FALCONS QUIET WHALE, PACKED XL CENTER CROWD
Hartford, Conn. - The Springfield Falcons (27-11-3-3) cooled off the Connecticut Whale (20-21-4-1) and the second-largest crowd in the franchise's 16-year history of 13,239 fans on Saturday night at the XL Center, scoring the game's first three goals before hanging on in the contest's final moments for a 3-2 victory.
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With wins in both games of its games on the weekend, Springfield vaulted past the Binghamton Senators into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference and tied the Texas Stars atop the AHL standings at 60 points. The Falcons handed the Whale their first home regulation loss in the last seven games, as Springfield improved its away record to 15-5-2-0.
Tomas Kubalik's skillful goal at 8:09 of the first provided Springfield with an early boost. Kubalik took a pass from Cody Goloubef, skated into Connecticut's end, battled his way to the Whale net, and jammed the puck past goaltender Cam Talbot, as the Falcons struck first, 1-0.
Springfield netminder Curtis McElhinney's second-period effort kept the Whale off the board and paved the way for the Falcons to increase their advantage. McElhinney made two spectacular saves on Connecticut's Kelsey Tessier on prime scoring chances during different instances of the middle frame, as the Falcons kept their 1-0 lead.
Two minor penalties on Connecticut's Brandon Segal and Sean Collins put the Falcons on a five-on-three power play, and Springfield capitalized on the opportunity. Goloubef lined up a shot from the top of the left circle off a pass from Nick Holden and fired the puck by Talbot's stick at 13:29 for his second goal in as many games, making it 2-0.
Springfield increased its edge in the third period with its second man-advantage conversion. Holden's shot rattled around the crease and made contact with Wade MacLeod and Ryan Craig before the puck deflected to Nick Drazenovic in the right circle. Drazenovic drove his shot by Talbot at 4:32, and Springfield led, 3-0.
The Whale dug their way back into the game, fighting back with two tallies to draw within a goal.
Tessier found Brandon Mashinter cutting behind Springfield's defense and connected with the left wing for a breakaway chance. Mashinter snapped the puck by McElhinney at 9:50 for Connecticut's first goal, 3-1.
J.T. Miller corralled a feed from Brandon Segal and guided a shot by McElhinney from the low left circle at 11:23 of the final frame, as Springfield's breathing room dwindled to 3-2.
The Whale continued to surge in the final minutes of the contest, but McElhinney (19-7-2) finished off his strong outing with perfect play late. He turned aside 33 shots in the outing for his second-straight win. Talbot (15-19-0) made 30 saves.
Springfield's lead in the Northeast Division remained at 13 points, as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers were also victorious on Saturday evening. The Falcons took over the league's top points percentage of .682 with their third win in four tries at the XL Center in 2012-2013.
Springfield is back in action next Friday, Feb. 8, as the Falcons welcome the Albany Devils to The Nest at 7:00 p.m., presented by Mohawk Communications. Fans in attendance have the opportunity to win a brand new, high-definition television courtesy of Manny's TV & Appliances as part of "Flat-Screen Friday."
The Falcons close out next weekend on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 3:00 p.m. when they host the Portland Pirates. The first 1,000 fans in attendance will receive a free Falcons winter hat, courtesy of the University of New Haven.
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).
Drazenovic is tied for the AHL lead with 25 power-play points (9g-16a) after producing a goal and an assist on the man advantage...He had five points (1g-4a) in two games this weekend after compiling three assists in Springfield's 5-3 win over Syracuse on Friday...Drazenovic is now tied for the league lead with six game-winning goals...Goloubef's goal was his fourth of the season, and the third-year pro is one shy of his career high of five, set in 2010-2011...Craig has assists in five-straight road games...Springfield is 3-1-0-0 in Connecticut this season and has outscored the Whale at the XL Center, 20-7...The Falcons scored two power-play goals for the third-straight game (2/5)...Connecticut failed on three man-advantage opportunities...The Falcons increased their league-leading goal differential to +41...The game involved four fights by eight different players...Tim Spencer's first-period bout with Dylan McIlrath marked his first penalty minutes of the season...Spencer was celebrating his 27th birthday...Springfield is 22-1-0-0 when leading after two periods