It was a week of utmost importance in the Bay of Quinte as the Belleville Senators (almost literally) needed to secure points in every single game they played to stay in the playoff race.
The week kicked off with the least important game on the schedule - a final non-division matchup against the Hartford Wolf Pack. While a loss to the Wolf Pack wouldn’t have been the end of the world, the two points were still very important to the race.
About halfway through the first period, Andrew Agozzino struck first with his 18th of the season. The primary assist went to Viktor Lodin, making it the first AHL point of his young North American professional career.
SCORING CHANGE: Viktor Lodin has been credited with an assist on Andrew Agozzino's first period goal, giving him his first point as a member of the #BellevilleSens.— Belleville Senators (@BellevilleSens) April 14, 2022
The goal now reads: Agozzino from Lodin and Jarventie at 8:10 of the first period.#ForTheB | #HFDvsBEL
That goal was all Belleville needed, as Filip Gustavsson was a brick wall stopping all 25 shots he faced.
Now, the truly integral games began. First on the docket was the Rochester Americans, another team right in the thick of the playoff fight in the North. The first goal of the game came in interesting fashion. Not only was it Lodin’s first goal of his BSens career but it came on a penalty shot. I’m not sure how many players scored their first AHL goal on a penalty shot but that list can’t possibly be long.
This is the Lodin we’ve been watching clips of from the SHL all season.
After a quiet second period, Egor Sokolov got the party restarted one minute into the final frame with a powerplay marker, giving him 19 on the season. While Rochester was able bring things within one, it wasn’t enough and Belleville secured another two points.
Saturday brought a familiar foe of late into the picture, the high flying Utica Comets hosted Belleville for the final time this season. Funnily, the BSens have had Utica’s number the last few games, as their 4-1 win on Saturday is their third straight against the best team in the division.
In this contest, Ottawa opted to make a goalie flip recalling Filip Gustavsson and sending Mads Søgaard back to Belleville. Gustavsson had started for the bulk of the stretch while Søgaard was getting his taste of the NHL, so it was a welcomed swap for both parties as Gustavsson got to rest while Søgaard got to play.
Nolan Foote opened the scoring for Utica in the first period but, after that, it was all Belleville, all the time. Luckily for Belleville, a certain newcomer made a statement that his penalty shot goal wasn’t the only way he could score.
Make that two goals in two days for Slick Vik pic.twitter.com/LrxqEsjOVX— Belleville Senators (@BellevilleSens) April 17, 2022
This marked Lodin’s second goal in as many games and created a three game point streak for the product of Leksand, Sweden.
Next in this match came quite the shot blocking display from Jacob Bernard-Docker. The often forgotten prospect, because his point totals don’t jump off the page, showed us he was ready to put his body on the line - more than once - to help his team stay in the game.
Hit marker, hit marker, hit marker pic.twitter.com/Rb4gM8vltM— Belleville Senators (@BellevilleSens) April 17, 2022
Later in the period, Logan Shaw potted his 12th of the year to give Belleville a 2-1 lead heading into the third. There were two more Belleville goals scored in the third - by Scott Sabourin and Mark Kastelic - to secure another commanding victory over the Comets.
Our final game featured the Laval Rocket - yet another team deep in the playoff race.
Matthew Wedman kicked off the scoring in this one with his tenth of the season. The 2019 Panthers draft pick is having an impressive rookie AHL season after spending much of last year in the ECHL.
While Laval got themselves back in a game with a Daniel Martel goal, that would be all that Belleville would allow in this one. Zac Leslie, Wedman and Agozzino all contributed to the 4-1 victory over Laval.
The Playoff Hunt
As I’ve said, maybe too many times, every point counts down the stretch for this club. With just four games remaining, there’s still only one team in the North who has secured a playoff berth.
Making things even more intriguing, three of Belleville’s final four games are against the Toronto Marlies - who currently sit just outside of the playoff picture. If Belleville can manage to take it to the Marlies, they stand a very good chance of finally getting their first playoff berth in franchise history.
Due to COVID, Belleville has missed the playoffs the past two years, even though they’ve been one of the better teams in the North during that span.
Belleville hits the ice with Toronto tonight at CAA arena to begin the final stand.
- The goaltending for Belleville this week was absolutely impeccable. Filip Gustavsson posted a 0.983 SV% through two matches before Mads Søgaard came in and stopped 70 shots for a 0.970 SV% of his own.
- Viktor Lodin’s coming out party happened this past week. After he settled in with two relatively quiet games, Lodin scored two goals and an assist through four games this week. The latest addition to Belleville’s confidence and skill have been more and more noticeable with each game.
- Andrew Agozzino - frequently flanked by Lodin and Roby Järventie - had a pair of goals and a trio of assists through four games this week. Agozinno now has 19 goals and 20 assists on the season.
- Scott Sabourin played in his 350th career AHL game this past week, and added a goal and an assist to his totals in the process. While his offensive stats will never leap off the page, Sabourin has been a solid veteran leader for Belleville this season, bringing his edge and a bit of skill to the lineup every night. He’s two points shy of the highest total he’s had since 2013-14.