BINGHAMTON, NY - It was a sweet return to the ice for Mike Hoffman. The left winger, one of the Binghamton Senators’ top scorers, missed over a month due to injury, and returned to the lineup in the Senators 5-2 defeat over the Albany Devils Friday night at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. In his triumphant return, Hoffman scored his 13th goal of the season.
“Overall, I felt good,” Hoffman said.
It was a bit of a sluggish start, with both teams feeling each other out early. 15:27 into the opening frame, though, Cole Schneider had control of the puck off a pass from Mark Stone. He found himself right in front of Albany goalie Keith Kinkaid. Instead of taking the shot, the winger passed it to a striking Shane Prince who ripped a one-timer into the open net to make it 1-0 Sens.
The two teams seemed to wake up in the second, scoring in bunches. Binghamton tripled their lead in the matter of a minute. The first goal came 3:13 into the second stanza, as Schneider came in on the right wing after an interception in the offensive end. He received a cross-ice feed from Pat Cannone and ripped it top shelf over Kinkaid, extending the lead to 2-0. This was not the end of Schneider’s night.
“I was going up high,” Schneider said. “I was covering the point, but then I saw us get the puck and I just slipped in there. Cannone made a nice pass.”
Under a minute later, at 4:04, Hoffman picked up where he left off, with the aforementioned 13th goal of his season. It was enough to make the thrid-year pro the second star.
“It was a good pick from [Matt Stone] and he got me the puck,” the scorer said. “I just put it on net. Good things happen when you do that.”
Albany had something to say about the 3-0 lead, scoring two unanswered goals midway through the period. Matt Anderson started off the Devils’ scoring spree. He ripped a hard slapshot from the slot off the pass from Patrick Burlon. His 12th goal of the year came at the 10:48 mark.
Just over a minute later, it was Albany again with a goal, making the game competitive again. David Wholberg, who was held without a goal for the first 24 games he played in this season, scored his first goal since March 30, 2012, and the second of his young career. The defenseman came in on the right side and received a beautiful pass from Kelly Zajac. He was able to get it past Senators goalie Nate Lawson to make it a 3-2 game.
“I think we had a bit of a lapse,” coach Luke Richardson said. “We felt a little too pleased of ourselves and let them back in it…They’re a team that never quits.”
Hoffman took a huge penalty for slashing just a minute and a half later, seemingly turning the momentum the other way. This played right into the hands of the Senators, who lead the league in shorthanded goals. This time it was Corey Cowick who came flying in and went five-hole on Kinkaid to make the game 4-2.
“I think the fourth goal was huge for us,” Richardson conceded. “[It got] us back on track and [relieved] a little pressure.” Richardson later continued praising the penalty kill unit for the goal.
The two teams held each other in check until the final seconds of the third when Schneider scored on the empty net to ice the game at 5-3.
With the win and a Syracuse loss, the Senators are just two points behind the Crunch for first place in the Eastern Division and the Eastern Conference. The Devils will try to help Binghamton as they play at the Crunch tomorrow night. Hamilton, the team that beat Syracuse tonight, travels to Binghamton for tomorrow’s game.
Hoffman reiterated that the focus is not on Syracuse’s play and the goal is to just get into the playoffs.
“We just need to focus on ourselves right now. If they win, good for them. If not, too bad, but we’re just going to worry about ourselves right now.”
The magic number now stands at 12 points, but Binghamton is effectively in the playoffs. The only question is whether they will be first or fourth.
The Sens were leading in shots for most of the game but in the end, were outshot 30-28.
Dustin Gazley was boarded into by Eric Gelinas 9:24 into the third. He was helped off by his teammate and the trainer after running head first into the boards and falling onto the ice. Gelinas received a two minute boarding call. Richardson commented on the injury postgame:
“I haven’t actually seen him or heard yet. I know the trainer just said he went in hard on his back. He didn’t say anything about his head or a concussion which is a good thing. We’ve got great trainers and guys that can work on him. I wouldn’t see him out too long. His determination is what got him to this point. I just see him progressing and pushing forward.”
1. BNG Cole Schneider (2 G, A)
2. BNG Mike Hoffman (1 G)
3. BNG Nate Lawson (28 SV, W)