Suddenly the Ottawa Senators have gone 6-4-0 in their last ten games and they have the seventh best goal differential in the eastern conference while the Belleville Sens haven't lost in regulation in two weeks putting them back in the mix for a playoff spot. How things can turn around when motivated by spite and the need for chaos. Regular readers will already know just how Ottawa has started gradually digging up, and Spencer will debrief you on Belleville's progress as we near the holidays and the end of the calendar year. For my part, please enjoy this week's individual standouts.
Prospect Team of the Week
I am once again asking you what an Angus Crookshank has to do around here to get called up to the NHL. I get that the Sens have a roster crunch and cap trouble but at some point the staff need to concede that Crookshank has surpassed all of Ottawa's fourth-liners and probably a couple of third-liners in terms of ceiling. Anyway, the guy with the cool name had another week averaging over one point and two shots per game with one goal, three assists, and seven shots in three games.
Roby Järventie has at least finally cracked the NHL roster with his call-up earlier this season so I have less of a grievance than I did with Crookshank, and it looks like the experience bode well for Järventie who had a goal, two assists, and six shots back on the farm this week. After a couple of seasons stuck in neutral, it feels like just maybe this guy has started putting all the pieces together. I would expect his next call-up to last more than seven games in Ottawa.
Egor Sokolov also seems to have found a bit of a groove after a slow (by his own standards) start to the season in Belleville (he has only shot 9% through 22 games). Like Crookshank and Järventie, I would argue that Sokolov has done what it takes to carve out a third- or fourth-line assignment in Ottawa, and he added to his cause with two goals and nine more shots this past week. Sorry to write about the exact same guys that Spencer does but the forwards currently playing in the States and Sweden had pretty average weeks.
Matthew Andonovski stood out among a class of OHL defenders who all played pretty well this past week. The Kitchener Ranger, in his first season as a Senators prospect, had arguably his best week yet with a goal, four assists, and three shots. Meanwhile in Brantford, Jorian Donovian and Tomas Hamara combined for five points and twelve shots this past week. In Sudbury, Djibrial Toure had a goal, an assist, and six shots in two games.
Jacob Bernard-Docker didn't score his first in NHL game in Calgary like I predicted, and the Sens didn't win the game, but hey at least he cracked that egg (and against a team we all despise a lot). It felt like easily JBD's best week in the NHL to date with said goal, an assist, and three shots while the Senators played some of their best hockey this season. Elsewhere, Maxence Guenette had a goal, two assists, and four shots for Belleville. Tyler Kleven and Lassi Thomson each also had a goal and an assist this past week for the BSens.
I apologize for cheating on this category but all of Belleville's goalies played well this past week with Kevin Mandolese, Leevi Meriläinen, and Mads Søgaard combining for a 2-0-1 record and 92 save percentage. Spencer will elaborate more on this but given their respective workloads, I find it difficult to set any one of the BSens three goaltenders apart from their peers. Outside of Belleville, Meriläinen had one just-okay start with ECHL Allen while Kevin Reidler had an up-and-down week with with USHL Dubuque.
The roller coaster continues in Belleville.
This week, however, was the fun part. The team got to the top of the gruelling climb at the beginning, the part where you're just looking around, scared of heights, ready for the ride to begin. This week was the double loop into a corkscrew as the team went 2-0-1, launching themselves into fourth place in the division.
The week started with a Wednesday night affair with the Laval Rocket, where the BSens started scoring early and kept scoring until they couldn't score no more. Egor Sokolov got the party started just 3:45 into the first. Then Garrett Pilon, Tyler Kleven, Lassi Thomson and Garrett Pilon (again) built up a 5-0 lead. The Rocket added a pair of goals in the final five minutes of the game but that was far from enough to mount a comeback.
While Ottawa was doing battle with Detroit on Saturday, Belleville had a back-to-back with their affiliate from Grand Rapids over the weekend. Friday night, Belleville's hot scoring touch continued with another 5-2 victory. While Grand Rapids did open the scoring early on, Matthew Boucher, Sokolov and Roby Järventie made it a 3-1 game before the first intermission. Early in the second, Grand Rapids appeared to come to life with a goal from Joel L'Esperance but Josh Currie and Maxence Guénette had other plans, helping the team take home the W.
You've heard about the two wins, but Saturday night was time for the loss of the weekend. Fortunately, it occurred in overtime and, since Grand Rapids plays in another division, splitting some points has little to no impact on Belleville. The BSens got out to a 2-0 lead, which was relatively efficiently erased by the Griffins. Nikolas Matinpalo had some late-ish game heroics, tying things up with about 8 minutes left to force overtime.
Outside of players like Angus Crookshank, Egor Sokolov, Roby Järventie and all three goalies, who are all mentioned above, we have to highlight some lesser talked about Senators like Garrett Pilon, Matthew Boucher and Tarun Fizer.
Pilon was an absolute menace this week, scoring three goals and adding an assist in three games. The veteran winger is on a six game point streak where he's racked up five goals and three assists for eight points.
While it's not the Boucher we'd like to be talking about (as much), Matthew Boucher has been flying well under the radar since joining the team in early November. He has 9 points in 14 games on the season, and had a goal and an assist this week.
Finally, a star free agent signing from the Senators rookie tournament, Tarun Fizer was brought back to Belleville after a stint in the ECHL just in time for Wednesday's win against Laval. On Sunday, Fizer recorded his first AHL point, the primary assist on Matinpalo's game tying goal in their overtime loss. Fizer had gone his first ten games with the club without finding the scoresheet. Here's hoping this opens up some additional depth scoring for Belleville.
Belleville is on the road in Cleveland this week, with a rare Thursday-Friday back-to-back. The Monsters currently sit first in the North with a 14-7-1 record. This two game series is a pretty important one for Belleville. If they can manage to take both games in regulation, it'll bring them just one point back of Cleveland for the top of the division.