With two games of 2011 Calder Cup final in the books, the series now becomes a best-of-five as Binghamton and Houston skated away with a split. A split that, depending on whom you talk to, the B-Sens were lucky to achieve. Whether or not the nine-day layoff between the Eastern Conference final and the first game of this series has had a negative impact on Bingo is anyone’s guess, but based on their performance, especially in game #1, the argument could be made.
Game #1: Binghamton 1 – Houston 3
The main question coming into the first game was less to do with what the teams would bring to the table and more to do with who had the bigger disadvantage. Would the team that had an extended break be fresh or rusty? Would the team that just fended off a 3-0 collapse in a 7-game series be tired or fired up? As it turns out, both teams had their share of lackluster play, but it was Binghamton that seemed to suffer the greater pitfall. While they managed to score first, off a Bobby Butler goal, and take a 1-0 lead into the third, questionable effort and sloppy play caught up with the B-Sens as Houston tallied three times in the final frame. The win secured a 1-0 series lead for the Aeros. Both teams went 0 for 2 on the power-play, but Houston nearly doubled Bingo in shots 41-24.
After the game, head coach Kurt Kleinendorst was left scratching his head over his team’s effort. “I don’t know, I don’t know who. I have no idea who just played out there. That wasn’t my team. Maybe … guys have been reading the pretty press and thought it was a little bit easier than what we know it’s going to be, but we didn’t win a battle. You don’t win games if you don’t win battles. I don’t want to say that I’m glad we lost the game, but we didn’t deserve to win. If we win that game, then we think playing poorly and winning is a good combination, and it’s not. So that might be the best thing that happened to us.” (Quotations courtesy of Joy Lindsay)
Game #2: Binghamton 2 – Houston 1 (OT)
One night after their first loss in six games and second loss in eight road games this post-season, the B-Sens needed to up their effort and ‘crispness’ in game #2 or risk falling into a large 0-2 hole. They were able to remedy one of the two areas. While some of the finer points and technical aspects continued to allude their game, Bingo played with a much better compete level on Saturday night. Said Kleinendorst, “I thought the effort was there, but … we can be better. And some of our key players can still be better. But as far as effort goes, yes. I liked the effort. We wouldn’t have won this game if we weren’t battling hard. They had opportunities. Robin (Lehner) came up with some big saves. Are we fortunate to get out of here with a win? I feel a little bit fortunate, but at the same time, I feel like we deserved what we got, as well.”
Binghamton, again, kicked off the scoring and again it was Butler with the snipe 1:45 into the game. Butler is now two goals shy of the all-time, AHL playoff, rookie scoring record. However, the lead was short-lived as Houston tied it less than three minutes later. The game remained deadlocked through to the end of regulation. For the seventh time these playoffs, the B-Sens were headed to overtime. After Cody Bass and the rest of the penalty killers did a masterful job of killing off a call on Zach Smith early in the extra stanza, Jim O’Brien became the latest OT hero as he ended game #2 at the 7:54 mark. The club is now 6-1 in games that go longer than 60 minutes. Both team’s regulation goals were scored on the power-play. Final shots were a little more respectable at 29-21 in favour of Houston.
Back to Binghamton
The Calder Cup final now shifts to Bingo, New York for the first championship hockey in the city in over 28 years. As per AHL scheduling format, games 3, 4 and 5 will all be played in Bingo at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. Game #3 is jet set to go tomorrow (Wednesday) night. The B-Sens will look to build on game #2 and get better technically going forward as they pine for the series lead.
According to reports out of Binghamton, fewer than 250 tickets remained for Game #3 as of yesterday. Needless to say, the place will be electric. Additionally, Rogers Sportsnet One announced that they will be broadcasting the remaining games of this of this series in Ottawa. So, no more choppy internet feeds for those of you in the nation’s capital. Great news.
Enjoy the games! Go B-Sens Go!
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