Nobody said this was going to be easy.
Then again, it's rarely been that way for these Binghamton Senators.
Just when Binghamton seemed poised to put a complete stranglehold on their second-round Calder Cup playoff series, the Portland Pirates sucked the air out of the balloon Saturday night for the B-Sens and a full house of 4,627 at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.
Tim Conboy's goal with 12.5 seconds left in regulation time stunned the B-Sens and gave the visiting Pirates a huge 3-2 victory. The result cut Binghamton's lead in the best-of-seven Atlantic Division final to 2-1 and was absolutely critical for Portland, which dropped the first two games of the series at Cumberland County Civic Center in Maine.
Now Binghamton has squandered one of three chances it had earned to finish the division final on home ice. They've still got two left, with Games 4 and 5 slated for Monday and Tuesday, respectively, at the Broome County Arena (both 7:05 p.m., Team 1200, ahllive.com).
Home ice hasn't exactly been advantage for the B-Sens so far in this post-season. They're 1-3 at the BCVMA to date in the playoffs, but have posted an impressive 5-1-0 mark on the road. Mind you, the one home victory was no small matter — an overtime triumph in Game 5 of their first-round series with the Manchester Monarchs that kept Binghamton's season alive.
Facing what was essentially a must-win game, the Pirates jumped on the B-Sens early, outshooting them 13-8 in the opening 20 minutes and taking a 1-0 lead on Brian O'Hanley's goal at the 5:29 mark of the opening period.
However, the tide turned Binghamton's way in the middle frame. Captain Ryan Keller squared matters 5:16 into the second with his fifth goal of the playoffs. Ryan Potulny drew an assist on the play, adding to his American Hockey League playoff-leading point total (8-9-17).Kaspars Daugavins
put the home side ahead for the first time with 5:04 left in the period, notching his fifth goal of the playoffs on the power play. The lead held up until the 14:51 mark of the third, when Derek Whitmore evened matters for the Pirates. From there, the game appeared headed to overtime until Conboy's late goal ended the night.
Five of Binghamton's games against Manchester in the opening round went to overtime, with the B-Sens winning four of them to take the series. Eight of Binghamton's 10 games so far in this post-season have been decided by a single goal, including two of three so far in this round.Cowen, Chiefs fall behind in WHL semifinal
Now it's sudden-death time for Jared Cowen
and the Spokane Chiefs.
In Western Hockey League playoff action Saturday night, the Senators defence prospect and the Chiefs were edged by the Winterhawks 3-2 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore. The 'Hawks now lead the best-of-seven Western Conference final by the same margin and can end the series with a victory Monday night in Spokane, Wash.
Game 7, if necessary, would be played Tuesday evening back in Portland.
The series winner advances to the WHL final against the Eastern Conference-winning Kootenay Ice, with the eventual champion advancing to the Memorial Cup, set for March 20-29 at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ont. The St. Michael's Majors, who are owned by Senators proprietor Eugene Melnyk, are the tournament hosts.