MCELHINNEY TIES FALCONS' SHUTOUT RECORD IN VICTORY OVER WHALE
Hartford, Conn. - Curtis McElhinney tied Manny Legace for the most shutouts in one season by a Springfield Falcons (12-4-1-3) goaltender on Sunday evening at the XL Center, making 34 saves in a 5-0 victory over the Connecticut Whale (9-9-2-0) to blank an opponent for the fifth time in the 2012-2013 campaign. The Falcons, who have outscored the Whale 15-2 in two games in Hartford this year, pulled even with the Syracuse Crunch for first place in the Eastern Conference with the win.
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Making their first road appearance against Connecticut since thrashing the Whale 10-2 on Nov. 4, the Falcons fired away again in the early stages of the contest, scoring three times in the opening period. Cam Atkinson put Springfield up 1-0, chipping in a rebound in the low slot created by a Jonathan Audy-Marchessault shot at 2:23 for his club-best 10th goal of the season.
Audy-Marchessault then set up Ryan Johansen with Springfield on its first power play to increase the Falcons' lead to 2-0. Johansen snapped a puck to Audy-Marchessault, received it right back in the slot, and drove it by Connecticut goaltender Jason Missiaen at 12:16.
With the Falcons again working in Whale territory, John Moore guided a puck from the left point to the slot, looking for Matt Calvert's stick. Calvert redirected Moore's slap pass past Missiaen's glove at 16:02, extending the advantage to 3-0.
Nearing the halfway point of the second period, Sean Collins kept a puck in at the blue line to start another Falcons scoring play. Upon holding the zone at the left point, Collins skated to within a foot of the top of the left circle and wristed a puck by Missiaen's glove, sneaking the shot inside the right post and making it 4-0 at 9:46.
Ryan Craig crashed the net at 14:09 of the final frame and knocked in a rebound generated by an Atkinson shot, closing out the scoring at 5-0 with Springfield's second power-play conversion of the contest.
In achieving the milestone shutout, McElhinney turned in perhaps his best performance of the season. The eighth-year pro kept the puck out of the net on multiple Whale breakaways and two-on-one rushes, including a glove rob of Ryan Bourque right after Collins' goal in the middle stanza. McElhinney (11-2-2) is atop the league with 11 wins and five shutouts at the close of the eighth week of play in 2012-2013.
Legace, Springfield's all-time leader with 67 wins and eight shutouts, posted five perfect games in 37 outings in 1995-1996 to set the club mark. McElhinney has achieved the five-shutout barrier in just 16 appearances this season.
Missiaen (2-3-0) stopped 23 of Springfield's 28 shots.
The Falcons continue their four-game road trip on Friday and Saturday when they head to St. John's to battle the IceCaps.
Springfield returns home to host the St. John's IceCaps on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m.
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).
McElhinney's performance landed him his 18th-career AHL shutout and 20th pro shutout...His career high for shutouts in a season is seven, set in 2006-2007 with the AHL's Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights...The Falcons prevented an opponent from scoring in the first period for the first time in five games...Atkinson tied Nick Drazenovic for the team lead with his third game-winning goal of the season...Springfield has scored five goals in each of its last four road games...Springfield's away record of 6-1-1-0 (.812) is the best in the AHL...The Falcons' +28 goal differential is the highest in the league...Audy-Marchessault is tied for seventh in the AHL with 21 points and is tied for third in the league with 15 assists, both team highs