Round 2 on the road
Belleville Senators continue early-season journey this weekend
The Belleville Senators hit the highway again this weekend, as their nine-game road trip continues until the club’s inaugural home opener Nov. 1 at Yardmen Arena.
B-Sens opened their 2017-18 AHL regular-season campaign last weekend with back-to-back losses to the Rocket at Laval: 3-0 and 6-2.
B-Sens head coach Kurt Kleinendorst said he saw enough good things last weekend to believe he has the right group in Belleville. That said, he has already lost three key defencemen — Thomas Chabot, Christian Jaros and Ben Harpur (injured) — who were all recalled by the parent Ottawa Senators.
“Game 1 last weekend, I was really pleased,” said Kleinendorst. “We played well. I thought we deserved better. I thought our goalie, Danny Taylor, played well but their goalie (Charlie Lindgren) was outstanding.
“Our power play was 0-for-8 but I liked it. We could’ve had eight power-play goals but just didn’t find a way to score.”
The next night, the Belleville power play clicked for both goals in a 6-2 loss that saw the B-Sens allow six unanswered Rocket markers after taking a brief 2-0 lead.
“I don’t think we were nearly as good as our first night,” said Kleinendorst. “But we have a very, very young team. I’m not making excuses, but maybe it wasn’t fair to them to think we could’ve been that good two nights in a row.”
Kleinendorst said the B-Sens allowed a questionable call to interfere with their focus.
“Danny Taylor kept us in but we didn’t handle adversity well and we never recovered,” said the coach. “You can’t let a bad call affect the rest of your game. It’s a lesson to be learned and hopefully next time we handle it better. But, we saw some really good things — our goaltending is solid, our D is young but very solid, our forwards are more than capable of helping us.
“We can’t over-react to a weekend. Sure, it would be nice to have a W under our belt. But Laval has a really good hockey club and we aren’t the only team who’ll go in there this season and lose two games.”
Speaking of Taylor, the B-Sens have a logjam in net with four goaltenders still on the roster.
“That’s a little mis-leading,” said Kleinendorst. “Chris Driedger is injured and hasn’t played. Marcus Hogberg is a young guy with a phenomenal future and we’ll try to get him some games at some point in the ECHL.
“Taylor and Andrew Hammond are both NHL-calibre goalies, so we’re in good hands.”
With his defence dinged by the recent call-ups, Kleinendorst said he’ll look down the bench this weekend in Syracuse and Hershey.
“That’s the AHL,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s how our world works. And, it’s an opportunity for other guys. We’ll prepare the guys who are here for Friday night. Next man up. That’s our approach.
“We have defencemen still here who are more than capable.”
The highly-touted Chabot, MVP at the 2017 World Junior Championships, scored the first-ever B-Sens goal in Laval. Kleinendorst said “he’s fun to watch” with the best yet to come.
“I’ve spent a couple of years with him at various camps and he’s going to be a regular in the NHL,” said Kleinendorst. “That he scored our first goal doesn’t surprise me. We have to develop his play without the puck, but you can see it — he’s a really solid, fun player to watch.”
As for player development, the No. 1 job of any AHL coach, Kleinendorst admits it’s more fun and more effective when you’re winning.
“Winning allows a team to develop farther,” he said. “Winning drives the bus. It’s much better and more enjoyable for everybody to develop through winning. It’s a much healthier approach.”
ON DECK: Friday at Syracuse Crunch, 7 p.m.; Saturday at Hershey Bears, 7 p.m. Live radio play-by-play on CJBQ 800 AM.
I’m not making excuses, but maybe it wasn’t fair to them to think we could’ve been that good two nights in a row.” Kurt Kleinendorst
Forward Ben Sexton and his Belleville Senators teammates continue their early-season AHL road trip this weekend with games in Syracuse (Friday) and Hershey (Saturday).