B-Sens have found consistency big club lacking

Twenty-eight games into the 2013-14 season, the Binghamton Senators sit comfortably in fifth place in the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference and second in the East Division.

B-Sens have found consistency big club lacking
Luke Richardson (Julie Oliver/OttawaCitizen)

Twenty-eight games into the 2013-14 season, the Binghamton Senators sit comfortably in fifth place in the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference and second in the East Division.

Unlike the parent club in Ottawa, which can’t seem to string together consecutive victories, Binghamton had a seven-game winning streak in November. But not long after that streak ended, the B-Sens matched it with seven losses in a row.

“We had a really good stretch … and then seven games on the losing side, but three of the seven were in shootouts,” said head coach Luke Richardson. “The goals just weren’t coming, but the guys stuck with it. We’re right in the middle of the pack, and that’s a good place to be. We want to strive to go up, but we know that there are (teams) pushing us from behind, so that keeps you going.”

“We’re really good at times, but we can also drop down a little bit,” Mike Hoffman added. “If we can try and be a little more consistent every night, I think we’ll be a top team in the league.”

Hoffman leads the team in scoring with 14 goals and 17 assists in 26 games. His 31 points rank third in the league. Stéphane Da Costa, who started the season in the NHL, is Binghamton’s second-leading scorer with seven goals and 17 assists in 25 games. Hoffman, Da Costa and Mark Stone make up the B-Sens’ top line, which has looked nearly unstoppable of late.

“We’re producing, so we know we want to be doing that every night and do everything we can to give our team a chance to win,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman, Da Costa, captain Mark Borowiecki, and Derek Grant are among the B-Sens players who have spent time in the NHL this season.

“It’s sometimes a challenge to mix and match and find the chemistry again with lineups, but that’s what we’re here for, and we enjoy seeing our guys go up there,” Richardson said. “As players go up and down, there is the challenge of coming back from the NHL, which is a bit of a disappointment. You have to work through that sometimes, but for the most part, guys have responded very well.”

With Cody Ceci currently recalled, Chris Wideman has taken over as Binghamton’s leading point producer from the blue line with two goals and 16 assists. Fredrik Claesson has put together an impressive start to his second pro season, posting a team-best plus-18 rating and piling up blocked shots, a statistic that is not recorded in the AHL.

“He’s been great,” Richardson said. “He’s one of the top plus/minus in the league, and he plays a lot of hard minutes for us against all the best players, so that makes that stat even more important. He’s grown leaps and bounds in a year.”

Goalie Nathan Lawson is 9-4-0 this season with a .926 save percentage, one of the best in the league. Rookie netminder Andrew Hammond is 7-5-3, including streaks of five straight wins and eight straight starts without a regulation loss, and has a .895 save percentage.

“Goaltending has been very solid,” Richardson said. “Hammond had a couple of tough starts at the beginning of the year where we didn’t give him a lot of goal support, but he really got going there for a while when we had that winning stretch. Lawson had been a solid pro and a really good veteran for this team. With a younger team, it’s nice to have that veteran presence back there. That’s been a backbone for us.

“Especially early in the year, goaltending got us through some stretches where we weren’t great as a defensive team.”

Binghamton’s goalies have faced a combined 919 shots so far this season. The team has allowed 86 goals, an average of 3.07 per game, and scored 99, an average of 3.54 per game.

The B-Sens’ power play, which led the AHL earlier this season, is now fifth at 20.7 percent. Their penalty kill is ranked 17th at 81.7 percent, and they lead the league in shorthanded goals with eight.

Binghamton’s schedule will be heavier after Christmas, with 20 games in the 45 days leading up to the All-Star break. That stretch concludes with an appearance at the Canadian Tire Centre to host the Hamilton Bulldogs on Saturday, Feb. 8.

Tags:

What do you think? Leave a comment