The excitement for the first Falcons playoff action in a decade was clear even before the opening faceoff. The Nest was alive and as everybody involved with the Falcons organization had hoped, the crowd of 3705 brought their "A" game and took on the role of seventh player.
The Monarchs came into the game hot, having won six of their last seven to qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs. Martin Jones, Manchester's starting goalie, won his last six straight, giving his club the boost they needed.
The Falcons' Mr. Everything, Curtis McElhinney started opposite Jones, leading all to believe that this would be a low scoring affair.
Springfield drew the first power play of the contest when Andrew Campbell sat for interference. The unit of Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, Boone Jenner, Ryan Craig, Nick Drazenovic and Nick Holden applied plenty of pressure with Jones remaining equal to the task.
Late on the PP, Stefan Legein of Manchester chased the loose puck all the way down behind the Falcons cage. Legein worked his way around and with C-Mac lunging for the puck, barely kept the Monarchs off the board.
With eight minutes remaining, the Falcons mounted their first sustained attack of the night. Jake Hansen and Sean Collins were playing aggressively, as usual, with their expected take no prisoners effort. These guys are hustlers with a capital "H"! Cody Goloubef blasted one from the high slot that Jones gobbled right up. Jones looked like he was ready to pick right up where his regular season ended.
Matthew Ford sat for two on an interference call. Right after the faceoff in the Springfield zone, Ryan Craig broke his stick, effectively turning the power play into a limited 5 on 3. Cody Bass won a terrific one on four battle for the puck and managed to clear the zone to allow the Falcons to regroup.
The first period completely lived up to the advance billing, a fast moving, hard hitting period featuring great goaltending. In a season full of memorable moments, this was a great period of hockey by both clubs.
Early in the middle frame, Jordan Weal made a nice break for the Monarchs. Ted Ruth (who played a solid game on D) stayed with Weal, preventing any damage on the play.
Springfield applied pressure deep in the Manchester zone five minutes into the period. Trent Vogelhuber had a great scoring bid until he took a big slash from Derek Forbort.
Shortly after the Forbort minor expired, Blake Parlett was called for holding. This penalty led to an interesting sequence. During the PK, Bass and Craig were shot blocking machines. Then as the penalty wound down, Weal was flat out stoned by C-Mac, leaving the game knotted at zero. With the penalty expired, Parlett took a breakaway pass in the neutral zone and went in one on one on Jones. Hooked from behind, just enough to prevent him from getting a shot away, Parlett was awarded a penalty shot.
The defenseman Parlett, calmly approached Jones and as he zeroed in on the Monarchs netminder, cut left and waited for Jones to commit. At that moment, Parlett made the simple backhander, over the sliding Jones, giving Springfield the 1-0 lead on the penalty shot goal.
McElhinney was the story during a PK with Sean Collins in the box for slashing. After the Collins call, it looked like the ref's put their whistles in their pockets, missing two blatant fouls. First a Hunter Bishop high stick on Michael Chaput was missed, even though the blow sent Chaput temporarily to all four's. Then a short time later, David Kolomatis clothes lined Cody Bass in the neutral zone.
The third period started with the Falcons clinging to the 1-0 lead. Through the first few minutes of the period, it looked like the Monarchs really wanted to assert themselves, but were unable to at several key moments when they were simply unable to connect on some basic passing plays.
Matthew Ford returned to the box, this time for hooking. Once again, during this PK, Bass, Craig and Ryan Russell did an outstanding job. The Falcons looked like a great hockey team on Saturday night, but these three went above and beyond.
Manchester not only struggled with some aspects of their passing game, but also in line changes and were rewarded for their efforts with a minor penalty for too many men at 6:43.
The Falcons power play stormed Jones, who was superb. Ford drove one hard from the top of the faceoff circle that found Ryan Craig on the doorstep. Jones quickly denied Craig the opportunity, keeping the score 1-0. Moments later, Nick Drazenovic, who also had a strong game, juked his way right between Bishop and Andrew Bodnarchuk, as if they were standing still. Yet once again, Jones denied the scoring attempt.
Manchester tied the game when Deslauriers and Andy Andreoff worked a give and go along the blueline. Deslauriers let one fly toward the Springfield cage, and as Cody Goloubef was in the process of removing Brian O'Neill from the doorstep, the biscuit deflected past C-Mac for the tying goal. It was possible that the puck went off of a skate on the way in, so the goal video was reviewed by the referees who determined that the goal would stand, tying the game at 1-1.
Springfield re-doubled their efforts in the final minutes of regulation. The "what was he thinking" moment of the night came with just under two minutes remaining. Jordan Weal was in pursuit of David Savard in the Springfield defensive zone. Weal then proceeded to surgically apply the hook of the century, ensuring the visitors would be shorthanded for the remainder of the third period.
Jones was a rock all night, and continued throughout the final minute. Rejecting bids by JAM and Jenner, time expired sending this one to the extra session.
The first five minutes of OT saw some indecisive play on both sides. Two minutes later, you could feel the momentum shift to the Falcons as they returned to their brand of hockey.
Ryan Craig and Spencer Machacek both had their efforts denied by Jones. A short time later, Michael Chaput from the doorstep, just couldn't get wood on the puck, as a centering pass slithered in slow motion through the crease.
Leave it to the grinders. The character guys who have had such a positive impact on this club all season. The winning goal sequence saw Savard dish down the boards to Russell. Russ caught Bass heading toward the cage and sent a bullet pass right to the top of the crease. The pass led Bass perfectly and as he reached his destination, buried the puck past Jones for the 2-1 Falcons win.
Game One's Three Stars:
1 - Cody Bass
2 - Curtis McElhinney
3 - Martin Jones
Bass would have been a candidate for the top spot even without potting the game winner. This was simply his night from start to finish. C-Mac registered 29 saves, while Jones turned away 33 Springfield shots. Both goalies were outstanding in this game.
Game Two is back at The Nest on Sunday afternoon at 4PM.