Falcons Game 10: Birds Blank Whale
Tim Erixon picked right up where he left off on Sunday, scoring both goals as the Falcons blanked the Connecticut Whale 2-0 in front of an enthusiastic 5,653 at The Nest in Springfield.
Erixon's goals, both power play markers in the third period, made the difference while Curtis McElhinney, rapidly becoming a 21st century "Mr. Zero", posted his third shutout in nine starts this season.
The rarity of Sunday's lopsided win in Hartford was established early, when as it has become part of their game plan, the Falcons attacked Cam Talbot in the Connecticut cage early.
Talbot was superb in the first period, turning away all 18 shots the Falcons sent his way. In comparison, Talbot surrendered three goals in the first seven minutes of play last Sunday. His poise showed early and it energized his club.
The biggest save of the period though, was a C-Mac rejection on a Brandon Segal breakaway. The puck was loose in the neutral zone and Segal won the race. He was shoulder to shoulder with a Falcon defender, went deep and cut right. McElhinney followed the entire sequence in true veteran style and flashed the catch glove to keep the game tied at 0-0.
The onus then was back on Talbot in the middle period when he kept Springfield off the board. His save of the night came in a denial of Ryan Johansen from close range.
Play was chippy throughout, possibly a result of Sunday's wide open affair. The contest was officiated by two referees, Chris Cozzan and TJ Luxmore. Quite frankly, they called everything. I have regularly stated in the past that when an AHL game employs the two ref system, it seems there are more penalties called. Tonight was no exception, but the quantity of penalties (25 in all) was warranted and it kept the game from getting out of control.
The Whale's Tommy Grant took a minor for holding near the end of the second period. This turned into a brief tussle with Springfield captain Ryan Craig. This set up the Falcons power play at the beginning of the final period.
Erixon, looking more and more like a legitimate NHLer with each game, was on the blueline just waiting for his opportunity. It came just 1:03 into the third, when Tomas Kubalik and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault cycled the puck in the Connecticut zone. JAM found Erixon open and made the pass back to Erixon, who made no mistake and beat Talbot for the 1-0 lead.
Tim wasn't done yet. Later in the period with the Falcons on a 5 on 3 power play, he was set up almost identically to the first goal. This time, Cam Atkinson and Nick Drazenovic worked their razzle dazzle, again getting the disc to Erixon who blasted one through a maze of bodies and found the back of the net.
Friday's Three Stars:
1 - Tim Erixon
2 - Curtis McElhinney
3 - JAM
This was yet another very well played game by the Falcons. Coach Brad Larsen has been a stickler for the "north-south" concept and his squad carries it out extremely well. Further, with the defense not afraid to take chances, on the rare occasion when somebody gets caught up ice, his spot is covered immediately, thus limiting the liability risk in their own zone. Finally, the goaltending has been just short of phenomenal in these first ten games. After Friday night's effort, C-Mac sits third among AHL goalies, sporting a 7-1-1 record, a 1.44 GAA and a .949 save percentage.
The Birds are off on Saturday and will be back at The Nest on Sunday against the Calder Cup champion Norfolk Admirals. Special faceoff time is 5PM. We'll have it covered here at The Cannon.