On the Farm: Falcons in First Place

When I last checked in, the standings for the AHL Northeast Division saw the Springfield Falcons in second place, one point behind the Hartford Wolfpack. The Birds had just come off their first losing weekend of the young season, leaving their mark at 5-1-1. The picture has improved for the Birds these past two weeks.

Riding a 5-2-0 mark over the next seven games, Springfield has taken over sole possession of the Northeast Division lead. Over their last ten, the Wolfpack have stumbled along at a 3-6-1 pace. Currently on the Falcons' heels are the Albany Devils. Today the standings look like this:

Springfield (CBJ) 14 10 3 0 1 21 38 32
Albany (NJD) 16 9 6 0 1 19 41 39
Hartford (NYR) 16 8 6 0 2 18 48 55
Adirondack (PHI) 15 7 6 0 2 16 36 38
Bridgeport (NYI) 14 4 8 1 1 10 36 51

Six of these past seven games have been one goal affairs. The only aberration being a 3-0 blanking at the hands of the Adirondack Phantoms at The Nest in Springfield on November 8th.

The coaching staff of Brad Larsen, Nolan Pratt and Jared Bednar are getting the most out of a squad that features fifteen holdovers from last year. Of those fifteen, a handful (Trent Vogelhuber, Jake Hansen, Lukas Sedlak, Alex Aleardi, Will Weber and Austin Madaisky) saw limited playing time or were late season walk-ons. All have been called upon at one time or another this young season to contribute.

Leadership has been a hallmark of the affiliation between the Blue Jackets and the Falcons. This season is no exception. Ryan Craig is the team's captain for the second consecutive season. In his absence, while on recall to the Jackets, veterans Andrew Joudrey, returning Cody Bass and newcomer Frederic St. Denis have inspired and mentored their mates.

Falcons Top Ten:

Player Pos. GP G A Pts. +/- PIM
Tim Erixon - X D 10 3 10 13 +4 2
Frederic St. Denis D 14 2 9 11 +4 6
Jake Hansen C 14 4 4 8 +9 8
Darryl Boyce C 14 4 3 7 -1 35
Sean Collins LW 10 2 4 6 +3 4
Jonathan Marchessault LW 14 1 4 5 -8 6
Lukas Sedlak C 14 4 0 4 +5 2
Michael Chaput - X C 6 2 2 4 +3 2
Jack Skille - X RW 6 2 1 3 +1 2
Alex Aleardi RW 12 1 2 3 -2 10

( "X" indicates player is not currently with the team)

An area of concern could be that the club's two leading scorers are both defensemen. Beyond that, Tim Erixon was recalled by the Jackets this past weekend. On the plus side, Jake Hansen has played very well so far, already tying the Falcons season record for short handed goals, chalking up three so far.

Darryl Boyce has been a key acquisition, both in showing a nice scoring touch as well as bringing a strong physical presence to the team. Sean Collins has had an opportunity to step up, both in Springfield and Columbus. Back with the Falcons, he can continue to grow as a winger.

Coming off a record shattering season in goal, the Falcons looked to start fresh this season, bringing in Jeremy Smith and Mike McKenna. Smith had spent the past three seasons with the Milwaukee Admirals, posting a 66-46-6 mark with eight shutouts along the way.

McKenna has toiled in the "A" since 2005. Since then, he's played 17 NHL contests, 15 with Tampa Bay in the '08-'09 season and 2 for the New Jersey Devils in '10-'11. McKenna is currently the league's top netminder with a 1.92 GAA and a .929 save percentage.

Currently Springfield is flying high on a three game winning streak. Check out the video highlights below from the win on Friday night at The Nest over Bridgeport (from the Falcons YouTube channel):

On Saturday night, the Birds made their way to Lewiston, ME to take on the Portland Pirates. Long time sports aficiandoes will remember that what is now known as the Androscoggin Bank Colisee was the arena (then known as the Central Maine Youth Center) where a brash Muhammad Ali phantom punched his way to the heavyweight boxing championship back in May of 1965.

The Pirates, despite keeping "Portland" as their city, moved all their home games to Lewiston just prior to the start of the current season due to a dispute between Pirates ownership and the Cumberland County Civic Center Authority over rent of the renovated building in Portland. Ironically, the Pirates slogan this season is "My Town, My Team".

No phantom punches in the game and McKenna was the #1 star of the game, recording 35 saves as the Falcons took a 2-1 shootout victory. Boyce scored late in the final frame to send the game to OT. In the shootout, goals by Cody Goloubef and Sean Collins made the difference.

This week, the Falcons look at their first three-in-three of the season. Friday night, the Birds host second place Albany at The Nest. Saturday night, the Wolfpack come to town. The Birds close out the weekend on Sunday afternoon in Providence when the clash with the Bruins.

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