Falcons Game 49: Birds Tame Sound Tigers

A typical AHL game runs somewhere around two hours and ten minutes. Friday night at The Nest in Springfield, the Falcons and Bridgeport Sound Tigers combined for 242 penalty minutes, seven goals and a 2 hour and 48 minute marathon that saw the Falcons skate away with a 5-2 victory.

One of the things that has made Falcons hockey so exciting this season, is the depth of the lineup, the quality of the coaching and the character of the organization. Friday night was no exception, as the Birds got back to business after last Sunday's suspended game due to the on ice seizure of Wade MacLeod.

In that game, MacLeod was boarded by Brandon Manning of the Adirondack Phantoms late in the second period. Within seconds after the hit, Wade was convulsing on the ice. MacLeod was subsequently hospitalized and released. His family issued a statement midweek citing a "benign mass" (a report on the AHL website mentioned "on the brain", and Jason Remillard of MassLive reports it specifically as a "benign brain tumor") and asking for respect of Wade's privacy during a treatment process. The suspended game will be completed upon Adirondack's next visit to The Nest, next Friday night. Following that the clubs will skate in their regularly scheduled game.

The first fisticuffs of the game on Friday saw Dalton Prout clearly beat Blair Riley. Prout (6'3", 224 lbs.) in his second pro season has established a physical presence this year that could be termed as "dominating". Which is not to say he doesn't still make the occasional mistake (he was clearly beaten on the play that led to Bridgeport's first goal late in the third period), but in my estimation, the future is very bright for Prout.

Cody Goloubef continued to show his hot hand and sniper like skills when he staked the Falcons to a 1-0 lead. Cody, once again in the high slot, sent a laser through a maze of players, finding the back of the net for his fifth goal of the season.

The second period was as close to a flawless period as you are going to see by the Falcons. The Birds completely shut down the Sound Tigers, outshooting them 11-2, and added two goals. Goals by Cody Bass (first of his injury shortened season) and Ryan Russell (4th) extended the Falcons lead to 3-0.

Likely sensing their imminent demise, the Sound Tigers reacted the only way that they felt they could, by turning up the heat on the Falcons to start the final stanza.

Right off the bat, tough guy Brett Gallant mixed it up with Jake Hansen. A fairly one-sided bout in Gallant's favor, this was simply the curtain jerker for the remainder of the period. I'm not going to review all of the fighting, but thanks to the Falcons YouTube page, you can see it all for yourself:

Brawling aside, and I think the Falcons did a terrific job in that category, Springfield's two third period goals were worth the price of admission in themselves.

First, Andrew Joudrey was awarded a penalty shot. Joudrey has been one of my Falcon favorites since the first time he pulled on the Falcon sweater. A leader, a character guy - call him what you will but he is the perfect guy for this Falcons lineup. He's probably not ever going to lead the league in scoring, but he brings it every single night and his teammates and the fans know it. Calm and cool on the PS, he simply zeroed in on Kevin Poulin, knew what he wanted to do and executed flawlessly to make it a 4-0 Falcons lead.

Then there's Ryan Johansen.

I could watch this goal 100 times and not get tired of seeing it. Fed the biscuit by Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, the Johan takes a look, throws in a semi-dangle, waits for the screen to develop and goes high on the short side for his 17th marker for the Falcons and a lopsided 5-0 lead. A phenomenal goal by #9 and a play that shows what this young man is capable of doing on the ice.

Lost in the first 57 minutes and 32 seconds, was another superb effort by Curtis McElhinney. C-Mac, the most dependable goalie in Springfield in a quarter century, made it look easy. Again. After a long night of pucks and pugilism, and a very short bench (I counted only 9 skaters remaining on the bench), the previously mentioned defensive lapse cost Mac his eighth whitewash of the campaign. Finally, Bridgeport put up a second goal with just eight seconds remaining, to wrap this one up as a 5-2 Falcons win. One last point worth noting was Nino "Trade me right effing now" Niederreiter turned in a -4 performance on the scoresheet.

Friday's Three Stars:
1 - Andrew Joudrey
2 - Cody Bass
3 - Ryan Russell

A good choice on the three stars. All three of these guys epitomize the work ethic of this hockey club. Good choices on a good night!

The win returned Springfield to the best winning percentage in the AHL. Currently third in points leaguewide, Springfield's 67 points in 49 games only falls behind the Syracuse Crunch with 68 points in 51 games and the Texas Stars with 72 points in 53 games.

Tonight the Falcons are in Syracuse for a "game of the season" type matchup. The last time the Crunch came to Springfield, the Falcons earned a 5-3 win. Based on that game, the Birds can't let their guard down for a moment tonight. I would expect coach Brad Larsen to give C-Mac the start tonight. Faceoff time is set for 7:30PM. The Falcons close out this three-in-three on Sunday afternoon in Worcester against the Sharks.

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