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Rockin' home crowd awaits B-Sens in Cup final

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Geoff Kinrade and the Binghamton Senators are aiming to take full advantage of the sellouts crowds that will fill their home rink for the Calder Cup finals this week (Just Sports Photography).

They've gone from searing Texas heat to an early blast of summer in southern New York.

While the temperature gauge might seem similar, the Binghamton Senators can surely tell the barometer has begun to swing their way in the Calder Cup Finals, if ever so slightly. With a split of the first two games of the American Hockey League's championship series, the B-Sens now look forward to playing the next in three in the comfortable confines of Broome County Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The joint figures to be jumping for Game 3, when B-Sens management is calling for a 'Whiteout Wednesday' to add to the raucous atmosphere the title-starved fans of Binghamton, N.Y., will bring to the rink. Win all three at home this week and the B-Sens can lay claim to the city's first Calder Cup in nearly 30 years of AHL participation in the Southern Tier.

"We're in the driver's seat," Binghamton head coach Kurt Kleinendorst said following Saturday's 2-1 overtime triumph at the Toyota Center in Houston. "It's not a best-of-seven anymore. It's a best-of-five. Three of the five are in our building. We knew going into (Saturday) that if we won, it doesn't guarantee us anything, but it puts us in the driver's seat.

"We've been a good home team all year. I'm happy to get our crowded locker rooms back and our crammed neutral zone back and our short little corners back. And then we get to play in front of our fans, which as much as they gave (the Aeros) a boost here, our fans give us a boost, as well."

While the Aeros play in a 17,800-seat facility in which the National Basketball Association's Houston Rockets are the prime tenant, the Broome County arena is a veritable bandbox by comparison, seating a mere 4,710. But the kind of roar they'll produce will be music to the ears of the Binghamton players, who intend to use it to the utmost advantage.

"As far as rinks we've played in (during) this playoffs, this is hands down the loudest one with the most energy," defenceman Geoff Kinrade told the Binghamton Sun & Press-Bulletin. "It's been great. I would definitely rather (play in front of) this home crowd than any other we've seen in the playoffs. It's good to have them on our side."

Added forward Ryan Potulny: "If I was the other team, I'd be a little intimidated coming out in this arena. The fans get into it for a big shift and you can hear them getting loud ... It helps us out as a team. And it's probably got to intimidate the other team when they're in here. The place will be rocking, I know that. It will be fun for us."

"As far as rinks we've played in (during) this playoffs, this is hands down the loudest one with the most energy. It's been great. I would definitely rather (play in front of) this home crowd than any other we've seen in the playoffs. It's good to have them on our side." - Geoff Kinrade
Now the B-Sens have to regain the form that allowed them to roll through the Manchester Monarchs, Portland Pirates and Charlotte Checkers en route to the franchise's first-ever berth in the Calder Cup Finals. The Aeros limited the American Hockey League's highest-scoring playoff team to just three goals in the first two games of the series, with Binghamton's top line of Potulny (the AHL's playoff scoring leader), captain Ryan Keller and Zack Smith held scoreless to date.

"We weren't as good as we're going to need to be," Kleinendorst said in summing up the first two games. "We dodged a little bit of a bullet. I don't love us right now. I know my team and I know what we do when we're playing well. Even though we battled hard, we still just don't look crisp to me ... I'm just relieved we got out of (Houston) winning a game.

"I thought we would be getting better every single game. We were better (Saturday) than we were (in Game 1, a 3-1 loss). I would expect that we're going to be better in Game 3. That's just the way we approach every series. We want to get better every game."

Goaltender Robin Lehner echoed that sentiment, telling the Press & Sun-Bulletin he believes the B-Sens "have at least one or two gears left to put in" against the Aeros.

"I don't want to say we haven't played in a couple weeks, because that doesn't matter in the final," Lehner said with reference to the B-Sens' eight-day layoff prior to Friday's opener. "I just think we need to kind of find our way back. I'm not saying we're not playing good, but I know we can play a lot better and I know the guys think that."

Watch Calder Cup Finals on Sportsnet Sens

Rogers Sportsnet announced today it will broadcast all the remaining games of the Calder Cup Finals between the B-Sens and Aeros, starting with Game 3 on Wednesday night in Binghamton (7:05 p.m., also Team 1200).

Subscribers to Rogers Sportsnet One can watch the games on Sportsnet Sens, its companion channel. The coverage includes three games in Binghamton this week, plus potential Games 6 and 7 next week in Houston.

Around the boards

With 12 goals so far in this post-season, B-Sens forward Bobby Butler is just two shy of the AHL rookie playoff record of 14, currently held by Sean McKenna (Rochester, 1983) and Jamie Benn (Texas, 2010) ... Lehner has stopped 66 of 69 shots he's faced so far against the Aeros ... Kleinendorst said this morning that injured defencemen Derek Smith and Craig Schira have been cleared to return to game action, but no decision has been made yet on when they'll play ... For Ottawa fans considering a trip down to Binghamton for Game 5 on Saturday, only 300 tickets now remain for that game. And they only went on sale at noon today. Friday's Game 4 is a virtual sellout, with only limited obstructed view seating still available, while fewer than 250 tickets are left for Game 3.

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