The Springfield Falcons opened the 2013-2014 season at home on Saturday, October 5th when they hosted the Manchester Monarchs. They last time the two teams met was during the first round of the playoffs, when Springfield knocked the Monarchs out. To kick off this season, the Falcons raised a banner to commemorate winning their division. It was the first time the Falcons had finished first in their division since the 1997-98 season.
It did not take long after the puck dropped to see that these teams had not forgotten their playoff series. Less than a minute into the game, Jonathan Marchessault found himself in the penalty box giving the Monarchs the first power play of the game. However, Manchester would not be able to convert on the power play.
The first goal of the game came at the 5:58 mark. The Falcons mishandled the puck at the blue line and that was all the Monarchs needed. Jordan Weal had his first of the season when he beat Falcons goalie Jeremy Smith. Brandon Kozun and Andrew Campbell had the assists. But, Springfield would not be down for long. At 8:23, new Falcon Darryl Boyce beat Monarchs goalie Marin Jones. Andrew Joudrey made a great pass in front of the net that Boyce shot home.
Despite another two penalties to Springfield, the scored stayed tied at 1 headed into the first intermission. The second frame started with another early penalty that gave the Falcons their first power play of the game. The pressure was good but they were unable to capitalize.
At 6:13 into the second, the Monarchs took the lead back. Tyler Toffoli proved that he is picking up right where he left off last season when he beat Smith at the corner of the net. Tanner Pearson earned the assist. Once again, the Falcons were not willing to let Manchester hold onto the lead. Just over a minute later, at 7:14, Michael Chaput tied the game up once again. Chaput intercepted a pass from the corner right in front of the net and quickly shot it home for an unassisted goal.
The teams came out tied at 2 for the third period and the energy level kicked up a notch. There was an increase in checking and the game got a little chippy. After the whistles, there was a lot of pushing and shoving. Both teams really buckled down and the goaltenders made some great saves to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, the momentum seemed to entirely switch in favor of the Monarchs. At the end of regulation, the shots on net were 31-18 in favor of Springfield. But in overtime, the Manchester took 6 shots while the Falcons only managed one. Excitement came part of the way through overtime for Falcons fans when they though that Trent Vogelhuber had scored a goal to end the game. The referees called it no goal and upheld that after review.
That was as close as either team would come to ending it in overtime. So, the zambonis came out to resurface the section of ice down the middle and it was time for a shootout. The Falcons shot first, electing to go with Sean Collins, Marchessault, Chaput, Broc Little, and Andrew Joudrey. Manchester chose to send out Toffoli, Weal, Nick Shore, Pearson, and Andy Andreoff. Two Monarchs hit the posts, but the lone goal in the shootout went to Little and the Falcons were able to celebrate their win as they had when they thought Vogelhuber had ended it.
“I was really happy (Coach Larsen) gave me the chance because I hadn’t had a great game and I didn’t play in overtime, but it was great to get that chance,” Little said on his shootout goal.
Now that the Falcons have got the first game of the season under their belts, Head Coach Brad Larsen knows that there is still work to be done. The team looked good overall and were able to come back every time the Monarchs took the lead. They also limited the shots for Manchester, which was something they prided themselves on last year. But there is always room for improvement.
“I think we did a lot of things right, but there are still areas to work on. It’s not a lack of effort because that looked good, but I think we need to get our skating legs under us a bit still,” Larsen said. “Now that we’ve got the first regular season game under our belt we have tape we can go over.”
The Falcons are off until Saturday, October 12th when they host the Worcester Sharks. It is unusual to have a whole week off without games, but the team will enjoy the time before the season gets into full swing and they have three games in a weekend.