GAME DAY BLOG: Falcons vs. IceCaps
8:40 P.M. -- Springfield struck early in the second period and started to take control of this hockey game. With 20 minutes to play, the Falcons have clearly been the better club and lead 3-1.
QUICK TAKE: It looked like the IceCaps were napping in the neutral zone when Tomas Kubalik scooped up the puck and tore into the offensive zone. Despite a heavy hook applied to his forearm, Matt Calvert received a beautiful cross-ice feed and gave the Falcons a 2-1 edge just 19 seconds into the period.
At one point, the Falcons held an 18-5 advantage in shots on goal and almost forgot what their own zone smelled like. St. John's was on its heels for most of the period and took a couple of careless penalties that stunted any sense of momentum.
The final tally of the second period came off the stick of big, rugged Dalton Smith. Sean Collins did the spade work in the corner and Smith walked it off the end line, driving hard to the net and lifting a backhander short-side on Pasquale with 6:36 left in the period.
With 20 minutes to play, the Falcons are in good shape but need to maintain the pace they've established so far.
7:45 P.M. -- End of the first period at The Nest and we're tied 1-1.
QUICK TAKE: The Falcons were fast out of the gate and you can clearly see what Brad Larsen wants his team to do: they play fast, in-your-face and they waste no time moving the puck in the right direction. Springfield rolled all four lines and got the entire bench involved early, and the crowd responded to some big hits from Dalton Smith and Cody Bass.
Couple of weak penalties called against the Falcons and one came back to bite them. St. John's caught Springfield in a line change at center ice and Carl Klingberg went one-on-one down the right side. One quick move to the net was all he needed to stuff it past Curtis McElhinney for a 1-0 lead at 8:03.
Really, it was all Falcons for most of the opening frame. They had the better of the chances and possessed the puck at a clear advantage, but failed to equalize until the 16:03 mark.
JAM won a battle deep in the offensive zone and found Tim Erixon at the center point. Erixon ripped a one-timer into traffic and Ryan Craig tipped it past Pasquale to level things up.
Second period action is on the way in about 10 minutes.
6:55 P.M. -- Scratches for tonight's game have just been announced...
The Falcons scratch: Weber, Russell, Amadio, Hansen, Madaisky, York, MacLeod, Ruth, Spencer.
6:40 P.M. -- Warmups are complete here in Springfield, and both clubs have got their pre-game reps in before opening night. Curtis McElhinney is indeed the starting goaltender for the Falcons tonight, and he will oppose Eddie Pasquale for the IceCaps.
Based on the line rushes, here are the Falcons' lines for tonight:
The defense pairs appear to be the same as this morning.
With that being said, we're about 20 minutes from the face-off and start of an exciting season for the Blue Jackets' top affiliate. The Zambonis are on the ice and MassMutual Center and it's almost time for hockey!
4:00 P.M. -- One of the significant acquisitions this past offseason may not be as heralded as others, but that doesn't bother Tim Erixon. The quiet, goes-about-his-business 21-year-old defenseman was a stud last year for Connecticut (AHL), racking up 30 assists in 52 games.
He's an all-situations defenseman and a player that Brad Larsen is going to get a lot of mileage from. I talked with Larsen and Erixon about what the young Swedish rearguard brings to the club. Read the story here.
3:45 P.M. -- The American Hockey League is seen as one of the finest development leagues in the world, but we're trying to delve deeper into the concept of player development: how do you create a plan, and what are the steps in the process?
It's all part of the progression as a hockey player and a person. To kick things off, our very own Staci Pawlak has the details on one of Ohio's best youth hockey clubs, the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets. You can read the full story here.
3:25 P.M. -- Brad Larsen is just a few hours away from his head coaching debut. The 35-year-old admits he's excited but cautiously so, as he wants to make sure his team is focused and prepared to take on a talented IceCaps club tonight.
You can watch the video below (courtesy of JacketsTV) and check out the transcript of his comments below...
Asked what's going through his mind as opening night approaches:
"Not much. I think, like all the players, we're excited. We want to see what (comes out of) putting in two hard weeks here. We touched on a lot of things, a lot of structure things, so now we're going to see where we stand against a good opponent."
On his feelings about this Falcons team as the season gets under way:
"I'm excited...cautiously excited. Again, it's one of those things. I know every team in this league could have a good team now, so I truly believe it's going to come down to details and your discipline and structure, then making sure everyone's on the same page. The quicker you get to that point, it gives you the best chance to win."
On starting the season against a strong, playoff-caliber team from last year:
"I like playing against a tough team early. They're well-coached with Keith McCambridge and they have some great young talent there with a good blueline that moves the puck well and good goaltending. I think you're facing a lot of that this year in the (AHL) with the lockout and teams are adding a lot of good players and gives the league depth. It's a test tonight, it's going to be a test every night and it's a good opportunity for us to rise up to it."
