It wasn’t a pretty weekend for the Belleville Senators. With two important games against division rivals Syracuse, the Senators had an opportunity to jump into relevance within the North division. Alas...
Friday, November 2 - Syracuse 5, Belleville 4
This one started off fine, there were a few plays where it seemed like Belleville was getting their feet under them and ready to pounce. That momentum seemed to get sucked out from the team about eight minutes into the first frame when the combination of Ben Sexton and Chase Balisy made a sloppy turnover at their own blueline and the Crunch promptly put the puck in the back of the net. Just over a minute later, Andrew Sturtz - back from injury - stuffed a loose puck past Connor Ingram to even the score. The Crunch regained the lead later in the period but the Senators responded again with another Adam Tambellini powerplay marker. Everything seems fine, right?
To kick off the second period, Alexander Volkov beat Gustavsson clean off a draw less than a minute in. Four minutes later, the Crunch would attack again, this time on the powerplay. Just over halfway through the second another Syracuse goal was the final straw for Gustavsson. ECHL call up Jake Paterson took over and ended up only seeing three shots for the remainder of the game.
This was where the Senators staged a comeback. With four minutes remaining in the second, Tambellini found the back of the net again on a familiar powerplay shot from the circle. Twenty seconds after, Drake Batherson scored an absolute beauty off a feed from Rudolfs Balcers to make it a one goal game heading into the third.
Unfortunately, the third period was eerily quiet. The two teams combined for just five shots on net and no goals were added.
Filip Gustavsson - This obviously isn’t standing out for a good reason. In reviewing the highlights, four of Gustavsson’s five goals against in this one beat him cleanly upstairs. This will be something to watch as the season progresses to see how Gustavsson and the coaching staff address that potential hole in his game.
Adam Tambellini - Tambellini has been a pleasant surprise for Belleville this season. Scoring two powerplay goals and having four shots on net is a great way to lead by example on the ice.
Batherson-Balcers - These two continue to combine for some excellent goals, this one being a fantastic drop pass from Balcers and a greasy drag-to-backhand for Batherson.
Here are the highlights.
Saturday, November 3 - Syracuse 6, Belleville 1
Since Gustavsson played just over half the game on Friday, Coach Mann gave him the start on Saturday. I think he had a bit of redemption in mind for the young Swede. It didn’t quite go as planned as the Crunch had Gustavsson’s number again on Saturday. This time it took just over three minutes to beat Gustavsson as Carter Verhaeghe beat him upstairs for the 1-0 lead. It wasn’t until the second period that things turned ugly. Two minutes into the period, the Crunch would begin what would be the end of Gustavsson’s second game in as many nights with another shot beating him high. In Gustavsson’s defence, it’s pretty evident from the rewatching this one that he was being screened by both Tambellini and Syracuse’s Brady Brassart. The Crunch would add two more back-to-back seven minutes into the frame and another by former Senator Cory Conacher at the 16 minute mark to end Gustavsson’s night.
Andreas Englund did get on the board for his first of the season in this one as he banged in a rebound to break the Eddie Pasquale shutout. Unfortunately, Conacher would add another to make this a 6-1 final.
Filip Chlapik - While he didn’t get on the scoreboard, Chlapik looked strong in his second game back from a minor injury. He returned to his usual line with Batherson and Balcers and had four shots on net - the line combined for nine shots on goal.
Andrew Sturtz - In his second game back from injury, Sturtz continued his strong play. He played most of the game as a second line winger and managed an assist. His overall play was rewarded with some special team responsibilities on the penalty kill, but no powerplay time.
The Blueline - This isn’t a positive one. You can fault Gustavsson for his play - he has plenty to work on and plenty of time to do so - but there were a lot of turnovers and errors in this one. In particular, Patrick Sieloff, Jordan Murray and Englund all struggled to move the puck.
Here are the highlights.
The season started with some optimism but I wouldn’t say all is lost. The bar was set pretty low with the inaugural season being about as bad as it could be but these Senators have twice the skill throughout the lineup than last year’s Senators did.
One person we’ve been missing is last year’s Gabriel Gagne. The very first Belleville Senator to be named to the AHL All-Star game has one even strength point to his name 12 games into the season. Not to mention he’s solidified himself on the fourth line for the time being. This was a player I was looking forward to seeing take another step this season (and there’s still plenty of time!) but he’s been relatively invisible thus far.
We received a bit of a Logan Brown update this week as well. He has begun skating and it’s expected that he should be rejoining the team around the end of November.
Mike Condon will begin the process of getting his groove back on Friday night after the Marlies.
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