Last night the Springfield Falcons hosted the Worcester Sharks for the first of four times at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, MA. The Falcons were looking to get a win after having dropped the first contest of the season in Worcester on January 11th. With All-Star goaltender Curtis McElhinney back from the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Falcons looked going into the game against the Sharks.
The Falcons looked strong, scoring just over three minutes into the game. Veteran forward Bryan Helmer took a hard shot from the blue line that found it’s way past Sharks goaltender, Harri Sateri. Forwards Andrew Joudrey and Ryan Russell registered the assists. This goal was the first as a Falcon for Helmer who came on to fill in some holes created by the end of the NHL lockout.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, just over a minute later, the Sharks found their way to the scoreboard. On a powerplay, a Falcons defenseman mishandled the puck. Sharks forward Tommy Grant capitalized on the opportunity and scored the shorthanded goal for the Sharks. Despite that, the Falcons were able to hold the Sharks to just four shots while putting nine shots up of their own as the first period ended tied at one.
In the next frame, the Sharks outshot the Falcons by one and it paid off as they found the back of the net again to take the lead. James Livingston of the Sharks got in close to Falcons goaltender Curtis McElhinney and was able to put the puck into the net over McElhinney’s left shoulder. Despite that goal, Falcons head coach Brad Larsen still felt his goaltender played well.
“He was fine. The goals we gave up were breakaways and not smart plays or they were two on ones,” Larsen said after the game. “He stopped a couple of breakaways too, so it could have been much worse.”
In the final period, Sharks rookie Daniil Tarasov capitalized on a shot putting another one behind McElhinney to make the score 3-1 in favor of the Sharks. Despite a late period effort where the Falcons pulled their goalie for the extra attacker, the scored remained 3-1 and the Falcons were unable to get the win. McElhinney finished the night with just fifteen saves, but some of them came at crucial moments.
The Falcons close out the month of January tonight down in Hartford as they take on the Connecticut Whale. Even with the loss last night, the Falcons record for January only falls to 8-2-1-0. A big part of the success has been the play of All-Star Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and rookie Michael Chaput. Chaput has registered 4 goals and 8 assists this month after only putting up 6 points before January started.
“He’s really elevated his game. He had a slow start like a lot of young guys trying to find their role,” Larsen said of Chaput. “He’s earned his responsibility and you see the plays he’s making with the puck. He’s a confident player.”
But Chaput seems to have a different take on his success, giving more credit to his linemates. Chaput is currently playing on a line with captain Ryan Craig and Tomas Kubalik. It is a line that Brad Larsen does not seem to want to change up.
“My wingers have helped me a lot,” Chaput said. “I’ve just been trying to play as hard as I can with high energy and I try not to worry about the points. Things have been working out so far.”
The Falcons will look to end the month on a high note and get a rebound game after last night’s loss before going into the All-Star Break. Games do not resume until Thursday, January 31st as the best in the league get together for the All-Star Classic. The Falcons will have three representatives in weekend with goaltender Curtis McElhinney, forward Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, and defenseman Tim Erixon. They will hope to help the Eastern Conference team bring home bragging rights.