Game Night 1/20: N. Admirals at Falcons
I decided to pick up the B2 feed of this game to see how the Falcons do tonight after the big shake up. Tonight's scratches: Darren Reid (leg), Steve McLaren (undisclosed), Jay Rosehill (coach's decision) and Andre Deveaux (coach's decision). Brian Eklund will get the start in net tonight.
1. NOR- Byfuglien, (Corazzini, Barrett)
2. SPR- Egener, (Cavanaugh, Jaspers)
3. SPR- Fritz, (Tarnasky)
Don't let the score fool you, Springfield looked like a hot mess in this period. They were outshot 14-4 but where they really stumbled was in allowing 4 or 5 2-on-1's in this period. Simply put, they weren't ready to start the game as they allowed a pair of 2-on-1's within the first minute or so of play, the second of which ended up in the back of the net. Brian Eklund, who looks reasonably calm in net, completely committed to the shooter as did the Falcons' d-man. Whoops. Mistake.
Springfield got back into this game thanks to Corey Crawford's generosity. Dan Cavanaugh rolled out from behind the net and delivered a pass at the top of the circles to Mike Egener who blasted an unscreened slapper into the net for his first goal of the season. Shortly thereafter, Crawford mishandled a dump in and cleared it right back to him for the easy goal for a 2-1 Falcons lead. The assist they tacked on to Tarnasky was very generous. Tarnasky later made a tricky play 1-on-1 in the zone where he showed good hand skills with a toe drag as he pushed in off the right wing towards the slot and unleashed a tricky wrister far post using the Norfolk d-man as a screen. Overall though, failing grades for the whole team in the first period. They seem happy to allow Norfolk to forecheck them and have possession time in their zone and counterattack and try to do business solely on the rush. That's not Lightning style hockey though. Roster note: Harlan Pratt was sent down to Johnstown to make room for Egener. Full lines tonight:
4. SPR- Vesce, (Hrdel, Cavanaugh)
5. SPR- Spina, (unassisted) (PP)
Still not a great period, but the Falcons tightened up and stopped allowing odd man rushes. Much like Sean Burke with the big club, if you don't put Eklund in situations like breakaways and odd man rushes where he has to move laterally, he will stop pucks for you and he's calmly doing so tonight although he did get help from the post early in the period.
Vesce's goal came just as a power play for Springfield expired. Zbynek Hrdel tried an ugly looking centering pass out of the corner that Vesce batted out of mid air into the net. That was enough to chase Corey Crawford from the game. His backup tonight, Scott Reid, is a guy who has spent most of this season in the Central League. The Falcons goal ought to be to pepper him. Spina's unassisted goal came on a power play where he attempted to make a centering feed from the left wing and it found its way off a defenseman and in.
Of the callups, Egener and Dicaire look pretty good in their first game back. Egener obviously already has the goal and he looks very formidable in his own end shutting down forwards on the rush. What a fantastic skater he is. And Dicaire is showing his offensive instincts are back. He's jumped into the play a couple of times nicely in this game, fanning on a shot on one play in the first and getting stopped point blank on a 4-on-4 in the second period. And his breakout passes are still a thing of beauty. Unfortunately he's still soft as butter in his own end, but it's nice to have the real Gerard Dicaire back.
Once the Falcons scored their 4th goal Norfolk decided to goon it up. For those interested: Fritz carried the first 3/4 of the fight against Thornton landing some short punches before Thornton got Fritz's jersey over his head and the linesman stepped in. In the second bout, Schultz did a good job getting his right hand free from under his jersey but did nothing with the advantage in a hug/body slam fest where he ended up on top of Colin Fraser.
Third period to come, I want to see the Falcons focus on getting their forecheck going for the first time in this game and generating a lot of shots on this CHL goaltender. If they do that, the winless streak dies tonight.
6. NOR- Cullen, (unassisted)
7. SPR- Fritz, (unassisted)
When Cullen got his goal off of a dump in that bounced off a man to him in the slot for a wrister to beat Eklund, things looked like they might get a bit hairy, but Scott Reid allowed Mitch Fritz to score on a long backhand from the left wing circle on a seemingly harmless play. Springfield then started to generate some forecheck and fritter the remaining time in the game away. You three stars: 1. Fritz, 2. Cavanaugh, 3. Eklund. Eklund stopped 28 of 30 faced in a workmanlike game. Lo and behold: a Falcons goaltender stops 90% of his shots and poof, no more winless streak. There's still a lot of work to do though. The Falcons can't count on the kind of help they got from Crawford and Reid tonight.