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Cup chase bodes well for Binghamton, Sens' future

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — It's been an epic run that, in so many ways, has galvanized a town, a team and its people.

But bet on the benefits of the Binghamton Senators' run to the brink of a Calder Cup championship making their way north of the border soon enough.

While the Southern Tier, as it's called in these parts, is hungry for Binghamton's first title in 29 years of American Hockey League participation, the folks behind the bench haven't forgotten the other side of their mission — development of young talent for the parent Ottawa Senators. And B-Sens head coach Kurt Kleinendorst, for one, believes everything that's transpired over the past two months can't help but benefit the big club down the road.

"We’re here chasing a Cup but at the same time, we’re still here to develop players," Kleinendorst said earlier today. "I always say you only get the experience through experience. You have no idea, unless you’ve experienced a seven-game series, what it takes to win a seven-game series. (This playoff run) is a great experience.

"These guys are way ahead of the curve now compare to (where they'd be) if we weren’t going through what we’re going through now. We’re talking about (Jared) Cowen. I know he’s gone through seven-game series, but this is the second-best league in the world and here we are in the finals of the Calder Cup. (Mark) Borowiecki, (Mike) Hoffman, (Robin) Lehner ... you can just go right down the list. We’re going to be better as an organization because of this little run we went on."

Tonight, however, will be about delivering one final victory for the fans of Binghamton, who all but blew the roof off Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena during Friday's 3-0 triumph over the Houston Aeros that evened the series at two wins apiece. The sellout throng of 4,710 stood as one for final two minutes of the contest, roaring their approval and support for their team.

No matter what happens the rest of the way, tonight's game will be the last of the season at Broome County Arena — Games 6 and 7 (if necessary) are set for the Toyota Center in Houston.

Following eveyr win since the start of the playoffs, the B-Sens have been placing pucks into a plaque that has 16 spaces — the number of victories needed to claim the Calder Cup. Only two spots remain vacant, and they'd like to reduce that number to one for the home crowd this evening. But Kleinendorst said now isn't the time to be overcome by sentiment.

"We just want to win," he said. "Believe me, we love what we’re doing and it’s been a great run, but we want to get this over with. We know our summer’s there waiting for us. It’s been great and I guarantee this (playoff run) will be one of those experiences that all of us — not just myself, but the players and even the fans here in Binghamton — will always look back on as being somewhat of a special time.

"It really has been, the enthusiasm that has come back into this building and back into this city, and the pride in the locker room, just everything that we’ve done. At the end of the night, we’ll take it all in, we’ll let the crowd know that we appreciate them and then we’ve got a lot of work to still do (in Houston)."

B-Sens forward Colin Greening said the realization that their final home game of the season is at hand tonight is "a little bit sad in a way."

"But to be honest, when you think about, we should be happy, too, that we’ve been able to play as many games as possible in this rink," he said. "It’s been a really good experience and we’ve had a fun time here, especially in the last couple of series when it’s really been packed in here. That’s made it even more fun for us to play at home."

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