The Afternoon Shift – May 19

Pain preceded Keller's pleasure./Photo by Rebecca Catlett

After missing the playoffs each of the past five seasons, the Binghamton Senators have earned a spot in the 2011 Calder Cup Final with a four-game sweep of Charlotte. As a result, the top affiliate of the Ottawa Senators will play for a championship for the first time since Grand Rapids reached the IHL’s Turner Cup Final in 2000.

How appropriate that Binghamton’s series-clinching goal was scored by a former Griffin.

Ryan Keller scored off a faceoff 13:05 into overtime on Wednesday to give the Senators a 4-3 victory, eliminating the Checkers. The B-Sens’ captain continued his incredible postseason production, as he now ranks among the Calder Cup leaders with 22 points (2nd), 14 assists (1st) and a plus-10 rating (T2nd).

Keller, we must admit, is “one that got away” from the Griffins. He spent parts of two seasons (2005-07) in Grand Rapids, most notably tallying 17 points (9-8–17) in 38 games during the 2006-07 campaign, before being traded to Syracuse for Ben Simon on Feb. 26, 2007.

Whether influenced by Keller’s 5-10 height or his pedestrian pedigree – he spent the majority of his rookie pro season of 2005-06 with the UHL’s Muskegon Fury – the trade certainly was not favorable for the Griffins in hindsight.

Simon, five years older than Keller, came to Grand Rapids with a proven body of work, having appeared in 81 career NHL games with Atlanta and Columbus and having won championships with Orlando (2001 IHL) and Chicago (2002 AHL). After joining a Griffins team that was looking to get over a playoff hump following conference-final losses in three of the previous six seasons, he contributed nine points (4-5–9) in 21 appearances during the regular season but went scoreless in seven playoff games, as the Griffins fell to Manitoba in the first round. Since then, Simon has bounced around the AHL, ECHL and European circuit, spending the 2010-11 season with Sheffield in the United Kingdom’s Elite Ice Hockey League.

By contrast, Keller’s career has followed a nearly opposite arc. After spending a pair of point-per-game seasons (2007-09) in Finland, he enjoyed a breakout North American campaign in 2009-10, when he scored 68 points and a team-high 34 goals for Binghamton. Keller was chosen to participate in the 2010 AHL All-Star Classic and made his NHL debut in six games with Ottawa, becoming the Griffins’ 106th NHL alumnus. And now, in his sixth pro season, he stands poised to raise a cup…just like Simon did in his first.

Today’s Griffins link:

AHL links:

Alumni news and notes:

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