04/05/2013 1:35 PM
By Matt Borrelli
After a year hiatus, the Binghamton Senators are just one point away from punching their ticket to the Calder Cup playoffs. When you consider the amount of personnel changes this team has faced the past couple of months; seeing players like Jakob Silfverberg, Mika Zibanejad, and Andre Benoit go up to Ottawa, along with numerous call ups from Elmira hopping in and out of the line-up almost on a nightly basis. This team’s success and chemistry is admirable to say the least. Especially, when you consider how young and inexperienced this team is.
The position the B-Sens are in is no surprise to the coaching staff, who want more than just a playoff berth from this season’s success.
“We are making a push for first place, that’s number one,” head hoach Luke Richardson said of the team’s goal moving forward. “That’s been our goal since the beginning of the year, to be the best and to be good pros every day. These guys have done that, and it has put us in a position to shoot for the top of the division and then just let the chips fall where they may after that.”
As it looks right now, the B-Sens would finish with the fourth overall seed in the Eastern Conference, pitting them against the Portland Pirates a team that Binghamton has split with this season in their two game season series, highlighted by a 6-1 victory at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in December. As the probable favorite heading into any possible series, the young Senators will be looking advance past the first round for just the third time since the team’s inception in 2002.
“We have to make sure we have that killer instinct. When we get up on teams, we don’t take our foot off the pedal; we play complete games, a full sixty minutes” Richardson stated. “In a playoff series; if you lose a little momentum at the end of a game, a team could try and take that into the next game, even if you win the game. That’s important, to control not just the puck but the play of the game from the start until the end”.
To control a hockey game takes toughness, both mentally and physically. To control a seven game series takes much more than talent, it takes a ton of mental fortitude. A team has to be able to stand tough against adversity. If that is the case, then this B-Sens squad might have what it takes to make a run at the Cup.
Assistant Coach Steve Stirling oversees almost every detail on the ice, and he was pleasantly surprised with the intangibles that this group of “Pesky B-Sens” has brought to the game.
“This is a young, young team and the fact that the young kids found a way to work through [all of the roster changes] tells me that they are a bit more mature than maybe we gave them credit for,” Stirling says.
Even if they have the mentality to make a run deep into the spring, this B-Sens team is so young.
“I think we are so young that I like to think they are oblivious to everything swirling around them. They should be more nervous, they shouldn’t be playing as well as they are…innocence is a good thing believe it or not” Stirling stated.
According to Coach Stirling, the team is improving everyday and at a steady pace and continues to work at getting better.
“We are still going to practice hard. We had three days of practice this week. Then three more next week and probably a good three more the following week, which is a lot more than you usually get this time of year. [Mostly just reminders at this point],” says Stirling. “We spend time with our fore check, our d-zone coverage, along with our [power play] and [penalty kill]. Just getting through one more time for sure on all of our systems, so that once the season is over and you don’t have time to do it again, they will be as ready as they could ever be”.
The American Hockey League exists to develop players, so that they can be successful playing for their parent clubs. The B-Sens are doing just that, steadily getting better and maturing as professional athletes each and every time they walk into the arena. While the boys still have their hiccups, they push through it and learn from their mistakes. The team seems to have the combination of talent and maturity to do something special.
Mika Zibanejad, Andre Benoit and Jakob Silfverberg all factored into the B-Sens early success, but have since earned spots with the parent club in Ottawa