the win. Thomson, fresh off his “demotion” from the NHL came into this game and looked like a brand new player. He was solid early in the year but having time in the NHL was clearly beneficial to the young Finn, as he often took the game over when he was on the ice.
The Thomson we knew before his NHL call up likely would’ve chipped this puck down low when he got it at the blueline but, instead, he chose to make a move, maintain possession and walk in for the snipe. You absolutely love to see it.
On Sunday, the BSens visited Bridgeport for an afternoon affair. Murray was deemed healthy enough to get the start as Mandolese sat on the bench for this one. Murray, in his second AHL start since being waived, faced 28 shots, turning aside 26 in the Belleville victory.
Andrew Agozzino got things going in this matinee with his eighth of the season, from Parker Kelly. Bridgeport tested the good guys by scoring the lone tally in the second followed by the go-ahead goal in the third period. A big test for Troy Mann’s team, Belleville battled back to tie things up about halfway through the period thanks to, once again, Lassi Thomson. Just five minutes later, Cédric Paré scored Belleville’s go ahead goal. Paré has had a quietly good season for his first AHL campaign, with six points in 16 games. The former QMJHL alternate captain has made a case for sticking around Belleville in a bottom six role.
The Goaltenders - Once again, the BSens got strong goaltending this week. Combined, Mandolese and Murray posted a 0.943 SV%.
Lassi Thomson - Upon his return from the big club, Thomson played like a man among boys for Belleville this weekend. He contributed two goals, an assist, five shots and a solid transition game.
Cédric Paré - The Quebec product had a goal and an assist this weekend and added four shots.
Scott Sabourin - I know, I’m also surprised. While he was quiet on Sunday, Sabourin had a goal and an assist in the first period on Friday night, while playing his usual physical, annoying game. Any time Sabourin contributes offensively, it’s usually a good game for Belleville.
Discipline - Belleville gave Providence and Bridgeport six powerplays each this weekend. If it weren’t for solid defensive play and great goaltending, this could have gone in the opposite direction.
There wasn’t anything overly ugly this weekend. The team played with structure while getting some secondary scoring from the likes of Paré, Sabourin and Wilkie. If anything, we could ask why Egor Sokolov and Roby Järventie were a bit quiet but that’s more likely to be grasping at straws than anything else.
Belleville continues their road trip tonight in Lehigh Valley before wrapping up their road trip in Syracuse on Friday. Both teams this week sit at the bottom of their respective divisions while Sunday’s opponent, Providence, poses another winnable affair. All eyes will be on the BSens as we test whether or not they’re able to pick up some easier points - or will they be like their parent club, who appears to win against the good clubs and struggle in winnable affairs.