Brad Larsen is a master of the day-to-day as a head coach, and while it's difficult to ignore the Falcons' place atop the conference standings, he will want his team's sole focus on tonight's game at Mile One Centre.
Springfield was caught flat-footed to begin last night's game, and the IceCaps scored just over two minutes into the contest and got the building going early. But a gritty power play goal by captain Ryan Craig seemed to calm things down in the second period, and once the Falcons got the lead goal, they did what they do best and made it stand.
There was some adversity along the way, and the crowd got back into the game in the third period when St. John's got goals from Kevin Clark and Ray Sawada, the latter tying the game at 3-3.
Cam Atkinson's quick counter was the game-winner with 4:06 to play and it set the stage for another important game tonight (for both sides). Springfield kept pace with first-place Syracuse last night and a loss by the IceCaps kept them tied for second in the Atlantic Division.
Curtis McElhinney was darn good last night, too, and there were several sequences where it looked as if the IceCaps were due for a goal, but the veteran goaltender was solid.
St. John's brought the house in the third period, and after they tied the game, they were repeatedly frustrated by McElhinney.
Let's go through some notable items in advance of tonight's game:
-- With a 5-3 win last night, the Falcons have scored five goals in five consecutive road games. They have the AHL's top road record (7-1-1), and when you can score at-will as they have, it's easy to see why they've had so much success.
-- Somehow, Atkinson had a four-point night last night and wasn't awarded one of the game's three stars. I'm sure he will be just fine with the win, but hard to fathom a guy with the game-winner and three other points couldn't crack the list.
-- A two-point outing for Jonathan Audy-Marchessault last night put him third in the AHL scoring race. His 17 assists are tops among all Falcons, and second-most in the entire league.
-- Springfield notched a power play goal last night, marking the 17th time in 21 games they have done so this season. The Falcons power play now sits at 21.8 percent, which is the fifth-best efficiency in the league.
-- How about the Falcons' league-leading goal differential? They're at +30 after a two-goal margin on Friday.
The overwhelming majority of travel in the American Hockey League is done by charter bus.
For those rare occasions that require an airplane, a great deal of planning is required to make sure everyone gets where they need to go. The Springfield Falcons are in that boat (or plane?) this weekend, making their only trip to maritime Canada to face the St. John's IceCaps in scenic Newfoundland.
If you follow Falcons broadcaster Mike Kelly on Twitter -- and you should -- you would know that the team's path to St. John's was a lengthy one. The team bus left Springfield just before 3 a.m. on Thursday and shuttled the traveling party to Boston, where they would be flying into Toronto.
From Toronto, another flight took them to one of the easternmost cities in Canada to cap off a 12-hour excursion: quaint, breezy St. John's, home of the Winnipeg Jets' top affiliate.
And the IceCaps, while not the most convenient of opponents in terms of travel, are familiar with the Falcons after opening their season at MassMutual Center.
Reality is what it is: at some point soon, the Oshawa Generals will be without their captain and best player.
We’re closing in on two weeks until the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships and pre-tournament camps are in full swing for the annual competition held this year in Ufa, Russia.
The challenges are lofty for some junior clubs and coaches, highlighted by replacing significant offensive numbers and/or heavy minutes on defense – and that’s not to mention a few teams losing their No. 1 goaltenders. The tournament also falls at a pivotal point in the junior hockey schedule, leaving a brief “get up to speed” period before the second half of the season gets going.
Boone Jenner was recently invited to Canada's national junior team selection camp, which will take place Dec. 11-13 at Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, Alberta (got all that?). It's a strong likelihood that Jenner represents Canada at the World Junior, having played in the tournament before and filled an important two-way role at center ice.
Mike Reilly's impressive freshman season at the University of Minnesota just got significantly better.
The 19-year-old from Chanhassen, Minn., a fourth-round pick (98th overall) of the Blue Jackets at the 2011 NHL Draft in his home state, has been living a dream right now playing defense for the Golden Gophers and head coach Don Lucia.
He was named to USA Hockey's preliminary roster for the 2013 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship this morning. It's quite the big step for Reilly, who also participated in this summer's U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. -- a pre-cursor to the shaping of Team USA's roster.
