The final score wasn't nearly as much fun as the "getting there". Adding in hit posts, crossbars and assorted near misses, this could have turned quite easily into a 8-6 or 9-7 affair.
Which is not to say the goaltending was at fault at either end of the ice. Curtis McElhinney (16-5-2, 2.24, .927) and Kevin Poulin (10-6-2, 2.98, .911) each turned in ten bell stops along the way to keep this one a nail biter right to the final buzzer.
After Chaput and JAM staked the Birds to a 2-1 lead, perpetual Falcons pest, Nino Niederreiter notched his 17th goal just 28 seconds after JAM's goal to knot the game at two.
Russell's third marker of the season was a beauty. He and JAM broke out on a two on one odd man rush. With Russ handling the puck, Poulin was at a severe disadvantage. A head fake and a brief glance across was all that Poulin needed to be de-jocked and Russell went top shelf-where-momma-hides-the-cookies to give the Falcons a 3-2 lead.
That goal had the potential to be a momentum changer. It was for the final 8:58 of the period. Springfield dominated play and were repeatedly denied by the stingy Bridgeport defense.
Captain Ryan Craig scored his ninth of the season on the power play with just 3 seconds remaining in the period. Craig's goal pushed the Springfield lead to 4-2 after 20 minutes of play.
I have to give the Sound Tigers their due. They could have mailed it in after the last second PPG, but they came out and played a brilliant defense in the middle stanza. In fact, both clubs were solid on D in the second period. The SOG tell the story as Bridgeport outshot the Falcons 5-4.
John Persson of the Sound Tigers converted on one of those five shots, closing the margin to 4-3 after 40 minutes.
Nick Drazenovic sent a knuckleballed redirection over Poulin's right shoulder early in the third period, giving the Falcons a comfortable 5-3 lead.
However, Persson and the Sound Tigers weren't done yet. His 13th of the season with four and a half remaining in regulation guaranteed an exciting finish to this one.
Down the stretch though, the Falcons defense remained strong, enabling the Falcons to extend their divisional lead to four points over second place Bridgeport.
Here are the goals and comments from Coach Brad Larsen and Tim Erixon from the Falcons YouTube channel:
Friday's Three Stars:
2. Michael Chaput
3. John Persson
This was easily JAM's best game in several weeks. He was on the puck seemingly on every shift. In other words, a difference maker and was an appropriate choice for the games' top star.
Chaput is blossoming into someone who is really fun to watch. The lanky 20 year old along with frequent linemates Sean Collins and Dalton Smith have to be enjoying a dream season for a first year pro. Getting a fair amount of ice time while names like Johansen, Atkinson, Calvert skate alongside of them on a top tier team is something that builds responsibility and breeds an attitude of winning.
The three-in-three continues today with an unusual 5PM start in Albany against the Devils. It's "Pucks and Paws" night, so if you're local, feel free to bring along Fido.
The weekend concludes in Providence on Sunday at 3PM when the Birds take on the always tough Baby B's.