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Short-handed Belleville Senators Impress in Weekend Back-to-Back

While nursing a long list of injuries, the BSens played impressive hockey this weekend taking two of four points against the Laval Rocket.

When you read that headline, you might expect to hear about how the BSens won both their games against Laval this weekend; they didn’t. However, when you take a quick look at this list of players who are currently out of the lineup, you’ll understand what I mean when I say they were quite impressive this weekend in splitting their series with Laval.

You’re looking at half of Belleville’s top nine forwards, their starting goaltender and half of their top six defensemen. What’s not mentioned about is that the BSens also played without Lassi Thomson or Jacob Bernard-Docker this weekend.

Needless to say, the fact they didn’t get blown out in both games is incredible.

On Friday night, the BSens turned to their fourth string goaltender Logan Flodell between the pipes and, unfortunately, after allowing four goals on the first 16 shots of the game, Flodell was replaced by Antoine Bibeau halfway through the second.

While the BSens allowed seven, the club did not merely roll over and notched five of their own. Jake Lucchini, Maxence Guénette, Angus Crookshank, Scott Sabourin and Matthew Boucher (no relation to Tyler) all registered a marker

The more impressive effort came on Saturday night when Belleville took it to this same Rocket team, grabbing a 4-1 victory in the process. For Saturday’s performance, you can give praise to many player on the roster. Crookshank had a pair of goals, Egor Sokolov and Rourke Chartier each had assists and played some fantastic hockey, but Antoine Bibeau was the truest star. The 28 year old AHL veteran backstopped this team to a victory recording 49 (!) saves, allowing just one goal throughout the contest. For contrast, the BSens only threw 21 pucks at Laval’s Kevin Poulin in the same game.

On offense, it was Bellevile’s special teams that really got to work as the BSens didn’t record a “regular” goal all game. Both of Crookshank’s tallies were on the powerplay while Cole Reinhardt buried a shorthanded goal and Sabourin’s tally was into an empty net. A win’s a win’s a win and we will take it all the way to the bank given the roster Head Coach Troy Mann had to work with.

Weekly Notes

  • Angus Crookshank was, of course, the star of the weekend for Belleville. With a large number of offensive weapons out of the lineup, Crooker showed up ready to fill the net. He scored three goals and registered eight shots in two games this weekend.
  • Antoine Bibeau was also spectacular. Not only did he register a 0.980 SV% against Laval on Saturday, but he was solid in relief of Flodell Friday night as well, allowing only two goals, one of which was on the powerplay.
  • Egor Sokolov is at the point in his AHL career where we don’t talk about him as much because we know what to expect and he delivers on those expectations. His pair of assists this weekend helped him maintain his point per game pace, as he sits behind only Jake Lucchini in both total scoring and points per game production for Belleville.
  • Naturally, Jake Lucchini is the next highlighted player of the week. He had a goal and two assists, bringing his point totals to 19 in 18 games.
  • Given the situation, the blueline fared as well as they could this weekend. While it’s been tough for Belleville to put together a strong forward group, Mann’s blueline has been absolutely ravaged by injuries and recalls. It’s hard to put together a blueline with confidence when you don’t have any of Jacob Bernard-Docker, Lassi Thomson, Kristians Rubins, Jonathan Aspirot or Nikita Zaitsev (for one of the two games this weekend) available to you. Somehow, some way, the BSens managed to put something together that wasn’t a tire fire and, honestly, that exceeded my expectations. Xavier Bernard, Nick Albano and Zachary Massicotte all played large roles in Belleville’s win on Saturday.
  • I had a few questions on Twitter about Nikita Zaitsev’s production so far in the AHL. Unlike Michael Del Zotto - whose demotion saw him tear the AHL apart - Zaitsev has been quiet in Belleville .Zaitsev has never been, and will never be, an offensive defenseman, so expecting that production would have been foolish. What’s important, though, is that Zaitsev is quietly just playing hockey. He’s not noticeable for all the negative reasons he is in the NHL. It’s clear he’s more than capable of playing in the AHL, which is a good thing, but he’s not exactly dominant. Based on this small sample size, it’s hard to see him playing his way back into a role in the NHL; a solid AHL defenseman seems to be his level of contribution. If he’s back up with the parent club, it would likely be owing to a slew of injuries.