FALCONS STAGE THRILLING COMEBACK, STUN MONARCHS
Manchester, N.H. - The Springfield Falcons (11-3-1-3) put together a dramatic third-period rally on Friday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena, scoring five times in the final frame to overcome a three-goal deficit and prevail over the Manchester Monarchs (9-7-2-1), 5-4. Springfield captain Ryan Craig scored his 100th-career AHL goal to tie the game and then struck with four minutes left in the contest to cap the comeback and secure two points for the Falcons.
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The Monarchs outdueled the Falcons in the first period, generating 10 shots to Springfield's five and compiling consistent chances on goaltender Curtis McElhinney. Jordan Weal tipped a long Vincent LoVerde shot past McElhinney 14:10 into the opening session, giving Manchester a 1-0 lead.
Manchester added to its advantage early in the second period, as Tyler Toffoli redirected a Tanner Pearson pass by McElhinney's left pad on the doorstep at 1:54, making it 2-0.
The Monarchs then capitalized on a Falcons defensive-zone turnover following the halfway point of the middle frame. Dwight King took possession in the left circle and fed a cutting Marc-Andre Cliche, who snapped the puck by McElhinney at 10:26 to extend Manchester's advantage to 3-0 through two periods.
Seeming on its way to defeat, Springfield struck early in the third period to commence its rally. Nick Holden took a drop pass in the left circle from Matt Calvert at 2:32 and snuck a wrister under the crossbar, narrowing Manchester's cushion to 3-1.
The Falcons ventured to the power play moments later and made the most of the opportunity to draw to within one. Calvert one-timed a cross-ice feed from Cam Atkinson by the glove of Manchester netminder Martin Jones at 5:26, closing the score to 3-2.
Robert Czarnik appeared to reclaim the momentum for Manchester at 11:47, chipping a puck by McElhinney's glove from the right circle to increase the Monarchs' bubble back to two goals, 4-2.
The Falcons took away any energy gained by the Monarchs from Czarnik's tally just 11 seconds later, as Dalton Smith tipped in a centering pass from Michael Chaput to bring Springfield right back into the action, 4-3.
Craig, who scored his 98th and 99th-career AHL tallies in each of the Falcons opening two contests this season, had been held without a goal in the each of the following 15 outings. The veteran converted to capture his milestone marker at 13:30 of the third, driving a puck by Jones from the slot and drawing Springfield even with Manchester, 4-4.
A Dalton Prout holding infraction put the Monarchs back on the power play moments after Craig's equalizer, as Manchester journeyed to the man-advantage seeking to reclaim the lead. Instead, the Falcons cashed in on a short-handed opportunity to complete the remarkable comeback. Andrew Joudrey and Craig broke into the Monarchs' end on a two-on-one rush. Craig took Joudrey's set up and fired the puck by Jones from the right circle, lifting Springfield ahead, 5-4, at 16:00.
McElhinney (10-2-2) made several key saves down the stretch, earning the victory with 24 stops on 28 shots. Jones (7-8-1) set aside 27 of Springfield's 32 bids.
In garnering the improbable win, the Falcons pulled even with the Syracuse Crunch for the top spot in the Eastern Conference at 26 points.
Coming off of their thrilling victory, the Falcons take on the Monarchs at the MassMutual Center on Saturday. The game will begin with a ceremonial puck drop by Gary Rome, owner of Gary Rome Auto Group and one of the Falcons' valued corporate partners, along with his dog Jack. The first 3,000 fans into the building that night will receive a postcard with details about a Gary Rome Auto Group Facebook promotion, which includes a grand prize of dinner for two at Picks Restaurant, an overnight stay at the Sheraton Monarch Place, and tickets to a Falcons game. Visit GoToGary.com for details on Gary Rome Hyundai in Holyoke, Mass. and Gary Rome Kia in Enfield, Conn.
As part of the evening, fans are encouraged to bring a toy to donate to Toys for Tots, a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas. The Toys for Tots bins will be located at a table in the concourse under section 1 and will be manned by on-site Marines. As an incentive to support this program, any fan who brings a toy for donation will receive a free ticket voucher for the Falcons' home game on Saturday, Dec. 15 when Springfield welcomes St. John's to the MassMutual Center at 7:30 p.m. (one voucher per person).
Fans can also purchase limited-edition, Falcons-autographed holiday glass ornaments for $5 each along with select autographed merchandise at a table behind section 1, with all proceeds going directly to Springfield Falcons Charities, the club's official charitable organization.
During the intermissions, fans will be invited to participate in a holiday sing-a-long. Santa Claus will also be venturing down from the North Pole to meet and greet Falcons fans and hang out with his friend Screech.
Fans can save $5 off a full-price adult ticket by showing their Big Y card at the MassMutual Center Box Office up to two hours before this Saturday's game.
Saturday's game is also "Cycle Saturday," as one fan will have a chance to win a free bicycle, courtesy of Gus Coelho Auto Repair at 442 Holyoke Street in Ludlow.
Single-game tickets to see the Falcons in 2012-2013 can be purchased at the MassMutual Center Box Office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. through game time on Saturday home dates, and starting four hours prior to Sunday home contests. Fans can also purchase tickets by logging onto Ticketmaster.com. For information about discounted group packages to Falcons home games, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625).
The victory was Springfield's first of 2012-2013 when trailing after two periods and most recent since Apr. 1, 2012...The Falcons had earned only eight wins in their first 47 games at the Verizon Wireless Arena...The five goals scored by Springfield in the third period were the most by the club in a single frame since it struck five times in the final stanza in a 6-2 win over Connecticut on Apr. 2, 2011...Prior to Holden's goal, the Falcons had played 141 minutes and 44 seconds of hockey in Manchester without scoring a goal, as Springfield was shut out in its most recent appearance at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Mar. 9, 2012...With a pair of third-period assists, David Savard increased his team-best point streak to eight games (2g-8a)...McElhinney's victory was his league-leading 10th of the season...Springfield has scored four short-handed goals, and is one of three teams (Chicago, Texas) to have not allowed a goal to an opponent while on the power play