January 6, 2014

AHL Journal: Can streaking Falcons keep it up?

By Mike Miccoli

Jonathan Marchessault, seen here in action with the Blue Jackets during a call-up last season, leads Springfield with 26 points on the season. (Getty Images)

Five regulation losses. That's it. Factor in a record of 13-3-0-1 at home and 11-2-1-2 away from Springfield and it’s clear something special is happening this season with the Falcons. The consistent team effort and scorer-by-committee is making Springfield one of the toughest teams to play against in the AHL.

Brad Larsen's group has established themselves as the team that opponents circle on the calendar. Their 52 points are tied for best in the league alongside the Manchester Monarchs, even though the Falcons have five games in-hand. Every skater on the active roster has registered at least one point, with winger Jonathan Marchessault leading the team with 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points. Thirteen skaters on the active roster have at least 10 points, a testament to the Falcons being able to spread the offense around.

On defense, Frederic St. Denis is developing into a solid two-way defenseman, putting up points with eight goals and 12 assists, including three tallies on the power play. And even though Jeremy Smith has been rock solid in goal, his backup and oft-call-up, Mike McKenna, has been just as good, allowing only 13 goals in nine games.

The challenge for the Falcons now becomes maintaining this pace with a no apparent superstars or elite players in the AHL. As the Columbus Blue Jackets, their parent NHL club, get their players healthy, the Falcons roster could become one of the more consistent lineups in the AHL. And for a team that has only made the playoffs once in the last 10 years (last season), the tide is finally turning. It’s a testament to the work ethic and passion that Larsen has instilled in his players. As the eighth head coach of the Falcons in those 10 years, success is now a must for Springfield.

Power Rankings

1) Springfield Falcons (24-5-1-3): The Falcons went undefeated this week in games that included gritty wins against the streaking Albany Devils and Providence Bruins. Winger Spencer Machacek gave the Falcons two goals against Providence, the game-tying and winning tallies, and added another assist in Springfield's first win of the week over St. John's IceCaps. (Last week: 3-0, #1)

2) Providence Bruins (19-10-1-5): Amid Niklas Svedberg getting called up to Boston after an impressive outing in Tuesday's win over the Manchester Monarchs, and Malcolm Subban's shutout on Friday against the Worcester Sharks, the Providence Bruins are beginning to turn the corner on the season. It helps that they scored 15 goals in four games this week, including eight against Worcester on Sunday. (Last week: 3-1, #3)

3) Manchester Monarchs (23-8-2-4): The Monarchs' record looks fine and they're still one of the more dominant teams in the AHL, but they'll want to forget this mediocre, if not below average, week. The good news for the Monarchs? NHL's Rookie of the Month Martin Jones was assigned back to Manchester on Sunday. (Last week: 1-2-1, #2)

4) Portland Pirates (13-12-1-4): There's a big drop-off between the three top New England teams in the AHL and the bottom four. The best of the rest of them, however, are a Portland Pirates team treading water and playing .500 hockey. They'll get right back at on Monday, a game against the St. John IceCaps was cancelled due to snow. (Last week: 1-1, #4)

5) Worcester Sharks (14-15-2-1): The Sharks aren't playing good hockey right now, as shown by their two losses to the Bruins by a combined 11-2 score. Still, there are positives. Goaltender Harry Sateri looked good during a 3-2 win over Hartford in their only win of the week. (Last week: 1-3, #5)

6) Bridgeport Sound Tigers (13-18-1-4): Another week where the Sound Tigers couldn't get it together. Even in their lone shootout loss against the Norfolk Admirals, winger Justin Johnson accumulated a team-high 24 penalty minutes after two separate fights with Zack Storini. (Last week: 0-2-0-1, #7)

7) Hartford Wolfpack (11-17-0-5): Like their Connecticut foes, the Hartford Wolfpack didn't have much success on the week. In fact, they had none. In what is turning into a spiral of a season for the Wolfpack, they have a chance to jump ahead of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the power rankings next week if they can beat them first. (Last week: 0-1-0-1, #6)

Games of the Week

Friday, January 10:

Albany Devils @ Springfield Falcons (7 p.m.)

Saturday, January 11:

Manchester Monarchs @ Albany Devils (5 p.m.)

Sunday, January 12:

Portland Pirates @ Worcester Sharks (3 p.m.)

Hartford Wolfpack @ Bridgeport Sound Tigers (3 p.m.)

Manchester Monarchs @ Providence Bruins (3:05 p.m.)

Twitter: @MikeMiccoli
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