04/02/2011 8:39 PM
By Chris Cotrone
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – With the Calder Cup playoffs drawing nearer, the Binghamton Senators seek every point possible to ensure they earn a playoff birth that’s five years in the making, and that means doing whatever necessary to grab two points against teams that lie near the bottom of the division. So after a crucial Binghamton penalty late in Friday night’s game opened the door for the Syracuse Crunch to complete a comeback campaign over the visiting Senators, the B-Sens were determined not to let penalties hamper their playoff chances any further.
Hosting the seventh-place Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Saturday night, the Senators opened the game eager to minimize penalty woes and stay active on the penalty kill to ensure another pivotal win would not slip away, but some late strong play by the Sound Tigers spoiled the B-Sens’ opportunity to walk away with any points. Ryan Keller, Roman Wick, and Patrick Coulombe all scored for the Senators to keep the game within grasp, but the B-Sens’ final effort to tie the game in the closing seconds was stifled by Bridgeport, and the Sound Tigers held on, 4-3.
A mental lapse by the B-Sens defense early in the first period allowed the Sound Tigers to capture the first lead of the game, as two Binghamton defenders followed Justin DiBenedetto to the left boards, leaving the middle wide open. DiBenedetto swung the puck back to the center of the ice for Robin Figren, who had no one left to beat but the goalie. When Barry Brust came out to challenge, Figren faked a slap shot from the slot and skated right around Brust to dump the puck in the net for an easy score.
After committing only one penalty in the first 35 minutes, the B-Sens fought hard to kill off a Bridgeport power play late in the second period, and on their first possession back at full strength they turned the strong defensive effort into a game-tying score. Ryan Keller became the beneficiary of his own defensive prowess, finishing the B-Sens attack with his team-leading 31st goal after stealing the puck in the Sound Tigers zone. Keller started the play with the theft at the blue line before kicking the puck up towards David Dziurzynski who then fed it Cody Bass. The puck made its way back to Keller, and the captain deked around Mikko Koskinen with a pretty backhanded goal to knot the game at one.
The Binghamton celebrations would be cut short, however, as the Sound Tigers would finally capitalize on the power play to regain the lead less than two minutes later. Aaron Ness sent the puck from the right point across to the left circle for Rhett Rakhshani, who walked it in and sent a wrister past Brust, low glove side to push the score to 2-1.
The B-Sens would open the third with a response thanks to Roman Wick’s power play goal immediately following a face-off. After the puck was knocked out to the blue line, Derek Smith hauled it in and slid it across to the right point for Wick, where he wound up and fired the puck into the far side of the net to knot things back up.
Not two minutes later, the Sound Tigers answered with another go-ahead goal, this time from Tyler McNeely. Rakhshani lead a Bridgeport two-on-one from the right boards before centering the puck for McNeely, allowing the forward to beat Brust on the far side to take a 3-2 lead.
Another alert play on the defensive end translated into a B-Sens score as Patrick Coulombe knocked down a clearing attempt by the Sound Tigers at center ice and took the puck to the right circle himself. The rookie defenseman then snapped a wrist shot that snuck clean through the five-hole of Koskinen before he could get down to save it to even the score once again, 3-3.
As regulation wound down, McNeely found the back of the net for the second time in the game on a play that was again set up by Rakhshani. The Sound Tigers’ leading scorer made his way towards the crease, taking on two Binghamton defensemen in search of a decent look at the net. Yet Rakhshani passed up the shot and wrapped the puck around the Senators defenders, where McNeely was in perfect position to knock it in for an easy score and reclaim the lead for what would be the final time.
A pair of Bridgeport penalties with under a minute left to play set the stage for the B-Sens to force overtime as they took to the ice with a 6-on-3 advantage after pulling Brust, but they were unable to get a clean shot off allowing the Sound Tigers to hang on for the 4-3 victory.
The B-Sens look to rebound as they travel to Albany to take on the Devils at 4 p.m. Fans can listen live on 680 WINR-AM or 1430 WENE-AM beginning 30 minutes before game time for Countdown to Faceoff with Grady Whittenburg, the voice of the B-Sens.
-Go B-Sens Go-