It was an opening week to forget for the Belleville Senators as they managed to win just one of their first four matches.
Kicking off the season on the road, the BSens faced off against a tough Laval team filled with experienced AHLers and solid prospects. In the season opener, Belleville dropped game one with a score of 6-2. The only goal scorers were Rourke Chartier and Matthew Wedman - two players who aren’t expected to produce but were the only ones to show up. Lassi Thomson managed three assists and looked strong on the point, but besides that there was a lot of rust to shake off for the BSens.
Mads Søgaard would eventually get pulled just over halfway through the game after allowing five goals on just 17 shots (0.706 SV%). Kevin Mandolese was solid in his relief, although he was far less busy as he only faced six shots.
In the second game of the home-and-home against the Rocket, the Belleville Senators showed up for the first home game in what feels like an eternity. Wedman scored again while Jake Lucchini (x2), Pontus Åberg and Thomson also contributed on the scoresheet. Above that, almost every player had at least one shot on net, including five players who managed three or more shots. This was a completely different team from game one.
Between the pipes, Søgaard was given the opportunity for redemption and made the most of it, turning aside 24 of the 26 shots he faced (0.923 SV%).
The next weekend saw the BSens host the Cleveland Monsters for a back-to-back where Belleville struggled to solve the goalie tandem of Jean-Francois Berube and Jet Greaves. The home team, through 120 minutes, was only able to beat this tandem once on a smooth play from Andrew Agozzino.
The games against the Monsters weren’t without effort, though. While you never want to lose 4-0 and then follow that up with a 2-1 loss, the BSens threw a total of 72 shots on net through both games. Frankly, Berube and Greaves were incredibly solid through the weekend. An unfortunate truth, as Belleville certainly played well enough in the 2-1 loss to earn at least one point.
Alas, the good guys came out with a mere two points through four games. The week ahead sees the BSens finishing up their home stand with a game tomorrow night against Rochester followed but a visit from the Toronto Marlies before they head out on a five game road trip.
Lassi Thomson - Thomson carried over a strong training camp and preseason showing by being Belleville’s best defender through four games. While his game wasn’t perfect, he led all defenders with 14 shots on net - and was second amongst all skaters behind Kole Sherwood.
Kole Sherwood - Speaking of Sherwood, he had an impactful first few games, despite not scoring a goal. His two assists ties him with Åberg and Aspirot for the team lead.
Matthew Wedman - An early pleasant surprise, Wedman has made the most of his Amateur Tryout, contributing two goals in four games (one was in an empty net, though).
Kevin Mandolese - The weakest of the three Belleville goalies last season, Mandolese has played well so far. He’s played in two games, posting a 0.906 SV% including a solid relief effort following Søgaard’s exit in game one. While there’s more we want to see from Mandolese, this is a good start.
Jake Lucchini - Acquired for future considerations from Laval, Lucchini joined the BSens and kicked off the season with a pair of goals through four games. Like Wedman, he’s not expected to contribute too much in the way of points so the fact he showed up offensively during an otherwise dreadful offensive performance is fantastic.
The Penalty Kill - When down a player, the BSens have been the 6th best team in the aHL. Running at 91.7%, Troy Mann has been able to get the most out of his team when they’re in the box.
Egor Sokolov - Listen, everyone just calm down. Our favourite Russian teddy bear will absolutely turn this ship around and show what we loved about him last season but thus far, through four games, the Sokolov of last season has shown up. The right winger has no points and nine shots on net through four games.
Mads Søgaard - The Great Dane™ was pulled in his first start and has totalled a 0.837 SV% and a 1-1-0 record. This is a big fall from last year’s 7-0-0 and 0.917 SV%. Another candidate I have confidence to right the ship.
Erik Brännström - You’ll notice this trend of the players with the highest expectations showing up in the “bad” column to start the season. It’s not necessarily because they played any worse than their teammates, it’s because they’re expected to do more. Brännström, a player well known for his offense and transition game, has yet to put a point on the board. His nine shots on net does rank him tied for third on the team, so you can see he’s doing something but we expect more from a player many hoped would secure a role in Ottawa out of camp.
The Offense - Through four games, Belleville has struggled to score goals. The team is averaging just 2 goals for per game, compared to 2.9 in 2020-21 and 3.7 in 2019-20. What’s worse is that the team has had their fair amount of chances, they just haven’t buried.
The Powerplay - More specifically surrounding offense, the BSens have had a dreadful time with the man advantage early on. Finding success just 9.1% of the time, Belleville’s powerplay ranks 27th in a league of 31 teams.