Asked if the home-heavy early schedule is a benefit for the Falcons:
"I just prefer to play. I think guys are excited to play, home or away. Hopefully tonight we come out with the energy from the crowd and get a good start. The bottom line is that we're playing hockey and guys are ready for that."
2:55 P.M. -- After a scary injury during the preseason, Cam Atkinson is raring to go and can't wait for the puck to drop at MassMutual Center. He spoke with Mike Kelly this morning on JacketsTV:
2:25 P.M. -- JacketsTV caught up with Ryan Johansen after the morning skate. Check out the video below to hear his comments prior to opening night:
1:30 P.M. -- Here are a couple of photos from today's season-opening morning skate at the MassMutual Center...
For more pictures from Springfield, be sure to follow the Blue Jackets on Instagram or visit the web-viewable gallery at statigr.am/BlueJacketsNHL.
11:45 A.M. -- Caught a few minutes of the IceCaps morning skate and saw a familiar face: goaltender Mark Dekanich, who signed a one-year deal with the Blue Jackets last summer but was hampered by injuries. He can't have fond memories of "The Nest," as he injured his groin during warmups in his first rehab start last fall.
From what we were able to see of the St. John's skate, it didn't appear that Dekanich would be starting in goal tonight. Look for Eddie Pasquale - one of the AHL's steadiest goalies last year - to get the nod for Keith McCambridge's club.
11:15 A.M. -- Just wrapped up a round of morning interviews with the players and coaching staff. The vibe around the building is positive, and there's a lot of excitement going around as the Falcons await the start of the new season.
Here's a brief look at how the defense pairs lined up this morning:
Nick Holden - David Savard
Tim Erixon - Cody Goloubef
John Moore - Dalton Prout
Because of the high volume of players in camp, the line rushes were a bit hectic and jumbled. But as we reported earlier this morning, the top line of JAM-Johansen-Atkinson will be together to start tonight's game.
More from today's skate and post-practice interviews coming shortly on the blog and JacketsTV.
10:30 A.M. -- A brief injury update: it looks like Tim Erixon, who didn't play in any of the Falcons exhibition contests due to a minor injury, will play tonight in the season opener for Springfield. He was acquired in the multi-player offseason trade with the New York Rangers.
Erixon will play the left point and wear No. 3 tonight.
10:10 A.M. -- The morning skate is under way at MassMutual Center, and boy, there's a ton of players on the ice. Rough estimate is close to 30 guys taking part, which about 10 more than we're usually accustomed to.
Looks as if Curtis McElhinney is getting the starting nod tonight for the Falcons as St. John's comes to town.
On defense, early indications are that Will Weber and Austin Madaisky are the "extra pair" and will not be playing tonight, and we'll talk to Brad Larsen here shortly for the official word.
As stated earlier, the Audy-Marchessault-Johansen-Atkinson line is intact and flying out there during the pre-game skate. Johansen is sporting the No. 9 on his helmet, a number that I'm told he wore during midget and junior hockey days back in B.C.
Apparently, he wanted to wear No. 9 in Portland with the Winterhawks, but the trainer only made 19 available to him and it stuck. Johansen looks good in the skate today, and has been deadly from between the circles with his wrist shot.
There's plenty to more to come as we talk to the guys post-skate.
8:20 A.M. -- Good morning from sunny (and chilly) Springfield!
It was a lengthy drive yesterday with a couple of stops along the way - I can be high-maintenance when it comes to meal time - but BlueJackets.com and JacketsTV have safely arrived in the land of the Falcons.
We're about an hour away from the Falcons' morning skate, where we'll report with photos, lineups, injury news (if applicable), and get to talk to some of the players as they prepare for what should an exciting opening night at MassMutual Center.
Here's what we do know as the first official Falcons game day begins...
St. John's is a pretty good team, and got even better when the Winnipeg Jets assigned Alex Burmistrov to the IceCaps prior to the NHL work stoppage. They upgraded in goal over the summer with former Springfield netminder Mark Dekanich, and will undoubtedly be a stern opponent to kick off the 2012-13 campaign.
On the Falcons side, they should be back to a full lineup. It's expected that Tim Erixon will make his Springfield debut tonight, but we'll wait for official confirmation from head coach Brad Larsen post-skate.
I also expect we'll see the pairing of Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and Ryan Johansen continue, presumably with Cam Atkinson flanking the right side. Look out for that trio.
With that being said, we're off to the morning skate and will update when we arrive. In honor of the first Falcons game of the season, I call upon Motley Crue to musically rev it up.