It was a rollercoaster of a weekend for the Belleville Senators, as a win on Friday night would have clinched a spot in the AHL playoffs - the team’s first in franchise history. When the final buzzer sounded, however, it was the Syracuse Crunch doing the celebrating as they crushed the BSens 6-0.
The greater excitement came on Sunday afternoon, as the BSens battled with the Toronto Marlies for their opportunity to see an X beside their name in the standings - and an X they got.
Five minutes into the opening frame, it was Captain Belleville who got the party started with his 13th marker of the season. With assists going to Viktor Lodin and Egor Sokolov, this powerplay marker was the perfect opening for a Belleville team that struggled to put the puck in the net 48 hours earlier.
As a team also battling, you knew the Marlies weren’t going to go down easy. The second period kicked off with a ton of firepower for the Marlies. Pontus Holmberg tied things up just three minutes in while Philippe Myers scored just four minutes later to give Toronto a quick lead.
Luckily for the BSens, Mark Kastelic was sent back to the AHL following a two goal NHL game the night before, and his confidence was sky high.
Mark Kastelic ties the game with a nasty deflection! #GoSensGo— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) April 24, 2022
That's two NHL goals and one AHL goal for Kastelic in the last two nights. He's playing in his third game in the last three days. pic.twitter.com/Phb0yXQ5SI
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows after this, though, as Bobby McCann gave Toronto yet another lead just before the end of the second frame.
Early in the third, with Holmberg in the box, Lodin scored his fifth of the year on the powerplay.
On Saturday night, we got to see the Ottawa Senators score a pile of goals in just over a minute and, fortunately, Belleville wanted to be just like their big brothers. Just 51 seconds following Lodin’s game tying marker, Captain Shaw tallied his second of the game.
Shaw, understandably, was given first star honours while Sokolov (2A) was named the third star of the game. Filip Gustavsson, also reassigned following his NHL recall, was a key factor in Belleville’s playoff clinching win, with a 0.914 SV% through 60 minutes.
Playoff Position Watch
Now that Belleville has guaranteed themselves a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs, the next question to be answered is where they slot in.
In the AHL, not every team plays the same number of games by year’s end, so the standings go by points percentage. As it stands, Belleville has one more game left against the Marlies. A win would bring their win percentage to 0.583, which would be good for third in the division.
Laval, currently occupying that third spot, has a 0.580 win percentage but still has three games remaining. In order for Belleville to move up to third, they’ll need a win against Toronto while Laval only secures fewer than four points in their final three games. Laval’s final week sees them matching up against Toronto twice before they wrap up against Syracuse.
If Belleville doesn’t beat Toronto, they can still secure third if Laval takes home fewer than 1 point in their final three games. If Belleville losses and Laval only gets one win, the teams will have identical win percentages (0.569) and they’ll have to look at regulation wins as the first tiebreaker. In this scenario, even if Laval wins their one game in regulation, they’ll finish with 38 regulation wins compared to Belleville’s 39 - so Belleville would secure that third spot.
Why does this matter?
In the AHL’s North Division, the top three teams get a “bye” to the second round while the fourth and fifth seeds play a three game play-in. If Belleville ends up in the fourth spot, they’ll not only have to play a quick three game series while the rest of the division rests, they’ll also end up playing Utica in the first full round of the playoffs. Belleville has played well against Utica of late, but the 49-19-9 Comets are a serious opponent I, and every other Belleville fan, would love to avoid until you absolutely have to play them.
- Following a 6-0 beatdown on Friday, Belleville could have picked up their toys and gone home but they followed that loss up with a fantastic effort against the Marlies.
- Filip Gustavsson was a star, stopping 32 of 35 shots while helping Belleville allow just one goal on seven penalty kills.
- Logan Shaw showed why he was a fantastic addition and why he wears the C this week, as he came in clutch in Belleville’s playoff clinching victory. His first goal kicked off the scoring while his final goal was the game winner. That’s Captain Sh*t™.
- Egor Sokolov was also a key player in Belleville’s win on Sunday, adding two powerplay assists to his season totals. The big, loveable Sokolov has a goal and four assists in his last six games.
- Viktor “Slick Vik” Lodin simply cannot be stopped. On Sunday, Lodin had a goal and an assist which brings his season totals to five goals and two assists in just nine AHL games - seven points in his last seven.