When you’re the Belleville Senators, every game is must-win. As it stands today, the playoff spot they currently not-so-comfortably hold could be easily lost with just one off game. They have a difficult schedule and a red hot Cleveland Monsters team right behind them with only each other to rely on. The best case scenario is that they secure a playoff spot and bring AHL playoff hockey to Belleville for the first time. The worst case scenario? They end the season with a tight knit group of young players who can bring this important must-win attitude to Ottawa for seasons to come.
Wednesday, March 27 - Belleville 2, Syracuse 1 (SO)
On Wednesday night, Belleville got a taste of the type of competition they’ll be facing should they be successful in their playoff pursuit. The Syracuse Crunch are a skilled, deep team and they put on a show against the BSens. With Hogberg getting yet another start, Syracuse controlled much of the play for the majority of the game.
The first period was filled with powerplays for both teams. The Crunch penalty kill went three for three while Belleville’s defensive special teams went two for two. It wasn’t until over halfway through the second period that a team got themselves on the board.
For those of you who have closely followed the BSens over the past few seasons, you’ll remember that every time they play Syracuse, it feels like former Senator Cory Conacher is all over the scoresheet. Just over 13 minutes into the second frame, the Crunch forced a turnover and Conacher ripped a one timer past Hogberg to open the scoring.
Down 1-0, Belleville came out flying in the third period. There was energy and puck movement that was missing for much of the first two frames. On the scoring play, Belleville captain Erik Burgdoerfer successfully entered the zone. He found Logan Brown who moved the puck quickly to Nick Paul in the slot. Paul’s shot deflected off Batherson and beat Eddie Pasquale to even the score.
Overtime wasn’t enough so the fans at CAA Arena got to watch a quick skills competition to see who was taking home the two points. Luckily for the hometown crowd, Brown was on their side.
Logan Brown scored one of Belleville's two shootout goals and Marcus Hogberg stopped two of three Syracuse shooters to earn a huge extra point for Belleville! 💥 pic.twitter.com/i0d7e9rA82— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) March 28, 2019
Marcus Hogberg - Stopping 20 of 21 shots, Hogberg was dialled in and ensured his team was able to win in front of their home crowd.
The Trio - Batherson, Brown and Paul were their usual selves, creating a ton of chances including the game tying goal.
Erik Brannstrom - Brannstrom had four shots of his own and was instrumental in helping his team efficiently break the puck out of their end.
Here are the highlights.
Saturday, March 30 - Belleville 3, Hartford 2 (OT)
Once again, it took the BSens more than 60 minutes to earn their win but they were solid throughout the game. After a perfect night of penalty killing on Wednesday, Belleville took a step back in the special teams department in this one.
Hartford opened the scoring halfway through the first on a powerplay goal from Gabriel Fontaine. On the rush, Fontaine undressed Stefan Elliot and stepped around Andreas Englund to slide the puck through Hogberg’s legs. If you’re a Hartford fan, you likely loved the play.
It wasn’t until five minutes into the second that Belleville got themselves on the board. Burgdoerfer carried the puck across the blueline and sent a hard pass off the boards behind the net which popped out to the other side where Fyten was waiting to score his first with his new team since the trade deadline. The angle at which Burgdoerfer made this play happen was highly impressive as well. Unfortunately, Hartford finished off the period with another powerplay marker to take the lead into the second intermission.
Luckily, the third period saw Belleville get their own powerplay going. With the usual suspects moving the puck around smoothly on the man advantage, Jordan Murray found himself at the blueline playing quarterback. Batherson moved the puck back to Murray who rifled it through traffic to even things up.
In the overtime period, Chase Balisy got the opportunity to not only play hero but to snap a 41 game (!) goalless streak. The veteran trio of Balisy, Elliot and Adam Tambellini made their way into the offensive zone and, thanks to some great puckwork, were able to find Balisy on the backdoor for the easy tap in and another imperative two points.
Vitaly Abramov - This guy’s speed is always impressive but he used it to his advantage on a number of occasions. What I love most about him is that he uses his speed just as often to win a puck battle or a foot race as he does to create a scoring chance.
Jordan Murray - Brannstrom was announced to be out with an injury following the game on Wednesday night and Murray was able to step up and make a difference on the blueline for his team. He finished the game with a goal and five shots on net.
Erik Burgdoerfer - I’m still thinking about the bank shot he made to create the first goal of this game.
Here are the highlights.
As mentioned, Brannstrom joined Max Lajoie and Cody Goloubef as injured defensemen for Belleville at a critical point of the season. Brannstrom’s injury has been described as week-to-week so hopefully we’ll get to see him play again in the postseason. The good news is that the Senators announced that they’re sending Christian Wolanin back to Belleville to fill an incredibly important role with so many puck moving defenders out of the lineup.
In the playoff race, Cleveland currently sits one point back of Belleville with one game in hand. The problem is that Belleville’s schedule continues to get more difficult as they look to close out the season. Of their final six opponents, five of them currently sit in a playoff spot. The opponent that doesn’t? Cleveland, of course.
The BSens continue the hunt tonight against Syracuse. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but these two points are very important.