|Zack Smith of the Binghamton Senators battles for control of the puck behind the Houston net with Robbie Earl of the Aeros. The B-Sens dropped a 3-1 decision at the Toyota Center in the opening game of the Calder Cup Finals. Game 2 is tonight in Houston (Photo by Morris Molina/Houston Aeros).
For only the second time in these Calder Cup playoffs, the Binghamton Senators are facing an early uphill fight.
Veteran forward Jed Ortmeyer netted two of Houston’s three goals in the third period, and the Aeros rallied for a 3-1 win over the visiting B-Sens on Friday before 8,018 fans at Toyota Center in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals.
Houston halted the B-Sens’ eight-game playoff road winning streak — one shy of an American Hockey League record — and handed Binghamton its first defeat on enemy ice since Game 1 of the division semifinals at Manchester, a 2-1 setback on April 14 which also marked the last time the Sens were held to only one goal.
In its previous two series, against the Portland Pirates and Charlotte Checkers, the B-Sens brought a pair of road victories back to Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, N.Y. The B-Sens went on to close out the Pirates in six games and Charlotte in four.
Binghamton sat for eight days after sweeping the Checkers and it showed.
"I have no idea who just played out there," B-Sens head coach Kurt Kleinendorst told reporters afterward. "That wasn't my team. 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. That might be the best thing that happened to us."
Friday night's game was scoreless until more than halfway through the second period before Binghamton rookie Bobby Butler
broke through at 16:17 for his rookie-leading 11th goal of the postseason, with fellow rookie Colin Greening
picking up the lone helper.
Ortmeyer, a veteran of 310 National Hockey League contests, tied the game up 1:47 into the third period and then notched the eventual game-winner at the 6:09 mark. Former first-round draft pick Colton Gillies and defenceman Marco Scandella assisted on both goals, which were Ortmeyer’s fifth and sixth of the playoffs.
"That wasn't my team. 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. That might be the best thing that happened to us." - Kurt Kleinendorst
Houston forward Warren Peters, making his second straight Calder Cup Finals appearance after getting this far with Texas in 2010, added an empty-net tally in the game's closing minute.
"We weren't sharp," Binghamton captain Ryan Keller told the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
. "Somehow, we got into the third period up 1-0 and probably didn't deserve to be. Throughout the whole game, we made it really hard on ourselves, turning pucks over through the neutral zone. We were way too cute for a Calder Cup Finals game.
"These are two good teams that deserve to be here. We're not happy with the way things went tonight, but we feel that we kind of did it to ourselves."
Aeros rookie goaltender Matt Hackett finished with 23 saves on 24 shots to improve to 13-6 in 19 post-season contests. At the other end, 19-year-old Robin Lehner
made 38 saves for Binghamton. At one point in the third period, the Aeros held a 12-1 edge in shots, but Lehner kept it close through that early barrage.
"(Lehner) held us in there," said Keller. "Around the net, there were a lot of chances for them from our turnovers. He stood tall for us and it's too bad that we couldn't help him out."
Both sides finished 0-for-2 on the power play in a game which only featured a combined 14 minutes in penalties.
The teams will get right back on the Toyota Center ice for Game 2 on Saturday night (8:35 p.m., Team 1200, ahllive.com) before the series shifts to Binghamton next week for the next three games.
"We have no choice but to respond," said Keller. "It stings, and it will for the rest of the night. We'll be fine. It's one game. Nobody's panicking in there. It's going to be a long series and we're prepared for that."— Files from AHL.com contributed to this report