HEAD-TO-HEAD: Tonight’s game is the first in the best-of-seven East Division Semifinal between the Sens and the Pens. The winner advances to the East Division Finals where they will face either Norfolk or Philadelphia.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Binghamton 7-1-0-0
After a 2-0 setback on Halloween the Senators won seven straight against the Penguins to finish the season series. In the first game MARC-ANDRE FLEURY stopped all 28 Binghamton shots and RAMZI ABID scored the game winner while Sens goalie RAY EMERY made 23 saves on 24 shots. Binghamton then won three of the next four in overtime with ANTOINE VERMETTE scoring the game winner on Nov. 19th and DENIS HAMEL scoring a sudden death goal the next night on the road. The teams did not meet again until Jan. 7th when Binghamton scored three power-play goal on their way to a 5-1 win. One week later the Sens overcame a two-goal night from RAMZ ABID, including an extra attacker goal with two seconds left, to win on JESSE FIBIGER’S overtime goal. Binghamton capped four games in five nights with a 6-2 win in Wilkes-Barre on March 13th. ANTOINE VERMETTE had a goal and two assists in that game. The teams finished the regular season series two weeks ago with Binghamton winning 3-1 on April 6th behind a pair of second period short-handed goals and then winning 5-2 on April 9th with a four-point night from JASON SPEZZA (2 goals, 2 assists).
SPEZZA led all scorers in the series with 16 points (5 goals, 11 assists) in eight games. RAMZI ABID was the leading scorer for the Penguins with 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) in eight games. Sens goalie RAY EMERY played in six games with a record of 5-1-0 and a goals-against average of 1.82. MARC-ANDRE FLEURY was in goal for five games with a record of 1-3-0 and a goals-against average of 3.00. The Binghamton power play was effective converting on 8 of 40 chances (20.0%) while Wilkes-Barre/Scranton scored on 4 of 38 opportunities (10.5%). Five of Binghamton’s league-leading 24 short-handed goals came against the Penguins.
BINGHAMTON SENATORS: Binghamton has now made the playoffs in all three of their seasons since joining the AHL in 2002. The inaugural B-Sens made it to the Eastern Conference Finals before falling to Hamilton while last year’s squad was eliminated by the Norfolk Admirals in a qualifying series. The Sens finished the 2004-05 regular season on a roll earning points in 24 of their last 27 games (20-3-1-3). Binghamton established several new franchise records during the regular season including points (106; previous record 97 set in 2002-03), wins (47; previous record 43 in 2002-03), fewest losses (26; previous record 28 in 2002-03), most goals (276; previous record 239 in 2002-03), most penalty minutes in one season (2,382; previous record 2,015 in 2003-04) and longest winning streak (9 games from 1/7 – 1/26; previous record 7 games between 4/5 – 10/18/03) among others. En route to setting a new franchise record for goals in a season the Senators became the first team since Albany in 1998-99 to have four 30-goal scorers (DENIS HAMEL – 39, BRANDON BOCHENSKI – 34, JASON SPEZZA & JOSH LANGFELD (32).
Several Senators earned individual honors for their efforts during the regular season. SPEZZA won the Les Cunningham Award as the league’s most valuable player and the John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the top scorer. SPEZZA is the first Binghamton player to win both of the awards since Binghamton Ranger DON BIGGS in 1993. Rookie scoring leader BRANDON BOCHENSKI was named to the All-Rookie Team while SPEZZA was named an AHL First Team All Star and defenseman BRIAN POTHIER was selected as a Second Team All Star.
B-SENS STREAKS: JASON SPEZZA finished the season on a 20-game scoring streak (7 goals, 29 assists) which is the longest in the AHL since RALPH INTRANUOVO scored in 20 straight for Cape Breton during the 1994-95 season. Winger ANTOINE VERMETTE has scored in four straight games (3g, 4a) while rookie BRANDON BOCHENSKI finished the regular season with points in three straight (3g, 3a). Defenseman CHRISTOPH SCHUBERT returned to action and tallied an assist in two straight games (0g, 2a). Goalie RAY EMERY tied a franchise record for consecutive wins by winning his last seven starts of the regular season and was not defeated in regulation in his last 11 starts (9-0-2). For his efforts EMERY was named the Koho AHL Goaltender of the Month for April. As a team the Senators have won six straight games and scored at least one power-play goal in their last three.
B-SENS TRANSACTIONS: Binghamton signed defenseman TREVOR JOHNSON to a 25-game professional try-out contract on April 19th.
WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON PENGUINS: The Penguins return 16 players from last season’s playoff squad that made a run all the way to the Calder Cup Finals before falling to Milwaukee in four games. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finished the regular season with 92 points; the highest total in their six-year history and six more than last season’s team that finished third in the East Division. The Penguins are making their fourth appearance in the playoffs after making it to the Calder Cup Finals in 2004 and 2001 and falling in the Conference Quarterfinals in 2003.
The Penguins won three of their last four games including a pair of shutouts on back-to-back nights against the Norfolk Admirals who finished one point ahead of the Penguins in the East Division standings. In their last outing the Penguins were defeated 4-2 at home by the Syracuse Crunch. The game was tied 2-2 after the first period with RAMZI ABID and KRIS BEECH scoring for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Syracuse scored one goal in each the second and third periods en route to the win on the final day of the regular season. MARC-ANDRE FLEURY started in net for the Penguins and stopped 13 of 17 shots.
PENGUINS STREAKS: Penguins defenseman ROB SCUDERI (2a) and winger COLBY ARMSTRONG (3a) both finished the regular season on two-game assist streaks.