The camp will take place starting next Monday in Calgary, Alberta, giving Hockey Canada's coaching and management staffs a chance to evaluate 37 of the top Canadian junior players in the country.
It's a decorated and star-studded list of invitees, headlined by names like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nathan MacKinnon, Griffin Reinhart and Malcolm Subban -- players who were first-round picks of their respective NHL clubs, and MacKinnon, the top-rated forward in this year's NHL draft class.
Jenner is among a group of six players (Jonathan Huberdeau, Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Strome, Mark Scheifele, Scott Harrington) who will be returning to the World Junior selection camp for another shot at a gold medal.
NOTE: Blue Jackets TV analyst Bill Davidge is one of the most plugged-in sources for information on college hockey, and he breaks down the action from Ohio's CCHA teams in this blog.
Friday: Hjelle continues strong play in goal
A third-period goal by sophomore Ryan Dzingel broke a scoreless tie as Ohio State defeated Michigan State 1-0 at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing. Buckeye senior goalie Brady Hjelle had 31 saves in capturing his third shutout of the season.
There are ups and downs throughout the course of a long hockey season, but the Falcons had at least hoped to convert Friday night's comeback win in Manchester into some positive momentum for the rest of the weekend.
Springfield stumbled to a 2-1 loss last night at the MassMutual Center to the same Monarchs they stunned the night before, and perhaps most disappointing was that they followed the blueprint from previous home-ice victories: they came out fast, scored the opening goal, and killed off a few penalties to keep the opponent frustrated.
But Dwight King's tying goal just minutes after Cam Atkinson scored on the power play seemed to alter the flow and get the Falcons off-balance. Linden Vey one-upped King's goal with the go-ahead tally 2:10 later, and that ended up being all the scoring Manchester needed to escape Springfield with two points.
And as the Falcons embark on another divisional match-up with the Connecticut Whale this afternoon in Hartford, it's worth noting that racking up some points on the road is going to bear even more importance as the schedule starts to balance out.
Last night's thriller in Manchester happened so fast for the Falcons, there really wasn't any time to exhale.
But the weight off their shoulders was undeniable as they shrugged off a three-game losing streak and battled back from a 3-0 deficit after two periods at Verizon Wireless Arena. The Monarchs seemed to be in cruise control, which is like an unintentional green light for an aggressive-by-nature club like Springfield.
First it was Nick Holden sniping one over Martin Jones' shoulder, and minutes later,Matt Calvert one-timed a beauty inside the post...and in an instant, it was a one-goal game. The ice had tilted, the Monarchs were puzzled and Brad Larsen's club was on its way toward ending a skid marred with misfortune.
Rookie forward Dalton Smith probably scored the most vital goal just 11 seconds after the Monarchs had restored a two-goal cushion. It changed the complexion of the game and ignited the Falcons bench.
Might the road (and a familiar opponent) be the cure to Springfield's losing skid?
Quite honestly, it feels weird typing the last two words of that opening sentence. The Falcons haven't been doing a lot of losing this year, and though we're only 18 games into the 76-game schedule, there's a sense of urgency to get things pointed in the right direction again.
Curtis McElhinney was their backbone for much of the opening stretch and they relied on a rock-solid penalty kill to get them out of danger, but when falling on hard times, support from other areas is needed. Springfield's three most recent defeats have come when allowing six goals (Portland), three power-play goals in the first period (Manchester), and the game-winner with 15.6 seconds left in regulation (Connecticut).
The issues, if you refer to them as such, are repairable. They are not systemic, but mental.
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We're just about ready for the next chapter in our "Behind The Battle" series on JacketsTV. From the hiring of John Davidson to the process of preparing for the 2013 NHL draft (and beyond), we've gone behind the scenes to document the process and tell the story.
The second episode of the show takes us to Toronto for the Blue Jackets' annual amateur scouting meetings. All those involved in planning and preparation for the draft gather for a weekend of preliminary discussions on players of interest, and they got out to see a few Ontario Hockey League games, as well.
Shown above is a "teaser" to get you ready for Episode 2 -- enjoy!