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Falcons Game 38: Bruins Win to End First Half

The undermanned Springfield Falcons showed some signs of fatigue on Sunday afternoon when they were soundly beaten 5-2 by the Providence Bruins at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. The game was #38 on the season for Springfield, wrapping up the first half. At their halfway mark, the Falcons sit at 18-17-1-2 for 39 points. Even above .500, they are last in the Northeast Division. They are tied for 12th in the Eastern Conference however, and only three points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. Also, they only trail first place Connecticut by 5 points for the division lead, and an automatic seed into the playoffs.

The Bruins, like the Falcons, were playing their third game in three days. Possibly due to the lesser amount of travel in that time, the Baby B's had a little more in the tank throughout the game.

Mark Dekanich drew the starting nod in goal for the Falcons and looked sharp early. The Bruins picked up their first goal of the afternoon when defenseman Matt Bartkowski sent a shot from the top of the left face off circle at Dekanich. Dex made the blocker save, but his blocker was angled and the puck rolled over the glove and dropped about a foot inside the cage. The B's outshot the Falcons 11-5 in the period.

Half way through the middle stanza, the clubs were skating four aside when Andrew Bodnarchuk took a wrist shot from a similar location to Bartkowski's. This one found the back of the net. From my position, it looked like Dekanich had a good look at the shot. On the other hand, I could have had a better angle and Dex might have been screened. In any event, the count went to 2-0 in favor of the visitors.

Once again, through two periods, Anton "Second Coming of Jacques Plante" Khudobin completely shut down the Falcons. Khudobin is only 25th among AHL goalies, but this season, except in one game in Providence, he has been lights out against the Falcons. Sunday was no exception.

Things got ugly late in the period. The first two goals of the season, 44 seconds apart, by unheralded Yannick Riendeau dug the Birds a four goal hole heading into the third period.

The third period, unfortunately, started off with that hopeless feeling. The clock approaching the midway mark of the period, reinforced that until Matt Calvert finished off a nice passing play from Alexandre Giroux and Martin St. Pierre to draw the Birds within three.

Strange goal of the day award goes to Dalton Prout. Prout, who has been strong on defense of late, as well as showing a cannon of a shot from the point, was on the half wall in the Falcons defensive zone. He lobbed one to the Bruins end of the ice, simply looking for an icing call. The heave though, was on net and Khudobin showed why goaltenders far and wide have no "stand up" experience anymore. Standing upright, he appeared to make a stick save of the 160 footer. Something wasn't right, and the puck went past him to bring the Falcons within two with about seven minutes left in the game.

Coach Rob Riley pulled Dex with about two and a half minutes to go. After a minute or so of pressure on Khudobin, Bartkowski found the empty net from his own blueline, making the final 5-2.

The Falcons were never really in this hockey game. Considering the injuries that they've sustained and the weekend fatigue, it's understandable that they might drop a game here or there. Still, an unsatisfying conclusion to the weekend.

Sunday's Three Stars
1. Yannick Riendeau
2. Matt Bartkowski
3. Matt Calvert

The Falcons are off until Friday night when they return to Portland to face the Pirates.