The Binghamton Senators celebrated 40 years of hockey in Binghamton in a big way Friday night, with a 3-1 win over divisional foe Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, in front of 4,315 fans at the Broome County Arena.
The victory was the fourth in a row for the B-Sens, who were coming off a New Year’s Eve victory over the St. John’s IceCaps.
For Binghamton, it was a night of quality over quantity, as they managed only 15 shots on Penguins goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, with their highest total being six in the second period.
“I’m not too worried about the shots,” said Binghamton coach Luke Richardson. “In that second period we had six shots, but I think we had six scoring chances, so I’ll take the low number of shots if we keep our quality of the shots up.”
On the other end, Binghamton goaltender Robin Lehner was a beast in the net, as he has been all year. He faced 44 W-B/S shots and stopped 43.
“They had some good shots but it was a lot of perimeter today,” said Lehner. “Their good period was in the third, the third was tough, a lot of PK (penalty kill) and I got tired in the third, but we got away with it and we scored three goals and we won… it’s nice.”
As has been the case recently, Binghamton got off to a slow start and spent a lot of time in the defensive zone in the first 20 minutes. It hurt them early, as Beau Bennett skated in and banged one in off the crossbar, giving Wilkes-Barre a 1-o lead 8:21 into the game. It was Bennett’s sixth goal of the season.
Lehner came up with a diving save with 9:01 left in the period that certainly had 2-0 written all over it. He then had a couple more at the end of a Wilkes-Barre power-play, a few minutes later that kept Binghamton within striking distance.
Despite being outplayed for much of the period, Binghamton got the tying marker with 3:30 to go in the first, when Mark Stone passed in front to Derek Grant, who was able to beat Zatkoff.
The B-Sens penalty kill has been the key to their success this season. They came into the game ranked second in the American Hockey League in that category and that continued Friday night, as they killed off a 4-on-3 penalty that turned into a 5-on-3 in the second period, and took care of another 5-on-3 in the third period as well.
Overall the B-Sens penalty killers were a perfect 9-for-9 in the contest.
They do it the hard way,” said Richardson of his penalty killers. “That’s the only way to do it on the penalty kill, is getting in shot lanes. This team (Wilkes-Barre) is a shooting team from the point and that’s hard to do. You get guys fearless blocking shots that are a hundred-plus miles an hour and they’re screaming by your head down by the net and they hurt. They continue to do it, so that shows a lot of character.”
“That was big,” said Mike Hoffman of the penalty kill. “A couple 5-on-3’s and we were able to kill those. It gives us a lot of momentum once those are done, so our penalty kill was a big part of the win tonight.”
Binghamton looked to grab a 2-1 lead 54 seconds in, but had a goal wiped off the board as the whistle blew just before the puck went in the net for a too many men on the ice call against the home team.
They would bounce back later in the period with a 5-on-3 power play of their own. With Benn Ferriero already off for hooking, Binghamton had a two-skater advantage for 1:12, when Robert Bortuzzo earned a double-minor for high-sticking.
With 22 seconds left in the Ferriero penalty, Stephane Da Costa went cross ice on a feed to Hoffman, who buried a beautiful shot, giving the B-Sens a 2-1 lead with 1:35 left in the period.
“Every time you get a 5-on-3 you wanna score, you don’t wanna give up those opportunities,” said Hoffman. “Steph made a nice pass to me and I capitalized, so it was a big one.”
“Anytime we can get a power-play goal it takes a little out of the other team,” said Richardson. “On our side we killed two 5-on-3’s and got through it.”
For Hoffman, it was his team leading sixth power-play goal of the season. The second assist was credited to Andre Benoit.
Hugh Jessiman would give Binghamton a two goal lead with 13:56 left in the game. He sent a rocket past Zatkoff from just outside the faceoff circle, making it a 3-1 game. Corey Cowick and Chris Wideman assisted.
Zatkoff was pulled at the end of the period for the extra skater and Wilkes-Barre was unable to capitalize.
For more info: Wilkes-Barre @ Binghamton game report
The B-Sens are now 20-7-1-2 on the season and sit four points behind the East Division leading Syracuse Crunch, who beat Norfolk Friday night.
This was an important win for Binghamton at home, as they now hit the road for a game in Hershey on Saturday, followed by a Sunday afternoon tilt in Albany.
“To start off this way, it really helps and we wanna continue the winning ways,” said Richardson. “Going into Hershey, with a team that’s been pretty hot over the last month or so, or more, we gotta make sure we bring our ‘A’ game.”