All may be quiet in the National Hockey League these days but the Binghamton Senators are making plenty of noise in the American Hockey League.
Luke Richardson's team went three for three over the weekend and have now won six straight games. With last night's 6-1 win over the Bridgeport Soun Tigers, the BSens are just two points back of Syracuse for top spot in the AHL's East Division.
In the wake of another impressive win and three straight over the weekend, we welcome back Don Rieber for his take on last night's convincing win over the Sound Tigers. Over to you, Don!
B-Sens Tame Sound Tigers
Winning is becoming a habit for the Binghamton Senators. The team earned their sixth straight win Saturday night, steamrolling the visiting Bridgeport Sound Tigers, 6-1. The B-Sens dominated from beginning to end, despite playing their third game in three nights.
Cole Schneider, who has found playing time hard to come by this season, scored his first two goals of the season as did defenseman Eric Gryba who was playing in his third game since returning from injury on Thanksgiving night. Gryba made it a three-point night with an assist on Schneider’s second goal.
Binghamton scored three of the six goals in the second period on Saturday, which is a welcomed site considering that even during this win streak, it has been their weakest period of late.
“We’ve done a better job, especially the last two games of having a good start and not letting that lapse come in the middle,” said B-Sens coach Luke Richardson. “We played a complete game and really didn’t let them get going at all,”
One of the things that has helped Binghamton survive that lapse in recent games is their propensity for scoring early goals. They did that on Saturday, grabbing the lead 2:39 in when Gryba beat Bridgeport netminder Kevin Poulin off the face -off. He drove a shot from the slot and gave Binghamton a 1-0 lead. Mark Borowiecki and Jean-Gabriel Pageau got the assists.
It was the third game in a row that featured an early strike. They scored 1:13 into the game on Friday in Syracuse and 2:22 in on Thursday night at home, against Toronto.
“We’ve been getting off to a real quick start in the past few games and we were lucky to get a goal early to get us going,” said Schneider. “Just get the momentum right away and start moving. It slows the other team down and we just roll right into it.”
Binghamton held Bridgeport to just three shots through the first 10:30 of the contest against Binghamton goaltender Robin Lehner, who continued his solid play, ending the night with 35 saves on 36 Bridgeport shots.
The B-Sens would add to their lead with 1:17 left in the period, when Schneider scored the first goal of his pro career. He has only played in nine of Binghamton’s 16 games and has been patiently waiting for his chance. He made the most of it on Saturday.
Tyler Eckford got the play started with a blast from the blue line and Schneider knocked in the rebound. Pageau earned his second assist of the night on that goal.
“We feel bad that he can’t get in there for a lot of games and a lot of reps,” Richardson said of Schneider. “The lockout year has done that to a lot of players, but we told him tonight, the third game in three nights, we really needed a fresh body to come in and add some energy and spark. And he did that.”
Binghamton was impressive all period long, launching 16 shots in Poulin’s direction. The Sound Tigers managed just six.
The second period, like the first, got off to a great start for the home team. Derek Grant took a pass in front from David Dziurzynski and was hit hard as he let the shot go. He got enough on it to beat Poulin and just like that it was 3-0, 2:50 into the period.
Binghamton has struggled with the power-play all season. They came into Saturday with six goals in 72 chances, ranking 29th in the league, out of 30 teams in that category.
They converted two of seven power-plays on Saturday, with the first coming off the stick of Binghamton captain Andre Benoit, who scored on a rebound, 29 seconds after Brandon DeFazio was whistled for slashing, at 8:07 making it 4-0. Sound Tigers coach Scott Pellerin had seen enough of Poulin. He was given the hook in favor of Anders Nilsson.
Schneider got his second of the night with 2:13 to go in the third, when he came streaking up the ice and let a shot go from the circle, beating Nilsson to make it 5-0.
Lehner was definitely busier in that second period, stopping 16 Bridgeport shots. He made a highlight reel save with 37.1 seconds left, diving across and then back to stop a great chance for the Sound Tigers.
Gryba got his second of the night 3:01 into the third period, making it a 6-0 game. Mark Stone and Mika Zibanejad got the assists.
Lehner was six minutes away from a shutout, but was foiled by DeFazio, who banged home his sixth of the season. Lehner, Who gave up one on Friday in Syracuse, matched that Saturday and lowered his goals-against-average from 1.69 to 1.63 and improved to 8-2-1 on the year.
“He just looked like he was on that puck, he saw it before it was even shot,” said Richardson of Lehner. “He made it look easy and it’s not easy, it’s hard work and that’s what he did.”