The first round of the American Hockey League’s “Battle of Ontario” played out at CAA Arena on Friday night, in a wild affair that saw the Belleville Senators edge the Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs) 7-6.
While Sens forward Drake Batherson would set a franchise record for points in a game it was defencemen who would do the brunt of the offensive work for both teams in the first.
Belleville got things started 2:10 into the period on Christian Wolanin’s 2nd of the season.
The Senators forecheck forced a turnover behind the Toronto goal line, Rudolfs Balcers made a neat feed out front to Wolanin, who was parked in the slot and the defender had plenty of time to wrist one past Jeff Glass.
Wolanin would finish the night with five points and says making good defensive decisions led to his offensive chances.
Toronto drew even just past the 9:00 mark on Timothy Liljegren’s 2nd of the season.
The young defenceman crept in from the right point took a feed from Sam Gagner, sliding it past Mike Condon to tie the game.
Condon was making his first start in Belleville, since being sent down from the NHL and joining the team earlier in the week.
Sens captain Erik Burgdoerfer, back from an NHL call up, would put his club back in front, with his second of the game, a few minutes after taking a penalty.
He broke the play out of the Belleville end with a pass to Chase Balisy who rushed into the zone on the right side and threw the puck in front of the net, but it hit a Toronto defender and fell right to Burgdoefer who had been charging the goal.
He knocked it past Glass to make it 2-1 Belleville, with that score standing after 20 minutes.
Burdoerfer would end up leaving the game late in the period with an undisclosed injury and didn’t return to the ice.
There was no update on his condition post game.
The second period was a frantic one which saw a combined six goals on 18 shots between both teams.
Belleville had the first real good chance of the period less than 2:00 in, with a puck sitting on the Toronto goal line, but Ben Sexton couldn’t tap it home.
The Marlies would tie it 2-2 just under 5:00 into the second.
Chris Mueller made a great play to take a lead feed on the near side boards, fight off a check and zip the puck across the zone to a streaking Dmytro Timashov, who tapped it along the ice past Condon.
Toronto would take its first lead about a minute later on an odd-man rush, when another defender Andreas Borgman, slammed home a one-time pass from Jeremy Bracco.
Timashov would earn an assist on that goal as well.
Belleville countered again at 8:39 of the frame, with Drake Batherson putting in his 6th goal of the season on a power play redirection.
Batherson continues to be one of the hottest rookies in the American Hockey League, leading the league in rookie scoring by registering 19 points in 13 games.
He says he was able to use his speed to make an offensive impact, but feels he just had a lucky night.
But the back and forth affair would continue, as Toronto made it 4-3 about a minute later.
Frank Corrado took a pass at the top of the right wing circle and snapped a high wrist shot past Condon.
Batherson would add two more points in quick succession as the Senators went back ahead.
First, at the 14:13 mark, chipping a pass over a diving Toronto defender to Balcers who scored his 1st of the game and 5th of the season to tie it 4-4.
Then, faking a slap shot and putting the puck low and hard to the net, so Filip Chlapik could redirect his second of the season on the power play, to make it 5-4 Belleville at the end of the 2nd.
The 10th goal of the game came just over 1:30 into the 3rd period when Mason Marchment tipped a shot from the far boards past Condon to tie it 5-5 on the power play.
Belleville got into some penalty trouble in the third period, taking four straight violations within the first 10 minutes and it cost them the lead.
Marchment was camped in front of the Belleville net and was able to shove home his 2nd of the game at 11:39, to make it 6-5 Marlies.
Before that, Belleville had a good chance to score during the short handed stretch with Jack Rodewald, back from his call up to Ottawa, getting stopped by Glass on a breakaway.
The lead wouldn’t last long as Adam Tambellini wired home his 6th of the season, to make it 6-6 and Batherson earned an assist, for his 5th point of the night.
The Senators took a late lead with under 2:00 left after working the puck nicely around the Toronto zone.
Francois Beauchemin finished the play for his 3rd goal of the season with Wolanin and Batherson drawing assists.
The five points for Wolanin was a career high and Batherson’s six points set a franchise record for points in a game.
The Senators then faced a minute-long flurry, after a Toronto time out, but were able to survive and hang on for the win.
Coach Troy Mann says he’s expecting another special teams battle on Saturday night for the second half of the double header.
Mann says there would be some discussion about whether to start Condon again on Saturday, or go back to Filip Gustavsson, but that decision still has to be made.
Puck drops at 7:00 p.m. at CAA Arena, with 800 CJBQ’s pre game coverage starting at 6:50 p.m. for Eastern Overhead Doors and Deerhaven Farm and Garden.
Limited tickets are also available at the box office, or by visiting the Belleville Senators website.