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Cup would put right cap on Benoit's season

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Defenceman Andre Benoit made his National Hockey League debut in Ottawa this season. Now he'd like to add a Calder Cup title with the Binghamton Senators to finish on a high (Just Sports Photography).

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — On the whole, it's been the kind of season that Andre Benoit most likely won't soon forget.

The 27-year-old native of nearby St. Albert, Ont., finally realized every player's dream back on Feb. 18, when he made his National Hockey League debut against the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Place. Benoit would go on to suit up for the Senators eight times before returning to the farm for good.

But the fun isn't done yet for Benoit and the Binghamton Senators, who are two wins away from claiming the first Calder Cup for the team and the city, which has been home to American Hockey League teams for 29 years. The B-Sens are currently all even with the Houston Aeros at 2-2 in the best-of-seven Cup finals, with Game 5 set for tonight at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena (7:05 p.m., Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200).

"It’s been a great ride," Benoit said earlier today. "Any time you can get on a playoff run like this ... it’s being with 25 guys and sharing a whole year. It’s been exciting and we’re where we want to be right now. We’ve just got to take advantage (of it)."

There is only one result, he added, that will bring this story to a proper conclusion

"Playing in the NHL was my goal this year and I accomplished that," said Benoit, who recorded a career-high 55 points (11-44) in 73 regular-season games for the B-Sens. "Now it’s just a matter of winning the Calder Cup. That’s the next goal."

Benoit has already been there once before — he and current B-Sens teammate Corey Locke were both members of the Hamilton Bulldogs' championship team in 2007. The 'Dogs followed a path that was very familiar to the one Binghamton is taking this year.

"The big similarity is we started on the road every series there, too, and being the underdog," said Benoit, the currently American Hockey League playoff scoring leader among defencemen (3-13-16). "I don’t know that we were the underdog here this year because of all the guys we got back (from Ottawa) at the end of the year, but it’s very similar, trying to steal games in their building and then coming home for three."

History suggests the winner of tonight's game is almost certain to become the Calder Cup champion. On 19 previous occasions in which a best-of-seven final has been tied 2-2, only one team — the 1987 Rochester Americans — has lost Game 5 and rallied to win the Cup

"It’s huge," B-Sens head coach Kurt Kleinendorst said of tonight's contest. "You’re either going into Game 6 up 3-2 or down 3-2. Big difference. We’ve been a good road team, but we don’t want to put ourselves into a position where we’ve got to go (to Houston) and win two games. Not that we couldn’t, but it’s not the best place to be."

Around the boards

After Friday's convincing 3-0 triumph over the Aeros, the B-Sens are 5-5 on home ice during these playoffs. They're 9-2 away from Broome County Arena ... Binghamton goaltender Robin Lehner leads the AHL with three playoff shutouts and now sports a 5-0 record after a loss ... Bank on a Binghamton player winning the Calder Cup playoff scoring race. Of those still active in the post-season, the top four point-getters are all B-Sens — Ryan Potulny (14-11-25), captain Ryan Keller (9-15-24), Kaspars Daugavins (10-8-18) and Zack Smith (6-12-18). Then comes Aeros leader Patrick O'Sullivan (4-13-17).

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