OT GOAL SENDS SENS TO FINALS, ENDS CHARLOTTE’S SEASON
Checkers finish with longest playoff run by Hurricanes AHL affiliate
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. Despite a game-tying goal by Chris Terry with 1:24 left in the third period, the Binghamton Senators got a goal by Ryan Keller at 13:05 of overtime to win the game, 4-3, and Eastern Conference Final series, 4-0.
With the win, the Senators become the first Binghamton-based team to reach the Calder Cup Finals since the 1981-82 Whalers. Binghamton also becomes the first team since the 1974-75 New Haven Nighthawks to reach the Calder Cup Finals after finishing fifth in its division during the regular season.
For the Checkers, the loss concludes their inaugural AHL season and Calder Cup Playoffs, during which they eliminated the two-time defending Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears, Kilpatrick Trophy-winning Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and advanced further than any Carolina Hurricanes-AHL affiliate since the team’s relocation to North Carolina from Hartford in 1997.
In the most closely contested game of the series, the Senators’ best offensive players were Ryan Potulny and Andre Benoit, who each recorded a goal and an assist. With 42 saves on 45 shots on Wednesday, Robin Lehner won for the 10th time in the playoffs and fourth straight time in overtime.
Finishing off a stellar season in which he returned from injury to take the starting job and help eliminate Hershey and Wilkes-Barre, Mike Murphy was solid in Game 4, making 33 saves. Chris Terry had two goals, Brett Sutter added two assists and Casey Borer scored his first-career Calder Cup playoff goal.
Binghamton struck first, for the fourth time in the series, on a power-play goal by Potulny. The Senators center accepted a Mike Hoffman pass at the side of the net and ripped a shot by Murphy.
Six minutes after Potluny’s goal, a two-minute slashing penalty by Cody Bass gave the Checkers a power-play chance of their own with a chance to tie the game. Kaspars Daugavins, however, stole the puck in the Charlotte zone, raced down the right-wing boards and finished the shorthanded effort by deking Murphy for his 10th goal of the playoffs.
With the Checkers’ season hanging into balance, the team’s two leading scorers from the regular season, Boychuk and Terry, connected and cut Binghamton’s lead to 2-1 with 2:40 left in the second period. Boychuk fed a pass across the crease that hit a stick in front, where Terry batted the puck out of mid-air, into the back of the net.
Then, just 1:19 later, Charlotte tied the game when a point-shot by Borer found its way through traffic and past Lehner.
Down by a goal, and with the Checkers’ season on the line, Terry tied the game with 1:24 left in the third period by executing a forehand-to-backhand deke in close on Lehner.
After the teams traded scoring chances in the opening minutes of the overtime period, Zack Smith won an offensive-zone faceoff back to Keller, who ripped a shot past Murphy’s blocker, ending the Checkers’ season.
The Senators will now meet the winner of the Hamilton/Houston Western Conference Finals series in the Calder Cup Finals beginning next week.
Notes: Brett Sutter finished the 2011 playoffs with a Charlotte-best 10 assists and 14 points… Zac Dalpe finished the 2011 playoffs with a Charlotte-best six goals…Chris Terry led the Checkers with four points (2g, 2a) in Eastern Conference Finals…The Senators improved to 5-0 in the playoffs when scoring a shorthanded goal…Binghamton improved to 5-1 in overtime in the playoffs…The Checkers advanced further in the playoffs than any Hurricanes AHL affiliate since the franchise moved to North Carolina.
Charlotte 0 2 1 0 – 3
Binghamton 2 0 1 1 – 4
1st Period-1, Binghamton, Potulny 14 (Hoffman, Benoit), 12:34 (PP). 2, Binghamton, Daugavins 10 (Condra), 19:39 (SH). Penalties-Locke Bng (slashing), 6:20; Nash Cha (hooking), 11:21; Bass Bng (slashing), 19:13.
2nd Period-3, Charlotte, Terry 5 (Boychuk, Sutter), 17:20. 4, Charlotte, Borer 1 18:39. Penalties-No Penalties
3rd Period-5, Binghamton, Benoit 3 (Butler, Potulny), 4:44 (PP). 6, Charlotte, Terry 6 (Sutter, Rodney), 18:36. Penalties-Dodge Cha (slashing), 2:56; Bellemore Cha (slashing), 3:20; FitzGerald Cha (high-sticking), 5:55; Osala Cha (slashing), 9:07.
OT Period-7, Binghamton, Keller 8 (Smith), 13:05. Penalties-Bass Bng (delay of game), 6:22.
Shots on Goal-Charlotte 12-18-9-6-45. Binghamton 8-14-10-5-37.
Power Play Opportunities-Charlotte 0 / 3; Binghamton 2 / 5.
Goalies-Charlotte, Murphy 7-7-0 (37 shots-33 saves). Binghamton, Lehner 10-2-0 (45 shots-42 saves).
Referees-Jean Hebert (43), David Banfield (44).
Linesmen-Judson Ritter (34), Jameel Chaudry (51).