The Belleville Senators have booked themselves a spot in the American Hockey League playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
While the Senators were on their way to a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Marlies in the Battle of Ontario on Sunday on the road, a loss by the Rochester Amerks meant Belleville booked its first trip to the post-season.
With only one game left, Belleville is now trying to lock up the third seed in the North Division. Positioning is based on points-percentage and if the Senators can finish ranked No. 3, the club will head immediately to the division quarterfinal.
Should the Senators finish fourth, the club will have to play a three-game series against the No. 5-ranked team, which will likely be the Marlies.
belleville coach Troy Mann had to be thrilled. The Senators were in a good position to make the playoffs when COVID-19 shut down the AHL and the rest of the season was canceled in March, 2020.
Captain Logan Shaw scored twice Sunday while Mark Kastelic and Victor lodin also contributed with goals. Sent down by Ottawa after the club’s 6-4 win over Montreal on Saturday, goaltender Filip Gustavson made 30 stops.
Gerente general Pierre Dorionassistant GM Peter MacTavish, Senior VP Pierre McGuire and coach DJ Smith are looking to see the likes of Jacob Bernard-Docker, Egor Sokolov, Lassi Thomson, Maxence Guenette and Roby Jarventie get playoff experience.
Eleven Ottawa wraps up the year, winger Parker Kelly will be sent back to Belleville to help them in the playoffs.
Belleville will have week off before closing out its campaign Saturday against Toronto at CAA Arena.
A BIG NIGHT
Kastelic must have been flying high when his flight landed in Toronto on Sunday with winger Scott Sabourin to help Belleville make the post-season.
The two goals against the Habs were a dream come true for Kastelic. A fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL draft, Kastelic is cementing his role as a fourth-line center here next season.
He scored his first NHL goal only 2:33 into the game and he became the first player in league history to get in a fight at exactly the same time.
Kastelic didn’t know he had beaten Habs goalie Carey Price and was challenged to a fight by Montreal’s Michael Pezzetta.
“I was thinking just throw the puck on the net,” said Kastelic. “When I did that, Pezzetta hit me, I didn’t see it coming, and me being the player that I am I’m going to stick up for myself and at the same time try and get the boys going and showcase that I ‘m not afraid to stick up for myself and the team.”
Scoring meant a lot for Kastelic, who was suiting up for his 13th game of the season. He’s only the sixth player in NHL history born in Arizona to score in the league.
“It’s super special. I’d been searching to get the monkey off my back so it feels good in that regard,” Kastelic said. “Being from Arizona, I like to represent it pretty good and hopefully I made the people back home proud.”
ISSUING AN APOLOGY
montreal winger Brendan Gallagher made himself the center of attention before the puck was even dropped Saturday night, and then was under spotlight after he skated away from the ceremonial faceoff without shaking hands with Ottawa captain Brady Tkachuk.
A sheepish Gallagher noted after the game he was caught up in the moment and just forgot. He maintained there was no disrespect intended to Tkachuk.
“I want to apologize. They were booing me and it kind of caught me off guard and I was laughing and got caught up in the whole thing,” Gallagher said. “I forgot to shake Brady’s hand, it was an honest mistake, and I got caught up in it.
“He had some things to say and he was right. It wasn’t a lack of respect. I wasn’t trying to do anything; it was just an honest mistake. I forgot and it was my bad. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
Gallagher was already in the crosshairs of the Senators after accusing center Tim Stuetzle of being a diver following Ottawa’s 6-3 win in Montreal on April 5.
“It added a little bit of intensity to the game,” Gallagher said. “There wasn’t much happening. Both teams were trying to win. I’ve said this before, he’s a really good player and we’ve got to be aware of him and try to play him hard.”
Gallagher did get a roughing penalty for taking Stuetzle out of the play in the second period along the boards.
THE LAST WORDS
We should get word early this week whether the Senators’ bid to host the 2023 IIHF world junior championship with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group was successful.
Hockey Canada officials met with members of the IIHF last week to discuss the bids and the applicants are hopeful they’ll hear this week which city will host the tourney
The indications are the bid to host games at the Canadian Tire Center and TD Place Arena was amongst three finalists. It’s believed Halifax/Moncton was considered to be the front runner.
Senators president of business operations Anthony LeBlanc and OSEG president Mark Goudie had to make a financial guarantee to Hockey Canada. It would be no surprise if that figure was in the $6-million range.
But beyond that you need to be able to show that your market can support the tourney with ticket sales and given the fact Ottawa set an attendance record for the tourney in 2009, that shouldn’t be an issue.