Springfield Falcons: 9 Days, 5 Games

Following a lull in their schedule where they've played just one game in 11 days, the Springfield Falcons next challenge is to play five in the next nine days.

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An in depth look at those five games, and how they could impact the early season standings in the Eastern Conference of the AHL.

Friday Nov. 11
Opponent: Portland Pirates
Arena: MassMutual Center, Springfield

The Pirates, AHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes, have gotten off to a slow start and currently sit 15th in the 15 team Eastern Conference of the AHL.

This is the first year of the affilation between Portland and the Coyotes. Last season, the 'Yotes housed their prospects in San Antonio, TX. Coach Ray Edwards' club finished last season a respectable 40-33-4-5 for 87 points. The Rampage finished 10th in the competitive Western Conference, four points out of the final playoff spot.

Paced by Ryan Duncan (4-6-10), the Pirates total of 30 goals scored ranks them 14th in the conference, trailed only by the Worcester Sharks with 26. However, the Sharks have played three fewer games than the Pirates.

 

Last season's Rampage scoring leader, Mathieu Beaudoin is back and currently sits fifth on the team with 3 goals and 4 assists for 7 points.

Ryan Hollweg leads the Pirates with a predictable 36 PIM in the early going.

A familiar face in the lineup is former Falcons captain, Dean Arsene.

The Portland goaltending is handled by Curtis McElhinney and Justin Pogge. Pogge has put up better numbers (2-1-1-, 2.47, .909) but has played fewer games than McElhinney (2-5-0, 3.59, .892)

The Pirates are coming off a tough loss on Wednesday in Manchester. A goal late in the third period was the difference as the Monarchs posted a 4-3 victory.

It would be easy to speculate on the outcome of this one until you look at home and away results where, the Pirates are 1-4-0 at home and 3-2-0-1 on the road. The Falcons are currently 3-4-0 on home ice.

 

Saturday Nov. 12
Opponent: Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Arena: MassMutual Center, Springfield


The weekend will continue for the Falcons when division rival, Bridgeport comes to The Nest for the first meeting of the two clubs this season.

Once again this season, the Sound Tigers are the AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders. The new season brings a new head coach in, as Brent Thompson is now at the helm. Thompson comes to Bridgeport fresh from winning the ECHL's Kelly Cup, as head coach of the Alaska Aces.

Last season, the Sound Tigers finished behind the Falcons in the Atlantic Division of the AHL. This year's somewhat overhauled lineup has been successful in the first dozen games. The Sound Tigers currently hold a one point lead over the Falcons.

Back for another go-round is Justin DiBenedetto who has racked up 12 points in 12 games, on the power of 8 goals and 4 assists. Also back this season is David Ullstrom. Ullstrom has 9 points thus far, after chalking up 41 points in 67 games for Bridgeport last season.

Springfield fans will see another former Falcon when Trevor Frischmon returns. Frischmon played in all 80 games for the Falcons last season, putting together 29 points and a +6 plus/minus rating.

The Sound Tigers have been sharing the goaltending duties among a three man rotation. Anders Nilsson, Mikko Koskinen and Kevin Poulin have seen action, with Nilsson showing slightly better numbers than his mates.

Like the Pirates, Bridgeport has played better on the road, with a 3-2-0-0 road record.

These first two games of the five are vital for the Falcons. Since Springfield's affiliation with the Blue Jackets, the Falcons have struggled on their home ice. Two wins to start this busy five game could go a long way in setting the stage for the next three games.

Wednesday Nov. 16
Opponent: Worcester Sharks
Arena: MassMutual Center, Springfield


The Falcons season high six game homestand concludes when the Worcester Sharks make their first visit of the season.

No longer a divisional rival, the Sharks remain an important conference opponent. This is reflected by the fact that the Falcons and Sharks will meet a total of eight times this season.

As this is being written, the Sharks are 14th in the Eastern Conference. That could change by next Wednesday as the Sharks are in their own piece of scheduling paradise: 5 games in 8 days, with the game at The Nest being game number four of the stretch for Worcester.

The Sharks first three games in that run are: Bridgeport, Manchester and Providence on Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively. All three are home games for Worcester, prior to coming to Springfield for Wednesday's game.

Last season's Sharks fell just three points out of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Once again, the San Jose Sharks are the parent club with AHL coaching legend, Roy Sommer behind the bench. Last season, Sommer was honored by the AHL for having coached his 1000th game in the league. That is truly an amazing feat!

The Sharks are currently led by University of Minnesota - Duluth product, Mike Connolly, where he was an alternate captain on last year's NCAA Championship team. Connolly in eight games has lit up the opposition for five goals and six assists.

Somewhat oddly, the Sharks next two leading scorers are defensemen. Matt Irwin and Sean Sullivan, both carryovers from last year's squad are second and third in Sharks scoring.

For the third straight home game, the Falcons will see a former Falcon mainstay, when last year's captain, Ben Guite, returns to The Nest. Guite in eight games with the Sharks has a goal and three assists.

With San Jose's highly regarded Alex Stalock still rehabbing from a lacerated leg tendon, the goaltending this season has been split successfully by Tyson Sexsmith and Harri Sateri. Both have posted records of 2-1, while Sexsmith has lost twice in shootouts.

Friday Nov. 18
Opponent: Providence Bruins
Arena: Dunkin' Donuts Center; Providence, RI


The Falcons return to action for their first road game since Wednesday October 26th when they head to Providence to take on the Bruins.

This is the first meeting of the teams since the Falcons home opener, when the Bruins, led by Anton Khudobin dominated the Falcons and took away a 4-1 win.

The Bruins currently have played 14 games, with 13 points to show for their efforts. Points-wise, that places them in a five way tie for seventh place. When tie breaking factors are considered, it places them in 10th in the conference.

Part of a developing trend, the Baby B's in 10 home games are just 3-6-1-0, while in only four road tilts are 3-1-0.

The parent Boston Bruins, yesterday recalled Providence's leading scorer, Zach Hamill, and he's expected to be in Boston's lineup tonight when the Bruins take on the Edmonton Oilers.

Hamill has five goals and five assists in 14 games with Providence.

Second to Hamill is rookie right wing Carter Camper. Camper in 13 games has registered two goals and six assists for eight points.

Khudobin has shouldered the load in net for Providence. He's played in 11 of the 14 games, posting a goals against of 3.07 and a .910 save percentage.

Saturday Nov. 19
Opponent: Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Arena: Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard; Bridgeport, CT


The Falcons will be putting the wraps on their fifth game in nine days when they make their first trip of the season to Bridgeport, CT.

Following this run, the Falcons next schedule segment puts them back on the AHL common, three games in three days, when they take on Adirondack (away), Connecticut and Albany (both home) from November 25th-27th.

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