It was another weekend where the Belleville Senators found themselves playing games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This week, it was a date with the Hartford Wolf Pack on Friday before a back-to-back in Springfield with the Thunderbirds.
Filip Gustavsson got the start on Friday. This was his first AHL start since the beginning of April, when he posted a 0.857 SV% in a 3-2 overtime loss against the Rochester Americans. Luckily for the Belleville faithful, Gustavsson was no April Fool on Friday night.
You wouldn’t know it, however, by the first shift of the game that saw the Wolf Pack score just 23 seconds after the puck dropped. Fortunately for Gustavsson, he bounced back and was a brick wall for the remainder of the game. Later in the first, a pair of defenseman in Jonathan Aspirot and Lassi Thomson got Belleville their first lead of the game and there was no turning back.
Early in the second, the a member of the pack in the box, Egor Sokolov netted his 16th of the year after some fine work in the offensive zone from the top unit. Logan Shaw added another powerplay goal in the third period, giving the BSens an undeniable 4-1 win.
On Saturday, the festivities started off with a classy move from the Springfield Thunderbirds, who paid tribute to the late Eugene Melnyk prior to puck drop.
Five minutes into the opening frame, Belleville found themselves in a familiar position by allowing the first goal of the game. Luckily, Clark Bishop managed to tie things up while Belleville was shorthanded, bringing a 1-1 game into the first intermission.
While Springfield was able to regain the lead, it didn’t last long as the future of the Ottawa Senators combined for a beautiful goal halfway through the second.
Teamwork = making dreams work pic.twitter.com/iSQHV4rIbp— Belleville Senators (@BellevilleSens) April 2, 2022
Early in the third saw Jake Lucchini bring Belleville their first lead of the night on an absolute laserbeam.
Welcome to Snipe City, population Jake Lucchini pic.twitter.com/OCUBfETlL1— Belleville Senators (@BellevilleSens) April 3, 2022
Unfortunately for Belleville, AHL Superstar James Neal managed to tie things up later in the period, forcing overtime. While chances went both ways, Tommy Cross eventually won it for the Thunderbirds - giving Belleville three of a possible four points to start the weekend.
On Sunday, the team returned to MassMutual Center for the final match of the weekend. A clearly tired BSens team surrendered the first three goals of the game, putting them in a place where they’d have to scratch and claw their way back into it. In the second period, on a pair of powerplay opportunities, Sokolov and Lucchini were once again your goal scorers, potting their 17th and 19th respectively. It wouldn’t be enough, however, for Belleville as they’d end up dropping this one 3-2 in regulation.
- Filip Gustavsson started a pair of games this weekend, stopping 60 of the 64 shots he face for a cool 0.928 SV%.
- Michael McNiven got his first start as a Senator, but allowed four goals on 35 shots for a 0.886 SV%. With Matt Murray out and one of Gustavsson or Mads Søgaard likely to remain in Ottawa for the rest of the year, Belleville will need more from McNiven.
- Egor Sokolov had two goals and two assists through three games this weekend, giving him five points in his last four outings.
- Jake Lucchini continued his incredible season with two goals and three assists this weekend. The British Columbia native now has 43 points through 60 games this year - almost tripling his second best AHL season to date.
- Roby Järventie rounds out our top three forward performances on the weekend, with a goal and two assists through three games. He was instrumental in both the win against Hartford and the overtime loss to Springfield.
- On special teams, Belleville scored five powerplay goals while only surrendering one. In particular, during Friday’s 4-1 win, Belleville punished Hartford for spending time in the box by putting three powerplay markers past Adam Huska while being perfect on their own penalty kills.
- Viktor Lodin will reportedly be joining Belleville down the stretch, a potentially massive addition for the club as they set their sights on the playoffs.
- Based on points percentage, Belleville now sits sixth in the North Division playoff race, currently out of the picture. They’ll need to start coming out with more points than less in each weekly series. There are only 12 games left in the regular season and 11 of those games are against teams in the North.