FALCONS OUTLAST CRUNCH IN HEATED AFFAIR
Springfield, Mass. - The Springfield Falcons (26-11-3-3) held off the Syracuse Crunch (25-11-2-4), 5-3, in a spirited contest that included five fighting majors on Friday night at the MassMutual Center to pull into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Click here for the highlights and postgame interviews.
Click here for the box score.
The Falcons prevailed in a highly-anticipated contest with the Crunch, as both teams entered the game with 56 points and two of the league's top three records. Springfield matched Binghamton's 58 points to move atop the conference and improved its Northeast Division lead to 13 points over Bridgeport and Connecticut.
Springfield was outshot by Syracuse in the first period, 12-3, but closed out the frame on a major power play after Radko Gudas tackled Nick Drazenovic from behind following a minor boarding infraction on the latter skater. Gudas took down Drazenovic, fired a barrage of punches, and received 27 total penalty minutes which included a game misconduct. The Falcons could not convert to close out the stanza, as the teams entered the intermission scoreless.
With Mike Angelidis in for a delay of game infraction early in the second, the Falcons went on a five-on-three man advantage. Drazenovic chipped a puck toward Crunch netminder Dustin Tokarski, and both Wade MacLeod and Ryan Craig dug away at the rebound. Craig flipped the puck by Tokarski 42 seconds into the period, as the Falcons took a 1-0 lead.
The Crunch battled back with a power-play tally of their own at 8:37, as Brett Connolly finished off the rebound from an Alex Killorn shot at the top of the crease, tying the contest, 1-1.
Springfield recaptured its momentum minutes later, as MacLeod and Drazenovic broke in on a two-on-one rush. Drazenovic poked the puck wide, but MacLeod found Cody Goloubef open in the slot for another scoring opportunity. Goloubef ripped a shot by Tokarski's stick at 10:46, putting Springfield back ahead, 2-1.
The Falcons maintained their pressure and went back on the power play later in the frame. Drazenovic won a face-off for Michael Chaput, who skated to the slot and snapped the puck in at 12:51, as Springfield emerged from the middle stanza with a 3-1 cushion.
The Crunch looked to draw closer by going on a power play following the halfway point of the third, but Craig forced a turnover at center ice, skated in on Tokarski by himself, and backhanded the puck in at 12:01, increasing Springfield's advantage to 4-1.
The Falcons, up by three goals in the final five minutes, appeared to be in control of the game and on their way to victory. The Crunch connected twice on the power play, however, after another altercation that included fights involving Springfield's Dalton Smith and Will Weber and Syracuse's Connolly and Tyler Johnson.
J.T. Wyman fired in a backdoor feed from Richard Panik with the Crunch on a five-on-three at 16:53, narrowing Springfield's edge to 4-2.
Killorn drove in a rebound from the slot at 18:04, as Syracuse inched closer, 4-3.
With Tokarski pulled for the extra attacker, Craig battled for and gained the puck at center ice and lifted it ahead to Chaput, who sealed the game with an empty-net goal at 19:08 and closed out the scoring, 5-3.
McElhinney (18-7-2) stopped 34 of 37 shots and was a key component of Springfield's win. The eighth-year pro allowed only goal goal while the Crunch opened a 20-6 shots bubble halfway through the game. Tokarski (17-7-4) permitted four goals on 25 shots and was on the bench for the Falcons' final tally.
Springfield heads to Connecticut on Saturday to take on the Whale at the XL Center at 7:00 p.m.
The Falcons return home to the MassMutual Center next Friday, Feb. 8 when they welcome Albany to town at 7:00 p.m. Springfield and Portland close out next weekend at The Nest on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 3:00 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).
Chaput and Craig each had two goals, matching season highs for both skaters...Craig scored Springfield's seventh shorthanded goal of the season and is the first Falcon with two tallies of that variety in 2012-2013...He moved into sole possession of eighth place in Falcons history with his 52nd and 53rd goals in a Springfield sweater...Craig also had an assist to tie his season high of three points...Springfield leads the AHL with a +40 goals differential...Gudas' 27 penalty minutes were a single-game high for a Falcons opponent this season...Springfield scored twice on the power play for the second-straight game (2/6)...Syracuse connected three times on the man advantage (3/7)...With three assists, Drazenovic moved into sole possession on the Falcons with 41 points (14g-27a) and is now fifth in the league in scoring...MacLeod had two assists and eight shots, both 2012-2013 season highs for the second-year pro...The victory was McElhinney's first since Jan. 6 in Providence