Cam Atkinson, special teams specialist - Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE
While the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Norfolk Admirals challenged the Springfield Falcons opening faceoff assault, the Birds have their own version of a secret weapon in Curtis McElhinney. Both the Penguins and the Admirals looked to eliminate early Falcon momentum in the past two games. The Birds came up short on Wednesday, but not tonight.
Briefly, municipal business kept me from reporting on the Falcons/Penguins game on Wednesday night. Sorry about that. In watching the replay of the game, I found it to be another well played game. The Penguins did take the game to the Falcons and their goalie, Jeff Zatkoff, was brilliant in defeating Springfield 2-1.
Friday night, the Falcons were in Norfolk, VA to take on the defending Calder Cup champion Norfolk Admirals. This game started out with the Ads taking it to the Falcons immediately after the opening draw.
Before the first cup of beer was spilled, Patrick Maroon picked up his sixth marker of the season at the 38 second mark of the first period. He was assisted by former Falcon, now Norfolk captain, Nate Guenin and Chris Wagner.
Sean Collins picked up his first of the season on an assist from David Savard at 4:32, tying the game at one.
Scoring for the period closed out when Guenin lit the lamp for his first of the campaign on a power play, giving the hosts a 2-1 lead.
Over the last couple-plus seasons of my Falcons banter here at The Cannon, you've no doubt seen me complain about the AHL's two referee system. If you haven't, it will be a pleasure to vent about it one more time, and probably not the last time I bring this up.
In most games that I see (and I see a lot), the two ref system encourages more penalties. Not the way the NHL system does, where every game (surely you remember the NHL, don't you?) has two refs and because that is simply how it always is, there are not typically an excessive amount of penalties called.
Not so in the "A". Only 25-30% of games employ the two ref system. This, in my opinion, doesn't help out the game at all. Tonight's game, for example, with one ref would have had six, seven, maybe eight minors.
With the two referees, there were a total of 17 minors called. This caused roughly half of the game to be played under special team circumstances, and that is absurd. 'Nuff said.
Strangely enough, the Birds found themselves on a power play midway into the second period. As the Falcons found some open ice, Nick Drazenovic made a pure pro play as he had the puck on the right side, high slot. He circled. He looked around. He saw Cam Atkinson get behind his defender on the left side.
Draz had barely an instant and lasered a perfect pass to Cam who one timed it past a defenseless Frederik Andersen. This was as pretty a PPG as you're going to see, with Drazenovic doing all the heavy lifting. Captain Ryan Craig had the secondary assist as the game was knotted at two.
Perhaps you'll find this surprising but the Falcons found themselves shorthanded a brief three minutes later when Dalton Prout was called for roughing.
During the PK, the puck was knocked into the neutral zone. Atkinson sprinted for it along with Guenin of the Ads. Cam took the race in a photo finish, just reaching out and getting enough mustard on a wrister from the top of the left faceoff circle. The puck knuckled on Andersen, and Cam had the shorty for his sixth tally of the season.
The story of the third period was C-Mac. Falcons fans have quickly become spoiled with the likes of goaltending that we haven't seen in nearly a generation. McElhinney was his usual solid self throughout the game, including some stops in the second period that reminded me of Henrik Lundqvist.
After he faced 18 shots in the first two periods, C-Mac chalked up 20 saves in the final frame to ice the Falcons victory, ending their losing streak at...one.
Friday's Three Stars:
1 - Cam Atkinson
2 - Nate Guenin (Norfolk)
3 - C-Mac
Personally, I would have given Curtis the #1 star. His reliable goaltending kept the Falcons in the game early on, while his third period gave them the win. Cam would have been my #2 star, followed by Guenin.
The same two clubs faceoff on Saturday night in Norfolk. Game time is 7:15PM