If you aren’t aware of what is happening for the NJ Devils’ top affiliate in Binghamton you might be pleasantly surprised. The BDevils have been winning and are in the thick of a playoff hunt in the North Division. For the first time in many seasons, scoreboard watching has become a thing for the Binghamton fanbase.
Let’s go back to Dec 14th, 2019 — when the BDevils were in last place with a 9-17-4-0 record — and floundering at the bottom of the league. Fans were hesitant in coming to games and the feeling was another lost season of hockey was inevitable in most minds.
Then things began to change with a formidable eight game winning streak.
Since then, fans have shown their support as there has been a remarkable turnaround with the team winning 12 of their last 15 and now in the thick of a playoff race. Binghamton is in 6th place percentage points in front of last place Syracuse and Cleveland with games on hand and is gaining ground for the final playoff slot in the North Division with 31 games remaining. The teams that earn a postseason berth are the top four clubs in each division.
Here is what sparked the comeback and the reasons behind it, including the locker-room banter on and off the ice.
5 Top Factors Leading To Recent Success
1). Cleaning House
Plain and simple.
The cancer was removed as Blake Speers was traded to Tucson while Joe Morrow abruptly left the team for the KHL. Since then, the team has gone on a 14-5 tear that led to a tighter bunch in the locker room as players have stepped up and defended one another on the ice that was lacking during much of the 1st Quarter.
I have heard some theories as to why between the two players, or perhaps a coincidence altogether, but nonetheless, the timing was right with the recent results. Otherwise, this subject is closed other than the thought of high testosterone levels involved between the two players that effected others.
I suppose. Meh. Next.
2). The Taylor Hall Effect
The trade that brought over Nick Merkley and Nate Schnarr has paid off in dividends bringing in two quality players as I outlined their relevance for the BDevils here as both players have made an impact.
Merkley has 5 goals, 9 assists in 17 games on the second line with Egor Sharangovich at center and Brett Seney on the left-wing. Schnarr has recorded 2 goals, 5 assists in 13 appearances playing center on the fourth line with Brandon Gignac and Marian Studenic/Fabian Zetterlund on wing.
Merkley has also seen playing time on the top powerplay unit and ample opportunities in the OT sessions. Schnarr is one to keep an eye on as the rookie shows promise adjusting to his first full season in the pros. Two really solid prospects for the Organization.
3). Player Development
You can see a handful of prospects continue to grow in their development such as Mikhail Maltsev, Egor Sharangovich, Joey Anderson, Colton White, and Fabian Zetterlund to name a few. Out of those mentioned, Maltsev is the one to keep an eye on as well as Schnarr, however that will be saved for a future profile piece.
With the right mix of veterans and prospects as well as quality players, this team has found a groove that best suits them while comfortable in their roles. Timing is everything and it is now gelling resulting in Binghamton’s recent success.
4). Improved Goaltending
There has been quite the rotation in goal over the last 15 contests as Cory Schneider, Louis Domingue, Evan Cormier all have seen the action as well as Eamon McAdam serving as a back-up for two games. Out of all those mentioned, there has been one that has been left out.
Gilles Senn, as his path of development continues to improve in each appearance. I’ve witnessed my share of goaltenders throughout 40 plus seasons in Binghamton and this prospect is one of the best I’ve seen.
Senn was reliable for the rookie netminder and overall 10-6-2-0, 2.93 GAA, 0.895 SV% in 19 games this season in his first experience to NA hockey rinks. Our Panel member @EmilyRose474 had this to say after the 2nd Quarter Report was published recently and she had high remarks concerning Senn.
5). Better Zone Coverage
Specifically, alterations in the defensive zone that has shut down opponents with forwards pinching in on the forecheck but also the neutral area coverage that has improved dramatically. Veteran players on the blueline such as Dakota Mermis, Julian Melchiori, Matt Tennyson, Josh Jacobs, Colton White have made a difference as the layers of coverage has every member buying into the system that Mark Dennehey and the coaching staff has in place.
One of the questions in the comments section during this recent surge; “With Hynes gone has Dennehey been given a longer leash to instill his own system tweaks?”
I don’t believe he was restricted to solely follow the Hynes systems in the past and has been allowed to form his ideologies without veering too far from the core set by NJ, and it has worked, most notably in those two areas.
Tracey’s Updates From Adirondack
Post-ECHL All Star Break, it was a tale of two different weeks for the Adirondack Thunder.
