Bolt Prospects will be watching tonight's Falcons home opener on B2 Networks and liveblogging some game notes during the intermissions. Tonight's game sets up as a critical one of several levels. First, with Ryan Craig
now out for a month with a knee sprain, several Falcons forwards will be attempting to make a good impression for the organization and earn a callup. For the Lightning/Falcons organization, whatever goodwill Springfield fans had for their new affiliation has all but dried up after two years of struggling and after last weekend's debacle in Norfolk the natives are definitely restless. For Head Coach Steve Stirling, this is the first major test of his leadership as the Falcons' bench boss. After skating his team hard on Tuesday and Wednesday to punish them for their poor play last weekend, will the young Falcons respond? And, finally, there are several subplots for the Lightning's young prospects. Will [url=karri-ramo]Karri Ramo
[/url] rebound from a tough weekend and settle into the team's starting role? Will [url=marek-kvapil]Marek Kvapil
[/url] respond to his healthy scratch in Norfolk and start to lead the Falcons offense as was expected at the start of the year? Will the Falcons young defensemen like [url=mike-egener]Mike Egener
[/url], [url=matt-smaby]Matt Smaby
[/url] and [url=andy-rogers]Andy Rogers
[/url] tighten up their play after looking like the Keystone Cops in Norfolk? It's a critical three game weekend set, and anything less than a couple of wins will be a huge disappointment.
1. MAN- Murphy, (Pushkarev)(PP)
2. SPR- Aulin, (Kvapil, O'Brien)(PP)
3. SPR- Blatny, (Delmore, Milley)
4. MAN- Jackman, (Kemp, Harrold)(PP)
5. MAN- Kanko, (Harrold)
6. MAN- Murphy, Clarke(EN)
[i][b]First Period Notes:[/b]
Deveaux, Waugh and Burke I believe were the scratches for tonight's game. The Falcons looked much more poised and organized than they reportedly were in Norfolk. I didn't see any of the Admirals games, but just in comparison to opening night the team looks very much improved. The Falcons looked like they had a lot of jump coming out with a good first shift by Blatny/Jones/Milley followed up by a decent second shift where Smaby jumped into the play well for a shot from the high slot. At the other end of the ice, Ramo looks like Ramo. Active, quick, loves to get out and play the puck and is coming out to the top of his crease to challenge shooters. He made a few critical saves to hold the game at 1-0 before Aulin tied it up.
Kudos to Dan Cavanaugh for dropping the gloves against a much bigger Tim Jackman and actually holding his own 7:25 in. Falcons had the Monarchs in some penalty trouble early but couldn't covert, although they were very dangerous on their second power play. The Monarchs scored on their first power play as someone lost Ryan Murphy in the circle to the left of Ramo and Murphy beat him what appeared to be stick side with a shot off the post and in. Falcons were on their heels after that for a couple of shifts with Egener and Dufresne struggling mightily to get a clear right after the goal. Clearly the Falcons need to stay off the PK because they don't appear to be comfortable at it yet. Stirling seems to be rotating just about everyone and their brother on the PK unit rather than relying on a few guys like Reid and Cavanaugh and I think that's probably contributing to the lack of cohesion on that unit.
Even strength and on the PP, however, the Falcons look pretty good. On the PP they're using Jones on the point once again and they're using Keller a lot on the man advantage. One criticism of Justin's play tonight: he's got to get stronger on his skates. If you breath on him he goes down. Speaking of which, I actually witnessed Marek Kvapil digging a puck behind the net, turning his back to the defender to shield the puck and making the play in the offensive zone. True, he ended up getting pancaked, but that was more than I saw all last season from Marek.
The Falcons goal came on the power play as O'Brien held the puck in on a clearing attempt at the left point and slid the puck down low to Marek Kvapil who took a bad angle shot from down near the goal line on the left wing and Aulin poked in the rebound for an important goal to knot the game. Falcons needs to keep playing well at even strength and drawing penalties and, above all, stay out of the box, and they look like they should be in good shape tonight.[/i]
[i][b]Second Period Notes:[/b]
Pretty simple here: win a period win a game now knotted at 2-2. The Falcons haven't put together a good third period all year, so now is the time. It will probably come down to discipline at this point. If the next 20 minutes are played mostly at even strength, the Falcons will get points out of this game. If they continue to give Manchester power plays, then they're in trouble.
Falcons came out like a house of fire the first two shifts of the period. Spina moved onto the line with Cavanaugh and Reid to start and they had a great shift before giving way to the Kvapil line who also had a good shift before Matt Smaby took a needless penalty in the neutral zone and killed their momentum. Kvapil, by the way, has done more forechecking in 40 minutes of this game than he did his first 40 games last season, and it's great to see.
After the Smaby penalty the Monarchs got a couple of more power play chances and Karri Ramo has been pretty sharp. He's been aggressive, out at the top of the crease and in good position square to the shooter all game long. He took a couple of skates to play the puck that got a little hairy in the period, but wow. 20 years old and he's going toe to toe with a very good AHL goaltender in Labarbera and matching him through 40 minutes.
had a pretty good chance on a power play chance midway through the period where he skated free down right wing with good speed and came out the other side with a Tim Taylor brand Captain Wraparound shot. Nothing about his game really overwhelms you, but the guy seems to have few weaknesses. Faceoffs might be it. If he needs to get physical, he will. If he needs to backcheck, he'll be on you like a cheap suit. And he's got some crafty playmaking ability.
is fun to watch. It takes him the blink of an eye to ratchet up the intensity and he threw a couple of bone crunching checks in the second.
The Falcons scored their 2nd period goal about 10 seconds after one of their power play's expired with Blatny tipping in a long Delmore right point shot from the mid slot. The Monarchs' second period goal was also a deflection goal by Jackman on a power play point shot so here we are 2-2.
Win a period, win a game. Lets go Falcons.[/i]
[i][b]Third Period Notes:[/b]
Oof. That's a tough one to take. The whole game turns on one play where Petr Kanko snuck behind Egener and Dufresne and Harrold hit him with a long three line pass for the breakaway. Kanko deked to his backhand and roofed it over Ramo. Karri had no chance, and that was essentially the game. Hardly surprising the Egener/Dufresne pairing was the duo that got caught with their pants down. It's probably not a coincidence that the only time Manchester seemed to be able to generate even strength forecheck those two were on the ice.
Ramo deserved better. He stopped 22 of 25 on the night and made a handful of really key saves though. I was going to remark on the absence of any really clear cut odd man rushes in the game by either side, but Egener and Dufresne took care of that. He did just about everything you could ask a goaltender to do in the third, including standing tall with his penalty killers late in the game stopping a 5-on-3 after a pair of awful offensive zone penalties by Jones and Spina.
The Falcons only had a couple of decent chances in the third period. Aulin missed the net by a country mile after losing his man along the left wing boards and walking in front for a shot right in the middle of the slot. You have to bury that chance. Later, after the Monarchs had taken the lead, Healey tried to carry the puck straight in on Labarbera on a not so clear cut 2 on 1 but he couldn't get a shot off and toppled into the netminder.
Kvapil and Jones would be the two candidates for a recall I would seriously consider out of this game, with Kvapil having the edge of the two. Keller is a smart player and seems to know what to do on the forecheck and how to get himself free in the offensive zone, but he's not physically able to compete as a pro yet. Not big enough, not strong enough, needs to get a little faster. He has Bambi legs. I suspect once he builds up his body to cope with this level he'll be a really good player.