Sens Prospects: The Weekend in Binghamton
The Binghamton Senators played hockey last week. I bet you're curious how they did.
Wednesday night, Binghamton was on the road to face the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for a mid-week affair. Luke Richardson's team was looking for a bounce back from a lame effort Sunday afternoon, when they dropped a 6-1 decision to the Connecticut Whale. The two sides were trading chances for much of the first period, but it was Penguins who capitalized on a few Binghamton mistakes in the period. Fredrik Claesson lost a battle for the puck behind the net and then was unable to track down his man in front, leading to a two-goal lead for the Penguins. An attempted breakout pass by Mark Stone, eerily similar to Jakob Silfverberg's slip-up against Toronto, was picked off and helped Wilkes-Barre carry a 3-0 lead into the first intermission.
Whether it was an impassioned intermission speech from Richardson or just less turnovers, either way the B-Sens had found their legs to start the second period. Corey Cowick started Binghamton's comeback with a strike halfway through the second frame. It was not the first time Cowick attracted attention in the game. More on that later. Hugh Jessiman made it interesting later in the second for the B-Sens and the team headed back into the dressing room to prepare for the third period in what was suddenly a one-goal game.
The comeback fell short, as Nathan Lawson was beaten on a Penguins third period powerplay opportunity. In spite of a disastrous opening twenty, the team rebounded fairly well from an abysmal Sunday tilt, if not enough to make up the deficit. The two teams knotted at thirty shots apiece and Lawson added a loss to his stat-line.
In the NHL, a bad game is often followed by a day or two of rest and practice, time to go back to the drawing board and figure out what went wrong. The AHL schedule doesn't allow for that. Though teams can often have up to five games between sets of games, when they do come, they come in a flurry. Losses can stack up fast and furiously. So, it is a testament to Luke Richardson's squad that they have yet to drop three games in a row so far this season. After tough losses on Friday nights, the morale bump would understandably make Saturdays more difficult to get up for and play hard in. With AHL teams often facing three games in as many days, the lack of a losing skid that long is credit to the team.
That claim was on the line Friday night. From the opening puck drop, Binghamton looked the stronger team, skating to loose pucks with speed, engaging physically and playing good hockey. With Michael Sdao serving a first period penalty, Cole Schneider was led with a good stretch pass into the Phantoms zone and hauled down before he could get a shot off on the Phantoms' Cal Heeter. On the ensuing penalty shot, Schneider went low blocker side, which Heeter read well. Fortunately for Schneider, the first of a few good strokes of fortune in the game, his stick exploded halfway through the shot, resulting in a much slower shot than he intended-- and that Heeter expected. The shorthanded goal was Binghamton's league-leading eighteenth of the season. Schneider was only getting started. Just a minute later, he would add his second of the year on a quick one-timer in the slot. Great pass from Mark Stone to get it there, and good of Schneider to be in position to cash in.
Pat Cannone got it all started in the second by picking off a Phantoms pass in his own end with his shin pads. Quick in transition, the B-Sens burst in with a 3-on-2. Caporusso would play it down low to Prince who would snap it across the crease to Cannone. Tic-tac-goal. Later in the second, Mark Stone got tied up in the slot, leaving the puck sitting for Mark Borowiecki to step into and give the B-Sens a four-goal lead. Adirondack didn't enjoy being pushed around and rallied. For a time, Binghamton was on their heels. Then, Derek Grant remember he had played in the NHL and scored. Binghamton won the game 5-2.
On Saturday, the B-Sens were back in action against WBS Penguins. I didn't see this game, but Binghamton did lose in the shootout. Probably because I wasn't watching. Shane Prince had a goal and an assist, while Louie Caporusso added two assists of his own. Nathan Lawson had the start for Binghamton, his third in a row. The game included another 5-on-3 kill for the B-Sens. Da Costa and Cannone's tallies weren't good enough in the shootout, as the Penguins scored on three of their four attempts. Because I missed the game. Caporusso missed in the shootout and was sent back down to Elmira yesterday. Tough break for a fringe guy who had three assists over the weekend.
Corey Cowick: Spoken of it in this space before, but Cowick's turnaround this season has been nothing short of phenomenal. He bounced back and forth between Binghamton and Elmira last year and never seemed to develop a game in the AHL that went beyond speed and physicality- not a bad combination, but not good enough to make for a sustainable professional career. This year, it's been an entirely different story. Cowick has gradually emerged as one of the team's more effective forwards. His forechecking is tireless and physical, but his creativity with the puck and ability to get to open spaces is what has made him into a real weapon for Luke Richardson. Speaking of the B-Sens coach, Richardson came into the season preaching a new atmosphere of communication and growth. Cowick has been one of the principal accomplishments so far. In Wednesday's game against the Penguins, he drew attention to himself with a nifty drop-pass at the blueline that was miraculously to a player on his own team and kept the offensive cycle alive. Later, he worked himself into a near-breakaway, while shorthanded. 5-on-3. In other words, Binghamton was playing with two less players than the Penguins and Corey Cowick had a scoring chance. Seriously. Not a word of a lie. For his efforts, he began Binghamton's ill-fated comeback with a strike from the high slot. Yet, for all the offense he's offered this year, a testament to the esteem he's earned in the eye's of his coaches is that he was even out on the ice for a 5-on-3 in the first place.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau: Hey, I can't help it. I've written about Pageau a few times this season, as well. But it's hard to avoid. Pageau had a good weekend, but that's not the only reason why he's earned a mention. He is always going to be fighting an uphill battle because of his size, but the speed of his release is one surefire way to win that battle. Moreover, he's just a fun player to watch.
Mark Stone: Didn't make much of an impact when he was up in Ottawa as some might have hoped for, but Stone has really stepped up his game since returning to the Binghamton lineup. He started the season kept to the perimeter and his first four points with the team were all assists. No more. The staff in Ottawa clearly told him what they think he needs to do to improve. He's on track. Mans the point on the powerplay and does a decent job of it.
Cole Schneider: Looked like he was going to have to fight hard to keep hold of a roster spot, entering a season with several players who were supposed to be playing in Ottawa sent down due to the lockout. Instead of being a victim of the numbers game, Schneider was a quiet contributor for the first half of the season. Since then, he's picked up his game and (speculation alert) looks to have added some size to his frame, as well. His four-point explosion against the Phantoms was exceptional, largely because he easily could have had five. He was all over the ice all night long and had a few chances to bury the hat-trick goal, including two on a wild powerplay sequence in the slot. Schneider was a college free agent last season and is turning out to have been a very underrated one.
Penalty Kill: Has been like this all year for Binghamton. Though it was a late powerplay tally that buried Binghamton against the Penguins on Wednesday, they effectively killed off a 5-on-3 earlier and still nurse the fifth best penalty kill numbers with the most shorthanded goals. They did, however, allow two Phantoms powerplay goals when leading by 4, but that didn't flatline them enough to call the kill anything less than a hero.
Marc Cheverie: The guy just can't seem to buy a win. Despite playing reasonably well at times, the team has struggled in front of him. He got lit up last Sunday against the Whale in a 6-1 loss and didn't play in any of the team's games this past week.
Fredrik Claesson: Was exposed on one of the goals against the Penguins, and that's really the only reason he's on here. He's not fighting for an NHL job in the very near future, so he has time to continue developing under Luke Richardson.