It took a few tries but the Belleville Senators completed their first miniseries sweep of an opponent in this odd season. After a rough showing in Manitoba, the BSens looked poised and determined to take the Heat down in any way they could.
With back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday, Egor Sokolov took it upon himself to, once again, be an impact player for Belleville. Game one started with Stockton getting on the board first, just five minutes into the opening frame. It didn’t take long, however, for Belleville to bite back with two consecutive goals from Lassi Thomson and Sokolov. For Thomson, it was his first profession goal here in North America.
With a 2-1 lead, Belleville had to battle to try to get out of the first period without allowing another goal but were ultimately unsuccessful as Stockton’s Matthew Phillips got a puck past Filip Gustavsson to even things up.
It wasn’t until the third period that the game broke open, with Mark Kastelic and Parker Kelly adding goals to Belleville’s total to secure the 4-2 win. Gustavsson stopped 30 of 32 shots.
For game two, it was much of the same. Literally. Belleville won 4-2 again. This time, however, the game was a bit more exciting. In fact, Belleville ended up with more powerplays in the second game of this miniseries than both teams had combined in game one. The crazy thing is, so did Stockton. The two teams combined for 14 powerplay opportunities while exchanging a goal each in the process.
The big difference in the scoring of this game was that Belleville opened the lead and then didn’t look back. Cole Reinhardt, fresh off signing his entry level contract with the Ottawa Senators, opened the scoring while JC Beaudin followed closely behind for a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Coming out of the break, Stockton likely wanted to get a jump on their opponent but, unfortunately for them, Kelly had different plans.
After allowing a goal, Sokolov would add his 11th of the season and the BSens wrapped things up with another 4-2 win.
In the final tilt, the BSens kept their foot on the gas. Halfway through the first period, Jonathan Aspirot got his team on the board with his third of the season. Stockton was able to even things up but Belleville kept coming in the second and third periods, piling three more pucks into the back of the Heat net for the 4-1 win.
Beaudin, Joseph LaBate and Colby Williams were the goal scorers while Angus Crookshank continued his red hot play with a pair of assists. In net, Gustavsson allowed one goal on 29 shots for a 0.966 SV%.
Gustavsson, unsurprisingly, was given two of the three starts on the road trip while Kevin Mandolese was between the pipes for the second game of the back-to-back. Gustavsson faced a total of 61 shots while only allowing three goals - good for a 0.951 SV% through both games. Mandolese came in and shut the door on Thursday night with 24 saves of his own, allowing two goals, which gave him a 0.923 SV%. In six appearances, this is the third time Mandolese has posted a save percentage above 0.900.
What more can we say about our big Russian teddy bear? The top line winger for the BSens scored twice in three games against Stockton. He now has 11 goals on the season, which ties him for the lead in rookie goal scoring.
And what more can we say about the best name in hockey? Crookshank collected a pair of assists in the opening game and a pair of assists in the closing game for four in the three game series. Crookshank now sits at 10 points in 8 games to start his professional hockey career. Can he be stopped? I don’t think so.
Scoring his first goal of the season, Thomson was a standout for me in this series. He’s looking more calm and collected when he has the puck and has clearly been working with Troy Mann on his positioning as I’ve found he’s getting caught out of place less frequently. He’s a work in progress but the progress we’ve seen so far is promising.
Of course coming out of a series with three wins is great but Belleville was provided many opportunities to score with the man advantage and didn’t take, well, advantage. Through three contests, Belleville was up a man 16 times, only scoring three goals in the process. That’s an 18.75% success rate which is a few points below their season average (20.5%).
I have nothing for you here, the BSens were pretty solid in this outing. Even calling the powerplay “the bad” might have been a stretch.
Belleville is back in Ottawa - which still feels weird to say - for six straight where they’ll face the Toronto Marlies four times and the Laval Rocket twice.