03/06/2011 7:40 PM
By Chris Cotrone
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – As the Binghamton Senators currently sit in position to qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 season, the hungry hockey club has reached the most important stretch of the season as they prepare for a sequence in which they will play the two teams resting directly atop them in the East Division standings- the Charlotte Checkers and Norfolk Admirals- a combined five times in seven nights. Sunday evening marked the first contest of the five-game divisional stretch as the Senators hosted the Admirals hoping to put an end to their current three-game skid and inch ever closer to a playoff birth with a victory. Looking to help out their own cause, the B-Sens came out with a visible sense of urgency as they dominated possession of the puck and the majority of the scoring chances throughout the first period to capture an early. As play began to even out in the second, a pair of goals from Kaspars Daugavins provided the cushion the B-Sens needed to keep their morale high until Colin Greening’s late goal in the third sealed the 4-1 victory for Binghamton.
The B-Sens demonstrated why they are the number-one ranked team in the AHL on power-play conversions by turning a slashing penalty on Johan Harju into the first score of the game midway through the opening frame. It was Andrew Sweetland who would start things off offensively for Binghamton as the rookie continued his stellar play of late, capitalizing on an opportunity near the net for his fourth goal of the season. After securing a cross-ice pass at the right point, Mike Hoffman fed the puck over to Andre Benoit who was waiting at the center point. Benoit wound up and launched a slap shot towards the net that Sweetland was able to deflect in midair past Admirals goaltender Jaroslav Janus to give the B-Sens a 1-0 lead.
The Senators continued to apply pressure to Norfolk to start the second as they kept control of the shots early, adding to their lead with another hustle goal 1:01 into the period. Corey Locke set things up for the B-Sens as he found Eric Gryba free at the center point. Gryba’s initial shot was denied, but Kaspars Daugavins was there to tap the loose rebound through the five hole of Janus to increase the lead to 2-0 for the B-Sens.
Daugavins would tally his second goal of the night just minutes into the third period to provide Binghamton with a commanding three-goal lead to start the final frame. Jim O’Brien tried a shot from the middle of the slot, but his attempt was kicked away by Janus straight to the stick of Daugavins, who banked the puck off the post and past Janus for his 15th goal of the season.
The Admirals would not willingly concede however, notching their first goal midway through the third as they tried to claw their way back into the game with a well-executed play. Norfolk leading-scorer Marc-Antoine Pouliot started the play as he slid a pass from right point down to the right corner for Matt Fornataro. The winger turned and sent a pass to the streaking Paul Szczechura who caught the puck in the crease and sent a low shot past Brust to cut the Binghamton lead to two.
However, Binghamton would have the final say in the game as Colin Greening made his presence felt in his first game back from Ottawa, scoring the game-sealing goal for the B-Sens just days after recording his first career NHL goal. Andre Benoit nabbed his second assist on the play as he sent a lead pass up the ice from the Binghamton Zone to Corey Locke who had gotten behind the Norfolk defense. Locke’s breakaway try careened off Janus’ pads, but Greening, who was trailing, fired a rebound attempt into the back of the net to secure the 4-1 must-win for the B-Sens as they successfully snapped their three-game skid.
The B-Sens are back in action Tuesday in Charlotte as they take on the Checkers. Game time is set for 7 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-