Falcons Ready for 20th Anniversary Season
Where were you 20 years ago?With lifelong ties to the Pioneer Valley, I had moved to central New Hampshire. The internet was a new thing back then and my weekly trips back to the valley were my connection to the Springfield hockey scene.
The unthinkable happened at the end of the '93-'94 season when Peter Cooney sold the historic Springfield Indians franchise. The franchise became the Worcester IceCats. Trivia buffs pay attention! After Worcester, the original Indians franchise became the Peoria Rivermen and this season will be playing as the Utica Comets. But I digress...
If not for two former Springfield Kings teammates, Bruce Landon and Wayne LaChance, it's more than likely you wouldn't be reading this today.
Landon and LaChance lobbied for, and got, an AHL expansion franchise. Named for the peregrine falcons that each summer nested in what was known at the time as Baystate West, the hockey scene in Springfield had a new team and more importantly, a new identity.
The 20th anniversary season of Falcons hockey gets underway this Saturday night when the Birds host the Manchester Monarchs.
During a busy summer, there were many comings and goings that will have an impact not only here in Springfield, but also in Columbus and Evansville. Speaking of Evansville, there's no time like the present to welcome Michael Shockley to The Cannon. Michael will offer coverage of the IceMen this season.
Back to the Falcons, expect a younger club this season. I'm going to equate "younger" with "speedier", but time will tell.
Some names from the past season have gone on to greener pastures:
Nick Drazenovic signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Currently assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Nathan Moon signed with Braehead Clan of the British Elite League.
Matthew Ford signed an AHL deal with Oklahoma City.
Ryan Russell signed with Leksand of the Swedish League.
Tim Spencer signed with Sheffield of the British Elite Lg.
Scott Howes signed with HDD Olimpija Ljubljana of the Austrian Hockey League (EBEL).
Wade MacLeod (you may remember that Wade took a heavy hit back in February that led to an on ice seizure. Subsequently, a non-cancerous brain tumor was found and removed.) is skating with the Toronto Marlies on a PTO.
Nick Holden signed with, and is on the Opening Night roster of the Colorado Avalanche.
Theo Ruth is off to the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL.
Anton Blomqvist will be skating with Malmo of the Allsvenskan Swedish League
Goalies Allen York remains unsigned, while Paul Dainton is playing for Milan in the Italian League.
Although that seems like a huge amount of roster moves, a look at what will be the Falcons Opening Night lineup shows plenty of familiar faces while blending some experience and some rookies.
Alex Aleardi - Aleardi made an impact when he joined the Falcons at the end of last season. Signed to an AHL contract over the summer, he scored six goals in two preseason wins over Hartford. (and yes, the Connecticut Whale are no more. The parent New York Rangers have renamed the team "Hartford Wolfpack" after Howard Baldwin's dream of the NHL returning to the Insurance City didn't go as planned.)
Sean Collins - saw some time last year in C-bus. I'd expect him to graduate to a top six role for the Falcons.
Jake Hansen - after a good rookie season, he may find himself centering a third line.
Andrew Joudrey - back with the Falcons for his third season, he's a leader and a special teams specialist.
Jeremy Langlois - first pro season after four years at Quinnipiac University.
Broc Little - a sparkplug type forward, a Cam Atkinson or JAM type player, Little went 16-30-46 in 55 games in the SEL last season.
Spencer Machacek - a big contributor after coming to Springfield in exchange for Tomas Kubalik last season.
Jonathan Marchessault - dropped "Audy" from his last name. Can we still call him "JAM"? This could be his break out season.
Lukas Sedlak - the 20 year old, Jackets sixth rounder in 2011, Sedlak embarks on his rookie campaign.
Dalton Smith - Smitty brought a ton of energy to the Falcons last season. Chalking up 128 PIM in 67 games, he'll drop the mitts with anybody in the league.
Trent Vogelhuber - Dublin, Ohio's favorite son recorded 7 points in 27 AHL games during his rookie season.
Michael Chaput - I loved his game last season. If his development continues as it should, expect him as a top six guy for the Falcons.
Ryan Craig - "Captain Falcon" signed a two year deal with the Jackets this summer. His leadership and grit were a key component to the Falcons Northeast Division title last year.
Jack Skille - Skille was the Blackhawks first rounder (7th overall) in the 2005 NHL Draft. He hasn't seen time in the "A" since 2010.
Thomas Larkin - joined the club after completing his collegiate career with Colgate. Big and strong, Larkin potted his first pro goal in his 7 games with Springfield.
Joe Lavin - played for Rockford the past two season. Sidelined with a broken wrist last November. He should be good to go.
Austin Madaisky - limited to just 17 pro games last season, I expect to see a lot more from him this season.
Patrick McNeill - spent the past six seasons with Hershey. Experienced defender who can also put points up, he may end up leading the D this season.
Blake Parlett - former Falcons nemesis turned into Falcons hero after a trade brought him over from Connecticut. Parlett's size and agility will be key factors in molding the blueline corps.
Frederic St. Denis - Another free agent signing, St. Denis brings considerable AHL experience; 263 games with Hamilton.
Cody Goloubef - This should be Cody's breakout season as the team's top D-man.
Ilari Melart - played the past five seasons with HIFK Helsinki, Melart is a physical presence on the ice.
Will Weber - last year was his first full pro season. 82 PIM in 58 games with Springfield, Weber didn't back down from anybody and willingly mixed it up with some heavyweights. This should be a good season for Will.
Mike McKenna - enters his 9th pro season, tended the twine in Peoria last season recording a 2.42 GAA and a .923 save pct.
Jeremy Smith - played the past three seasons in Milwaukee where his GAA has been 2.26, 2.17 and 2.77 with save percentages of .921, .922 and .907.
The Falcons may end up carrying a third netminder, although as of right now, it's not clear if it will be Mike Clemente or rookie Linus Lundin. Here's a great story on Lundin's walk on in Falcons camp.
The Falcons swept two preseason games against the Hartford Wolfpack. A 7-0 whitewash in Springfield, followed by a 4-3 decision in Simsbury, CT on Sunday.
Wrapping up for now, due to my busy world (here, here and a full time J-O-B), my Falcons coverage for the upcoming season will be limited to a weekly summary. My plan is to put those up on Monday's, so I'll be able to include details from the weekend. As always, thanks for reading! Now, drop the puck!