It’s been an inconsistent few weeks for the Belleville Senators but this past weekend they looked to be putting the pieces back together with three strong games against North Division rivals.
On the weekend, Belleville made the trip to Rochester for a back-to-back with Jack Quinn and the Americans. Friday night, with Mads Søgaard manning the crease, the two clubs had a busy first period exchanging a total of three goals - two for Rochester, one from Cole Reinhardt.
Mark Kastelic and Egor Sokolov worked together to regain the Belleville lead in the second and third frame, with Sokolov scoring on this relatively blind shot from up high.
🦈Egor Sokolov scored for the third consecutive game on Friday night in a 4-3 shootout win— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) January 15, 2022
Sokolov now has a tidy stat line of 20 points in 25GP as an AHL sophomore and 45 points (23G, 22A) in 60GP during his career with Belleville #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/0hUyoLf67Y
Unfortunately, with under three minutes left in the game, the Americans forced extra time with Linus Weissbach’s seventh of the season.
Belleville fans had a chance to see what Søgaard can do in the shootout in this one, as he turned aside three of the four shots against him. Rourke Chartier and Jake Lucchini found the back of the net on their attempts, giving Belleville the upper hand in game one of the weekend series.
On Saturday, Belleville turned to newly reassigned Filip Gustavsson between the pipes for what ended up being a high scoring affair. It was once again the BSens that started the scoring, this time with Jonathan Aspirot’s first of the season. It wouldn’t take long for Rochester to tie things up as the two teams wrapped up the first frame knotted at one.
The second period saw an exchange of two goals per team, continuing the heated trend of this Saturday matchup. Quinn scored his astonishing 14th and 15th goals of his rookie campaign in the middle period while Matthew Wedman and Cole Reinhardt did the heavy lifting for the B.
The third, once again, saw Belleville and Rochester chip two goals in a piece. For Rochester, it was once again the rookie Quinn running the show, as he netted his first professional hat trick. For Belleville, the offense came from the defense, with Lassi Thomson and Michael Del Zotto finding the twine behind Charles Williams.
Once again requiring extra time but with a slightly different outcome. Instead of leaving it to the shootout, everyone’s favourite Russian Teddy Bear ended this one in overtime with a short side snipe for his ninth of the year.
Belleville wrapped up their week with a Monday matinee in Syracuse. Turning back to Søgaard, the team was looking to go 3-for-3 as they eye a manageable climb into the North Division’s playoff picture. The Great Dane™ was busy in this one, turning aside 28 of 30 shots for a 0.933 SV%.
Syracuse opened up the scoring five minutes into the first with a powerplay marker and it wasn’t until the second period that Belleville got one of their own, with Andrew Agozzino’s 10th of the year.
In heartbreaking fashion, the Crunch ended this one with just 16 seconds left in the final frame. Moments away from their third straight game requiring extra time, Alex Barré-Boulet buried his third for the game winner.
Mads Søgaard: With a 1-1-0 record, Søgaard stopped 49 of 54 for a 0.907 SV%. Particularly on Monday, the gigantic netminder was dialled in, giving Belleville every opportunity to win the game - exactly what you want from your starter.
Egor Sokolov: Sokolov buried two goals this week, including the overtime winner in Saturday’s high scoring contest. Sokolov now has 21 points in 27 games this year, with five goals in his last five games played.
Michael Del Zotto: If anyone has something to prove, it’s MDZ - and prove it, he has. While you can question whether or not MDZ is good enough in 2022 for the NHL, we don’t need to question if he’s too good for the AHL. He is. MDZ had a goal and two assists this week for a total of 11 points in 8 games since being sent to the AHL.
Maxence Guenette: Guenette had two assists this week and is looking more and more like an intriguing long term prospect for Ottawa’s blueline. The right shot defender has taken Jacob Bernard-Docker’s absence as an opportunity to shine and he’s done just that.
Cole Reinhardt: Reinhardt put up three points through three games this week and played some important minutes for the team, with an expanded role thanks to the reinstated Taxi Squad rules at the NHL level.
The Bad & Ugly
Once again, there isn’t a lot of bad or ugly to talk about with Belleville’s effort this week. Could the team have played the shift differently on the Crunch game winner on Monday? Sure. But, overall, the team came to play, scoring 10 goals through three games and playing well in all three zones.
The North Division, with the exception of the top spot held firmly by Utica, is still a wide open race for the playoffs as the bottom four teams have 30, 30, 30 and 31 points respectively. Third place also isn’t far ahead as the Marlies only sit at 36 points on the season. With a few games in hand, depending on who you’re looking at, Belleville’s playoff hopes are very real, should they be able to play more like they did this week.
Belleville is back at CAA Arena for a five game homestand which kicks off on Friday with a back-to-back against the Toronto Marlies. Four points against Toronto would be huge for truly turning this season around.