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The 2012-2013 AHL season started on the right foot for the Springfield Falcons as they played a solid game at both ends of the ice and defeated the St. John's IceCaps 4-2 in front of a near sellout crowd at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.
They were introduced as the "2012-2013 Springfield Falcons", but make no mistake: this hockey club is just one successfully negotiated CBA from being "The October 2012 Springfield Falcons". Looking at the Opening Night scratches alone told a story of just what an impressive lineup has been assembled here. Jake Hansen, Wade MacLeod, Ryan Russell, Tim Spencer up front. Greg Amadio, Austin Madaisky, Ted Ruth and Will Weber on D, while Allen York is still on the mend. Any or all would have seen regular ice on last year's club.
The Falcons wore "third jerseys" for the first time in their existence. Prior to the unveiling, I was expecting something closer to the Jackets' third. However, these bad boys are nothing at all like those, and in person they look really sharp.
Trivia buffs take note, the starting lineup featured neither Cam Atkinson nor Ryan Johansen. The starters were: Matt Calvert - Nick Drazenovic - Tomas Kubalik with Nick Holden and David Savard manning the blueline. Curtis McElhinney was between the pipes.
The depth of these October Falcons was amazing. While nobody on either side was in mid-season form, the Falcons for the most part dominated this game. Worth noting, the whole team was quick on the puck, they marked up and played well at both ends of the ice. Curtis Mac was reliable and made some big stops down the stretch.
The visitors did net the first goal of the season when Carl Klingberg netted a PPG with Dalton Prout in the box.
The lead lasted only eight minutes, when new captain Ryan Craig evened the game when he tipped home a Tim Erixon shot from the point. Jonathan Audy-Marchessault picked up the other assist.
A rededicated Matt Calvert put the Falcons ahead to stay just 19 seconds into the second frame. Calvert finished off a quick 2 on 1 with Tomas Kubalik for the lead. Nick Drazenovic also assisted on the goal.
The Falcons "rookie line" made a mark at 13:24 of the middle stanza when Dalton Smith scored his first pro goal, assisted by Sean Collins and Michael Chaput, giving the Birds a 3-1 lead. This was an effort that new head coach Brad Larsen had to be pleased with as Smith dug the disc out from the end boards and managed to tuck it neatly behind IceCaps goalie Eddie Pasquale for the two goal margin.
The IceCaps wouldn't go away and at 8:57 of the third period, pulled within one when Hunter Tremblay netted his first of the season from the slot, making it a 3-2 game.
Former Falcons captain Dean Arsene was serving a deuce for interference when Tomas Kubalik closed out the scoring with a nifty power play tally at 15:15. Kubalik finished off another feed from Tim Erixon for the insurance tally as the Falcons held a 4-2 lead.
St. John's had some opportunites in close to C-Mac in the closing minutes, but he was equal to the task, ensuring the Falcons skating off with the win.
STUDS: Tim Erixon - Even though he later claimed to be "rusty" (this was his first game action since the end of last season), he was effective and in the right places at the right time. Tim was the game's #3 star.
Matt Calvert - Calvert showed the speed and grit that earned him a callup two seasons ago. He was on his game all night long. He was the game's #2 star.
Tomas Kubalik - One of the things about watching AHL hockey is to be able to see the development of a player over a period of time. If tonight was any indication, Kubie is ready for The Show. Hard working, effective back checking - in short he did it all and earned the game's #1 star.
I would also mention my kind of line: Ryan Craig - Cody Bass - Andrew Joudrey. Hard working, greasy, lunchbox guys who played their tails off. Bass and Joudrey were left off the scoresheet, but contributed to the win nonetheless.
DUDS: None. The boys came out to play and play they did.
The first step of the 76 game marathon in the books, it's back to business at 3PM today when the Adirondack Phantoms come to town. In the lineup for Adirondack will be Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier. The Phantoms are coached by Terry Murray, so this one should be another beauty.
Post-game comments from Coach Larsen, Curtis Mac and Tim Erixon (courtesy of Falcons YouTube channel):