Laying of hands contributes to C-Mac's success? - Jim McIsaac
It was deja vu all over again for the Springfield Falcons on Sunday evening at The Nest in Springfield. Curtis McElhinney turned aside all 35 shots he faced as the Birds shutout the defending Calder Cup champion Norfolk Admirals by a score of 5-0. (Update: With his performances over the weekend, C-Mac was named CCM/AHL Player of the Week.)
Deja vu indeed. Starting his tenth game of the season, C-Mac pitched a shutout for the fourth time. The four whitewashes are the most by a Falcons goalie since Manny Legace turned in five back in the 1995-96 season.
Part and parcel to the Falcons most recent success story was the domination from the opening faceoff. The Birds early pressure caused Patrick Maroon of the Ads to draw a slashing minor just 27 seconds into the game.
Then it was time for the lethal weapon that is the Falcons power play to go into full assault mode. Just 14 seconds after Maroon sat down, he was back up and out as Nick Drazenovic hammered home his fifth goal of the campaign with assists going to Cam Atkinson and David Savard.
Draz and Cam teamed up again at 9:25 to give the Birds a two goal cushion. Things were looking ominous for Norfolk by this point of the game. Although the visitors outshot Springfield, most of their chances were not high percentage opportunities. Once again, the defense was superb for the Falcons. Dalton Prout in particular was not shy in punishing the opposition.
Matt Calvert knocked in a rebound with the man advantage at 18:06. Calvert was keyed on the right side of the Norfolk cage and nonchalantly picked up the loose change left on the doorstep by goalie Igor Bobkov.
Bobkov's day was about to reach its conclusion shortly thereafter when Jonathan Audy-Marchessault connected for his fifth marker on assists from Ryan Johansen and John Moore at 18:54. JAM was working in from his position on the left high slot and the Johan gave him a nice soft pass that players just dream about. JAM, in full sniper mode, made no mistake as the Falcons took a 4-0 lead into the locker room at the end of the first period.
Frederik Andersen came on in relief of Bobkov to start the second period. I'm of the opinion that Norfolk head coach Trent Yawney gave his crew an old fashioned Sunday afternoon hellfire and brimstone talking to during the break, as they came out with noticeably more tenacity in the middle frame.
A late interference penalty to Troy Bodie gave the Birds the opportunity on the PP one more time. With Matt Calvert pestering Andersen, Cam Atkinson let go of a 35 footer. The puck went wide and bounced back off the end boards. With Calvert cutting to retrieve the biscuit, it knuckled and hit the back of Andersen's right leg and bounced into the cage, giving the Falcons a 5-0 lead.
The last remaining question at the end of the middle period was could C-Mac go back-to-back this weekend, after his Friday night blanking of the Connecticut Whale and make it a two shutout weekend?
Norfolk, despite the five goal hole they were in, did not give up and played hard right to the final horn. In fact, the last minute of the third period was likely the most difficult that McElhinney faced all day. He was terrific down the stretch though, making three big stops with less than a minute to go. In completing his fourth shutout, C-Mac's scoreless streak currently stands at 138 minutes and 20 seconds, going back to last Sunday's 10-2 bombarding of the Whale in Hartford.
Sunday's Three Stars:
1 - Curtis McElhinney
2 - Cam Atkinson
3 - Nick Drazenovic
Unlike Falcons teams of the recent past, this year's squad looks very comfortable on their home ice. Last year's team for example, had a hard time playing at The Nest throughout the first half of the season.
Today marked the end of the season opening 9 out of 11 games at home, with Springfield posting a 6-1-2 mark in those games. They remain a perfect 2-0-0 on the road.
The Falcons will face a test on the road as they head into Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this coming Wednesday to take on the Penguins. From there, they head into Norfolk for Friday and Saturday rematches against the Admirals.
Springfield wraps up the road trip with a Friday night game in Portland, ME on Friday November 23rd. They return back home to face the Manchester Monarchs on Saturday November 24th.