FALCONS' DRAMATIC RALLY CLINCHES WINNING SEASON
Providence, R.I. - The Springfield Falcons (34-16-5-4) scored two late goals, including one in the waning seconds of regulation, to come back against the Providence Bruins (36-19-0-5) and clinch a winning season for the second-straight year on Friday night at the Dunkin' Donuts Center.
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Ryan Russell's tying tally with 22 seconds to go capped the Falcons' two-goal rally, as Springfield maintained its 12 point lead in the Northeast Division with its 3-2 shootout loss to Providence in the first game of a home-and-home sequence with the Bruins.
While Springfield provided early pressure on Providence, the Bruins capitalized off a redirection to take a 1-0 lead, as Kyle MacKinnon centered a puck in front that deflected off of Justin Florek, then a Falcons skate, and finally past goaltender Curtis McElhinney at 7:47 of the first period.
Providence extended its advantage early in the second period. Following a heavy forearm shove by Matt Bartkowski on Jonathan Audy-Marchessault into the neutral-zone boards, the Bruins embarked on a two-on-one rush. Torey Krug took possession in the right circle and fluttered a pass to Chris Bourque, who batted the puck in at 4:26 to give Providence a 2-0 edge.
Springfield had its chances to chip into the deficit after the midway point of the second. Nathan Moon's rebound chance off a Dalton Smith shot dribbled wide, Matthew Ford tipped a Mike Banwell drive past Providence netminder Niklas Svedberg and off the crossbar, and Trent Vogelhuber's attempt from the slot off a nifty set up by Andrew Joudrey was blocked on the doorstep, as the Bruins held onto their two-goal cushion through 40 minutes.
The Falcons continued to claw away at Svedberg in the third, and gained momentum when Dalton Smith hammered Tyler Randell in a fight just after the halfway point of the final frame.
Nathan Moon picked up a free puck at the Providence blue line and started a rush toward Svedberg minutes later. Moon gave the puck to Trent Vogelhuber, accepted a return pass, darted at the net, and slid the puck into the crease. Ryan Craig charged the goal and poked the puck in at 15:01, cutting Providence's lead in half, 2-1.
With McElhinney pulled in the final minute, Nick Holden sprung Russell into Providence's end on a long neutral-zone pass. Russell cut through the right circle and feathered the puck by Svedberg from the goal line with 22 seconds left, as Springfield came all the way back to even the score, 2-2.
The Falcons fought through a penalty kill at the start of overtime to eventually push the contest to a shootout. Bourque's goal in the third round was the only tally of the skills competition as Providence prevailed, 3-2.
McElhinney (23-12-3) set aside 25 of Providence's 27 shots, and made stops on four of five shootout bids. Svedberg (29-7-2) allowed two goals on Springfield's 29 shots, and was perfect in the shootout.
The clubs return to the MassMutual Center on Saturday night, with the opening face-off set for 7:00 p.m.
The first 1,500 fans in attendance on Saturday will receive a free Falcons baseball hat. Fans can also win a free bicycle from Gus Coelho Auto Repair at 442 Holyoke St. in Ludlow as part of "Cycle Saturday." Additionally, select game-worn "Irish Night" jerseys will be auctioned off in the MassMutual Center concourse.
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).
Springfield went 36-34-3-3 in 2011-2012, and is 18 games over .500 with 17 contests remaining this season to clinch a winning record...Matthew Ford and Spencer Machacek each made their Springfield debuts on Friday. The two were acquired in separate trades by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the past week...Bryan Helmer played in his 1,111th AHL game...Springfield closed out its four-game road stretch with points in consecutive contests...The loss was Springfield's first in a shootout in its last five appearances...Craig's goal was his 56th as a Falcon, putting him one shy of Eric Healey for sixth in club history. It was his first conversion since Feb. 17