The team won its first three games out of the break with a much needed offensive attack, outscoring Brampton and Worcester 18-7. In their next three, all against Maine, a team they are chasing for a playoff spot, the Thunder dropped all three contests, one in overtime, and again found themselves outside the playoff picture as February begins.
After a 3-2 overtime loss in Maine on Saturday, Adirondack begins this week’s slate with an 18-20-6-5 record and 47 points, sitting three points behind Maine for the fourth playoff spot in the ECHL’s North Division.
Looking ahead in the month of February, the team will play 7 of their next 10 games in the friendly confines of the Cool Insuring Arena, starting with a two-game set against first place Newfoundland on Friday night, the team’s annual Stick it to Cancer weekend. The Thunder will then take their annual trip south, starting on Valentine’s Day in South Carolina against the Stingrays, then to Jacksonville on February 15th before finishing in Atlanta on February 18th.
A Top Line Emerges
With the team’s re-acquisition of forward John Edwardh on January 13th, the Thunder’s offense has seen some improvement. That can partially be attributed to the newly formed first line of Edwardh, Matt Salhany, and Mike Szmatula.
At least one skater on this line has put up points in 8 of the Thunder’s last 9 games. Edwardh has 2 goals and 6 assists in 9 games since returning to Glens Falls, while Szmatula has taken over the team scoring lead with 40 points in 42 games. Overall, the trio has combined for 11 goals and 18 assists since January 15th.
A Crowded Net
With Evan Cormier returning to the Thunder, the team finds itself once again with three quality goaltenders: Cormier, Eamon McAdam, and free agent pickup Sean Romeo. Unlike in the past, when the third goalie (i.e. Michael McNiven, Chris Nell) eventually found their way onto another ECHL team, the Thunder have decided for the time being to rotate their netminders. While McAdam continues to carry most of the workload—this may change slightly now that Cormier is back—Romeo has filled in quite well as a backup. He made his Thunder debut on January 26th in Worcester and proceeded to stop all 21 Railer shots in a 6-0 win. Romeo got a second start on Friday at home against Maine, but didn’t fare as well, only stopping 18 of 23 in a 5-2 loss.
- Charlie Curti (TC invite): Curti has 9 goals and 14 assists in 43 games. He had back-to-back two-point efforts (1 G, 1 A) in a two-game home set against Brampton on January 24th and 25th.
- James Henry (TC invite): Henry has 8 goals and 24 assists in 43 games. He had a season high three assists in a 6-0 win in Worcester on January 27th.
- Ludvig Larsson (AHL): Larsson has a goal and 2 assists in 7 appearances. He has been scoreless in two games since he was reassigned by Binghamton last week.
- Ara Nazarian (AHL): Nazarian has 8 goals and 13 assists in 40 games. He leads all Thunder skaters with a +10 rating, and has a goal and two assists in his last six appearances.
- Nikita Popugaev (AHL): Popugaev leads Thunder rookies in scoring with 8 goals and 16 assists in 37 games. He picked up his first two-goal outing on January 26th in Worcester but was then placed on reserve on Friday.
- Matt Salhany (TC invite): Salhany ranks second on the Thunder in scoring, with 16 goals and 18 assists in 48 games. He had back-to-back two-goal games on January 25th at home against Brampton and the 26th in Worcester.
- Colby Sissons (ELC): Sissons leads all Thunder defensemen in scoring, with 5 goals and 22 assists in 43 games. Three of those goals have come in his last 7 games, two on the power play.
- Michael Sdao (TC invite): Sdao remains out due to injury.
- Kelly Summers (TC/PTO): Summers has 7 goals and 10 assists in 35 games. He has 2 goals and 2 assists in his last 6.
- Ryan Walker (TC invite): Walker has 5 goals and 8 assists in 38 games. He has a goal and 3 assists in his last six appearances.
- Evan Cormier (ELC): Overall with the Thunder, Cormier is 3-2-4 in 10 games, with a 2.81 GAA and .901 save percentage. In his first start with Adirondack since January 4th, he took a 3-2 overtime loss in Maine, stopping 19 of 22 shots.
- Eamon McAdam (AHL): McAdam is 11-14-1 with a 3.30 GAA and .889 save percentage. He had a personal three-game win streak snapped last Wednesday in a 3-0 home loss to Maine. His 14 losses are tied for second among ECHL goaltenders.
Thanks for reading and look forward to your comments.