Cody Goloubef as a smooth skating Wisconsin Badger - Gregory Shamus
The Springfield Falcons turned "Rally Towel" night into "Crying Towel" night, earning a hard fought 3-2 victory over the Connecticut Whale in front of 13, 129 at the XL Center in Hartford, CT. After Scott Howes and Bryan Helmer were injured in Friday's win over Syracuse, this was the first time this season that every healthy Falcon dressed, showing the collective character that has made up this Falcon team all season.
Springfield took an early 1-0 lead when the defensive pair of Dalton Prout and Cody Goloubef transitioned the puck out of their zone. Goloubef made a money pass to Tomas Kubalik. Kuby streaked down the left side of the ice and cut hard at Whale goaltender, Cameron Talbot. Watching the play, it appeared that Kubalik was simply too deep to make a meaningful finish to the play. As he cut in, he made a one handed flip over Talbot's right shoulder, short side, for a phenomenal goal.
Curtis McElhinney was his sharp self yet again for the Birds. C-Mac turned aside all 9 shots in the opening frame and another dozen in the second, keeping the Whale off the board for 40 minutes.
The only scoring of the second period came, for the second night in a row, off the talented stick of Cody Goloubef. Cody G has consistently been one of my favorite Falcons to watch over the past couple of seasons. His defensive skills have blossomed to where he's, in my mind, a top two AHL D-man. He has blended that talent with a simply blazing slapshot. Friday night, he victimized Dustin Tokarski with it and on Saturday night, from a similar spot on the ice, he simply blew one past Talbot for the 2-0 Falcons lead.
Much has been said in many circles about the shot of David Savard. While Savvy has that in his arsenal, it's Goloubef who consistently has it on target and is now starting to realize the benefits of it.
When I said earlier that this was a "hard fought" win for the Falcons, that was to be taken literally. This game featured four separate fights. Tim Spencer and Dylan McIlrath went at it in the first period. Will Weber and Jason Wilson also went at it late in the opening stanza. Greg Amadio was ambushed by Andrew Carroll early in the second period, while Dalton Prout and Micheal Haley closed out the fight card early in the third period.
Hockey fights being what they are, many times I don't make note of them. However in this game, in front of a huge crowd, these fights were all there to serve a purpose. The big item to take away from these fights was that they in no way intimidated the Falcons. If anything, the Falcons drew on them and battled even harder as the game wore on. Props especially to Prout for standing up to long time thug Haley...well done!
Nick Drazenovic scored his 15th goal of the season to extend the Falcons lead to 3-0 in the third period. Draz was set up on the power play in the high right slot. Quick passing by Ryan Craig and Wade MacLeod found Nick momentarily wide open and he went top shelf on Talbot.
With the lead at 3-0, and the Falcons having a 21-1 mark when leading after one period, this one was starting to feel like two points in the bank.
Enter longtime Falcons nemesis, Brandon Mashinter. Mashinter, a thorn to the Falcons while a Worcester Shark, was dealt to the Whale in exchange for Tommy Grant recently. He notched his fifth goal of the season to cut the lead to 3-1.
Just a minute and a half later, JT Miller connected for his eighth of the campaign, reducing the lead to one with eight and a half minutes remaining.
Those final eight and a half seemed like an eternity. The Falcons appeared tired at times, bottled up in their end of the ice. McElhinney made some key stops down the stretch, some lucky, some good but in the end, all effective.
Somewhat surprising, Whale head coach and newest inductee into the AHL Hall of Fame, Ken Gernander, didn't pull goalie Talbot until there was less than a minute remaining on the clock. There was a point with about 90 seconds left that the Whale were storming the Falcons cage, and it could have been an opportune time to make the move for the extra attacker.
The Falcons iced the puck twice in the last 10 seconds. With one final faceoff to C-Mac's right and three ticks remaining, Drazenovic won the faceoff and time expired with the Falcons taking a huge 3-2 win on the Whale's home ice.
Saturday's Three Stars:
1 - Cody Goloubef
2 - Nick Drazenovic
3 - Christian Thomas (CT)
Of the three, I am puzzled by Thomas. He was not the best Whale player on the ice. If the hometown club had to have representation in the Three Stars, Mashinter or Miller would have been a more reasonable choice. But hey, the two points came north to Springy in any event.
Now that the Falcons were finally pressed into dressing everybody they had, I'm hoping that the injury to the Wiz is just a temporary one and he'll be back and ready to go on Tuesday when the Jackets host the Stanley Cup champion Kings.
If not, expect the call for Goloubef. Or Holden. Or Prout. If my name was Howson, it would be Goloubef.
The Falcons are off until Friday when the Albany Devils come to The Nest for a 7PM tilt.