This could have turned out a lot differently. One, the Sharks have played some excellent defensive hockey opposite the Birds in the first three meetings between the teams this season. Two, the Sharks returned home after completing a seven game road trip at 5-1-1. Three, Antero Nittymaki was between the pipes for the Sharks, wrapping up a conditioning assignment before returning to the parent San Jose Sharks. Four, the Falcons haven't been setting the world on fire scoring-wise of late.
The Falcons skated to a two goal first period lead and never looked back. Ryan Garlock, moved up to center a line with Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson paid near immediate dividends when he potted his second goal of the season. Garlock was in the high slot and one-timed a Cam Atkinson pass through a maze of legs, finding the back of the net just 6:16 into the first period.
Later in the frame, the Falcons power play continued its effective play. With Alexandre Giroux camped out in his usual spot at the top of the right face off circle, David Savard faked a shot from the opposite point, instead passing to Giroux. Giroux unleashed the blast, cleanly beating Nittymaki to make the game 2-0. In between periods, the goal was correctly given to Tomas Kubalik, who was in front of the Sharks cage and was responsible for the redirect on the shot.
Defensively, the Falcons played just as strong, limiting the Sharks to just four shots on goal, all turned aside by Manny Legace, who was starting his seventh consecutive game for Springfield.
The second period started with Brett Lebda in the "Fin Bin" for holding. Ryan Garlock and Matt Calvert broke out on a nifty 2 on 1, with Calvert carrying the puck into the Sharks zone. Calvert the playmaker, got to the point of no return and fed Garlock a perfect pass which he banged past Nittymaki giving the Falcons a 3-0 lead. The shorthanded effort was Garlock's third of the season and Calvert's second assist of the night.
Worcester's John McCarthy closed the margin to 3-1 at 3:15 of the period.
Just past the midway point of the second period, Tomas Kubalik converted a Ryan Russell pass for his second tally of the night and fifth goal of the season, extending the Falcons lead back to three goals.
On a similar play, Maksim Mayorov connected for his first goal of the season, making it a 5-1 Falcons lead. Maks was assisted by Russell and Calvert at 12:28.
The game, which by this time had been physical but fight free, saw that change when Brandon Mashinter of the Sharks threw down the mitts with Mike Thomas of the Falcons. The bout came to be when the two were exchanging holiday greetings at the center ice face off circle after the Mayorov goal.
Allen York replaced Legace in the Falcons net for the third period. According to coach Rob Riley:
"Manny had a collision in the second period and was feeling it a little bit at the start of the third, Yorkie was ready to go, I don't see any long-term effects, we have four days off now and it looks like Manny will be ready to go after the break."
York turned aside 11 of 13 Worcester shots in the third period, but to me, he didn't appear to be sharp. The two goals that beat him (Brodie Reid at 2:01, Tommy Wingels a PPG at 18:40) were ordinary at best. On the positive side, it was a good thing that the Falcons had a lead working and were able to get him some ice time in a game situation.
Sandwiched between the two Shark goals, Falcons goal leader Cam Atkinson registered his 15th of the season, on an assist from Ryan Garlock. The Atkinson goal came directly after the faceoff after Reid's Worcester goal. After the faceoff, the Sharks maintained puck possession. After a poor clearing pass was intercepted by Garlock, he got the puck to Atkinson. He skated over the blueline and sent a cannonading blast over Nittymaki's shoulder, making the score at the time 6-2.
Wednesday's Three Stars:
1. Matt Calvert
2. Tomas Kubalik
3. Ryan Garlock
The positives coming out of this game were many for the Falcons. First and foremost, the scoring was spread around. If you told me before the game that the Falcons would put up half a dozen and I wouldn't see the name Martin St. Pierre on the scoresheet, I wouldn't have believed you. Also, just one assist for Giroux while we're at it.
Ryan Garlock elevated his play, centering his new linemates. Kubalik played a nice game, as did Ryan Russell. Defensively, the Falcons played a good game. Lebda, Ruth, Regner and Savard all played strong on D. Lebda continues to impress with his play at both ends of the ice. His puck moving skills and two way play might lead to the anticipated call from Scott Howson as we enter the new year.
The Falcons are off until next Wednesday night when they take on the Syracuse Crunch at the War Memorial in Syracuse.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to each and every one of you!!!