The Binghamton Senators achieved an unlikely accomplishment Wednesday night when they finished off the Charlotte Checkers in the American League’s Eastern Conference final.
The Senators steamrolled a Charlotte club that had taken out the league’s top regular season team, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and a strong Hershey team that was attempting to defend back-to-back Calder Cup championships.
The Senators, led by a cache of Ottawa prospects who saw late-season NHL time, have barreled through the AHL post-season since they faced a Game 5 elimination against first round opponent Manchester. The Senators pulled off three consecutive overtime wins against the Monarchs and then erased the Portland Pirates to advance to the club’s first conference final since 2003.
Binghamton reached the post-season for the first time since 2005 and top goaltending prospect Robin Lehner has helped lead the club’s charge along with veteran Ryan Potulny, acquired from the Chicago organization at the NHL trade deadline in February, who has rolled off 14 goals in 17 playoff games. Youngsters Bobby Butler and Kaspars Daugavins have 10 goals apiece and tough center Zach Smith rolled off a hat trick to help the Senators take a 7-1 Game 3 win against Charlotte.
The Senators will now face the winner of the Hamilton-Houston Western Conference final that the Aeros lead 3-1. Those two clubs resume play on Friday in Hamilton for Game 5.
The Ottawa affiliate completed a most impressive sweep of the Checkers. While an Ottawa top-level affiliate reached the old International League’s Turner Cup final in 2000 with Grand Rapids, an Ottawa affiliate had never advanced to the Calder Cup final until Wednesday night.
As well, the city of Binghamton will see its first trip to the Calder Cup final since the long-departed Binghamton Whalers finished as a Cup finalist back in 1982. The city, a long-time staple in the AHL, has never won a Calder Cup.
Whether the Senators play the Aeros or the Bulldogs, they will be a facing a club that has won the Calder Cup within the past decade. The Bulldogs, a Montreal affiliate, have made Calder Cups a semi-regular occurrence for Habs farmhands.
The five Calder Cups that Montreal farm teams have won since NHL expansion in 1967 are tied with the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals for AHL championship success. Habs prospects last won a Calder Cup in 2007, while Washington-affiliated youngsters have won four Calder Cups since 1994, the most of any NHL club in that span.
Montreal and New Jersey are the only NHL clubs since 1967 to have won both a Stanley Cup and a Calder Cup in the same spring. The Devils most recently pulled off the feat in 1995.
From THN.com American League correspondent Patrick Williams, Around The AHL keeps tabs on the world’s second best circuit, details all the news and notes and profiles prospects destined for the next level. It appears every Thursday only on TheHockeyNews.com.