BINGHAMTON, N.Y. —
|Since arriving from the junior ranks, rookie defenceman Jared Cowen has quickly embraced a minute-munching role for the Binghamton Senators during the Calder Cup playoffs (Just Sports Photography).
The nickname is most commonly attached to Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen.
But forgive Binghamton Senators head coach Kurt Kleinendorst if he invokes that same moniker — The Mule — when describing the tireless play of rookie blueliner Jared Cowen
. The B-Sens bench boss can think of no better way to describe a 6-5, 230-pound defenceman who sucks up major minutes every night he suits up for his team.
"He's been a nice addition," Kleinendorst said of the Ottawa Senators' top pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, who joined the B-Sens during the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs against the Portland Pirates. "We got Jared in here and he doesn't play like a rookie. He doesn’t play like a kid who just went through his last year of junior this year on the west coast (for the Spokane Chiefs). He plays like a seasoned vet. He’s been good for us."
Cowen looks every bit the grizzled veteran, too, sporting a massive growth of playoff beard that is now enduring a second post-season run. The 20-year-old native of Allan, Sask., entered April with dreams of winning a second Memorial Cup with the Chiefs.
Instead, he's got a Calder Cup in his sights, with Game 3 of the final set for Wednesday night at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena (7:05 p.m., Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200). The B-Sens and Houston Aeros split the first two games of the series in Houston over the weekend.
Not that Cowen imagined he'd play such a central role in Binghamton's bid to win the franchise's first Calder Cup, and the first for the city in almost three decades of AHL participation.
"Coming in, I wasn’t really sure," Cowen said following B-Sens practice earlier today at Broome County Arena. "I was reading an article before I even got here and Kurt was saying they were going to be careful about who they put me out against. And I thought that’s fine, that sounds like a good plan. Then I got here and I think I played 30 minutes the first game.
"I don’t mind. I’ve been playing a lot of minutes all year in Spokane, so I’m used to it conditioning wise. I think it’s a lot more enjoyable and more fun when you play a lot of minutes like that."
Cowen didn't exactly have much time to ponder it all. He'd barely seen his season in Spokane ended by a third-round Western Hockey League playoff elimination at the hands of the Portland Winterhawks when he was jetting from one coast to the next to join the B-Sens in Maine.
"I was reading an article before I even got here and Kurt was saying they were going to be careful about who they put me out against. And I thought that’s fine, that sounds like a good plan. Then I got here and I think I played 30 minutes the first game. I don’t mind. I’ve been playing a lot of minutes all year in Spokane, so I’m used to it conditioning wise." - Jared Cowen
"It was a pretty quick turnaround, finishing one season and then sort of starting another. It was a bit of a whirlwind of a day," said Cowen, who admitted the experience was also difficult emotionally. "I was in Spokane for a long time — I spent my whole junior career there and it was tough to leave so quick and not close it out the way I wanted to, saying goodbye to the guys.
"I thought I’d be there for at least a couple of days before I came here, so that was hard. But coming here has been worth it, being in the final and having a chance to win a Calder Cup. That’s pretty exciting."
His arrival couldn't have been better timed, with the Binghamton blue line battered by injuries and down to just two healthy regulars. Cowen wasted little time making a contribution, assisting on a goal by Jim O'Brien
at the 0:25 mark of the first period as the B-Sens blanked the Pirates 3-0 to close out the Atlantic Division final.
"His transition (to the American Hockey League) was almost flawless," said Kleinendorst. "I don’t know that I’m surprised. We had Jared in (Senators) training camp and I had Jared at the rookie tournament in London (last September). You could just see how he developed in training camp and you could just see how he developed from Game 1 to Game 3 in rookie camp. He’s done a great job."Around the boards
All three games slated for Binghamton this week are virtual sellouts, with only single seats available for games Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Asked by a Houston reporter this morning about the type of atmosphere the Aeros should expect to see here, B-Sens captain Ryan Keller grinned knowingly and said "you'll see tomorrow." ... Broome County Arena's listed capacity is 4,710, about one-quarter the size of the Toyota Center in Houston (17,800). There's also a noticeable difference in the size of the ice surface ... To continue the David vs. Goliath comparison: Houston has the fourth-highest population in the United States (about 2.6 million), while Binghamton ranks 795th (44,401) according to 2009 U.S. Census Bureau estimates.