It’s getting to the point of the season where every win matters for a team on the outside looking in. While it’s a long shot that the Senators make the playoffs this year, it’s not impossible. Following this week where they brought home four of a possible six points, they sit seven points behind Bridgepoint and eight points behind Charlotte - the current occupants of the final two playoff spots in the East.
Wednesday, January 10 - Belleville 3, Rochester 2 (OT)
Belleville hosted Rochester last Wednesday. The Americans currently sit comfortably in third place in the East. The Senators got off to a quick start when Ethan Werek buried a slick behind-the-back feed from Jack Rodewald to take a 1-0 lead. Belleville allowed Rochester to regain the lead after two consecutive goals. Tough to blame Andrew Hammond for either as the first goal came on a two-on-one and the second goal bounced off a Rochester played in front. With 15 seconds left, and an extra attacker, Christian Jaros took a shot from the point that made it’s way to Griffin Reinhart’s stick and to the back of the net to force extra time. In overtime, Chris DiDomenico found Jordan Murray pinching in from the point and Murray ripped it home for the game winner.
Francis Perron: Pope Francis is still struggling to maintain minutes under Coach K but he’s been producing in what he’s been given. His hockey IQ is evident every game with how he sees the ice and distributes the puck.
Ethan Werek: Showed great patience on the opening goal and played a solid game overall.
Jack Rodewald: Set up Werek on the opening goal and had a few scoring chances of his own. He seems to be coming back around after a lengthy cold streak.
Here are the highlights.
Friday, January 12 - Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 6, Belleville 2
After an exciting overtime win, the Senators fell flat against the Penguins on Saturday. Marcus Hogberg got the start but was pulled after allowing three goals on 13 shots. After spending some time in Ottawa, Colin White was returned to Belleville during Ottawa’s bye week. He made his presence known by scoring both Belleville goals on Friday. The first was a tap in after Max McCormick brought the puck out from behind the net and found White across the crease to make the game 1-1. White’s second goal came off a nice feed from Filip Chlapik. Unfortunately there was no other offence to be found and the Senators dropped this one 6-2.
Colin White: It never hurts when a player has a multi-goal game but even when White wasn’t scoring, he was leading the charge for the Senators.
Filip Chlapik: Chlapik was also returned to Belleville for the NHL bye week and was impressive. He set up White’s second goal and contributed four shots of his own.
Ben Harpur: The third guy returned to Belleville. Harpur made a huge hit, had an assist and threw three pucks at the night.
Here are the highlights.
Saturday, January 13 - Belleville 4, Hartford 2
Belleville responded well to the Friday night loss as they beat the Wolfpack 4-2. Danny Taylor got the start and played relatively well, stopping 30 of 32 shots. Hartford opened the scoring but not long after, Perron found White on a two-on-one for White’s third goal in two games. Taylor allowed a puck to squeak past him early in the third but luckily Belleville was up to the task on Saturday. Jim O’Brien managed to tie the game up by banging in a rebound off a Jaros point shot. The go-ahead goal was scored by the dynamic offensive trio of Chris Kelly, McCormick and Mike Blunden (yes, you read that correctly). Kelly stripped the Hartford player of the puck, moved it to McCormick who did a great job of protecting the puck and finding Blunden’s stick for the redirect. Blunden then scored his second of the game (empty net) and the win was secured.
Danny Taylor: Taylor has had a rough season but he looked solid in this game. There were a few big saves he made, one albeit was due to his inability to handle a rebound, but he was a factor in getting these two points for Belleville.
Colin White: If White’s plan is to take this bye week and show the Ottawa brass he needs to be called up once Ottawa resumes their season, he’s doing a very good job of executing that plan. He was a force again on Saturday.
Christian Jaros: Jaros racked up two assists, three shots on net and was solid at exiting his zone all night against Hartford. After returning from injury, Jaros has found his game again and I’ve been impressed.
Here are the highlights.
The playoff picture, as I mentioned above, isn’t looking very good for Belleville but all hope is not lost. A healthy Ottawa roster would be a major contributor to Belleville going on a run to finish the season. The BSens team isn’t deep enough to afford seeing White, Chlapik and Harpur continue to make trips to the NHL - as much as the Ottawa Senators fan in me loves to see them get the opportunity.
At this point, there are six teams sitting outside of the picture who are all within seven points of a playoff spot. The schedule for the next few weeks includes a number of teams the Senators are in competition with for the playoffs. A big run would do wonders for the team but they’ll need to find some consistency in their roster to get there. It’s been said before, and it’ll be said again, but Coach K would be smart to start taking some “risks” with his deployment. I put it that way because I don’t see playing White, Chlapik, Perron and Gagne more than O’Brien, McCormick and Kelly as “risks”. They’re more like “smart, logical decisions”. It’s a do or die situation for Belleville at this point and they can’t afford to play it safe by over deploying their veterans.
Belleville takes on Syracuse tomorrow and has a back-to-back against Laval (a team they’re battling with for a playoff spot) this weekend. Stay tuned!