There's quite an opportunity beckoning for the Springfield Falcons, and they're going into tonight's Game 3 in Manchester with one thing on their minds: break out the brooms.
A pair of thrilling overtime wins in the first two games of their best-of-five opening round series have set them up to spoil the party at Verizon Wireless Arena, where they've played well against the Monarchs this season. Springfield went 3-0-0 in Manchester during the regular season, including a barn burner on Nov. 30 that saw the Falcons erase a 3-0 deficit by scoring five times in the third period to win - one of the games that helped propel them along in a division championship season.
But tonight, they'll be faced with a much different task in the same building. Manchester is fighting to stay alive and likely to "empty the tanks" after a few days off, meaning Springfield has to be ready right from the drop of the puck. The Falcons have had some ups and downs in Manchester, letting leads slip away and falling behind early in hockey games, which makes a solid start in Game 3 almost a necessity.
Coach Brad Larsen will also need more from his top players, much like when the Falcons' power play stepped up and delivered a huge tying goal in the third period of Game 2. To this point, it has been Cody Bass scoring the game-winner in each of the first two games in the series and Ryan Russell leading the way in the scoring department (0-3-3 in two playoff games).
Here are some pre-game notes to set the stage for tonight's game...
- It's possible that Ryan Johansen and Dalton Prout dress for the Falcons tonight after arriving in town over the weekend. Both players were assigned to Springfield after the Blue Jackets' season ended with a 3-1 win on Saturday night vs. Nashville. Johansen was a go-to option in all situations for Larsen when he was with the Falcons earlier in the season: he put up 17-16-33 in 40 games with a +11 rating.
- No surprise here, but Curtis McElhinney is slated to start between the pipes for Springfield. Martin Jones should get the start for Manchester. McElhinney made 41 saves in the Falcons' win in Game 2, but did his best work in overtime as the Monarchs controlled the opening minutes of sudden death. McElhinney made 13 saves in overtime and more than a few were high-quality.
- Bass became the third player in AHL history to score back-to-back overtime goals in a playoff series with his backhander at 18:44 of overtime in Game 2 at the MassMutual Center, a goal that ended the longest game in Falcons franchise history.
- Nick Holden, who set a Falcons single-season record with a +24 rating in 2012-13, leads Springfield with a +3 mark through two playoff games.
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