The Belleville Senators welcomed the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings) to CAA Arena on Friday, for the first ever meeting between the two clubs and handed their cross-conference opponent a 5-3 loss.
Head Coach Troy Mann says the depth scoring really made the difference for his club.
The first six minutes or so were rather slow, with both teams trying to feel each other out, but Belleville would open the scoring at 5:56 on the power play.
Nick Paul knocked in a rebound on a broken play, six seconds into the man advantage, with Jack Rodewald and Drake Batherson earning the assists.
Paul would leave the game near the end of the second period after blocking a shot and went for X-rays, but results of that weren’t available by the end of the game.
Belleville scored again a minute later when Stuart Percy forced a turnover in the Griffins’ zone. Francois Beauchemin fed Adam Tambellini in the near circle and he put home a wrister to make it 2-0.
Chase Balisy had a chance to make it 3-0 on a penalty shot, after being hauled down on a break away, but couldn’t beat Harri Sateri high glove side.
Grand Rapids would get one back by the end of the period.
Turner Elson set up at the top of the right circle and redirected Filip Hronek’s point shot past Mike McKenna to cut the lead to 2-1.
Chris Terry almost evened the score within the first 2:00 of the second period when he busted into the Belleville zone on the right wing side and blasted a shot off the post, during a four-on-three power play.
Belleville would reinstate the two-goal lead again at 8:12 following some nice work by defender Patrick Sieloff.
He fought off two Griffins in the neutral zone, to get the puck into the offensive end, got a pass off to Adam Tambellini, who flicked into the middle for Jack Rodewald and he backhanded a pass to a trailing Stuart Percy, who wired a shot past Sateri to make it 3-1.
At 10:16 Grand Rapids captain Adam Ford scored one of the nicest goals of the night, when he took a long stretch feed from Jake Chelios and deked out Mike McKenna on the break away, finishing with a back hand five-hole.
Belleville made it 4-2 about 5:00 later, when Ben Sexton followed up a missed short handed chance and threw a puck back to Sieloff, who muscled a slap shot past Sateri, who got a piece of the shot, but not enough.
Sieloff says the offensive game isn’t what he’s known for, but the depth of the team makes it a little bit easier for him to play the other side of the puck.
The Griffins would answer a minute or so later, on another long deflection, this time by Axel Holmstrom
It was 4-3 Belleville after 40 minutes.
Belleville would cap the scoring early in the third with Sexton starting the play again by keeping the puck in the offensive zone, chasing it into the corner and finding Chase Balisy in the slot and his wrist shot beat Sateri clean to make it 5-3.
Sexton, who was playing in just his second game since the pre season, says he’s starting get into game shape.
Grand Rapids would pull the goalie with close to 3:00 remaining, but the Sens would survive the offensive push and pick up the win to get back to the .500 mark, despite being outshot 34-27.
Mann says while his team had some good pressure on the Griffins early, there a few things he’d like his team to clean up, heading into the rematch on Saturday
The two teams will battle again on Saturday night at CAA Arena, with puck drop at 7:00 and 800 AM CJBQ’s broadcast time at 6:50 p.m.
Tickets are still available at the CAA Arena box office or at www.bellevillesens.com.