By Dan Hickling
The Springfield Falcons move into this three-game weekend in much better shape than they were in nearly a fortnight ago.
Both in standings and in spirit.
The prime reason for the improvement on both fronts is due to diminutive goalie Paul Dainton, who backboned the Birds to three consecutive wins last weekend. This after Springfield had limped to four consecutive losses behind battered backstops Manny Legace and Mark Dekanich.
Paul Dainton appeared in 123 games during his time at UMass from 2007 to 2011.
Dainton, a former UMass standout, was summoned from Chicago (ECHL) and did everything but stand on his head in leading Springfield to wins over Worcester, Portland, and Connecticut, all on the road.
“It's one of those things that you prepare for,” said Dainton, who etched stellar numbers (1.67 GAA, .947 save percentage) in those games. “Because you know that it's possible to happen throughout the year. I've been called up a few times. But (I've) also been sent down a few times. It's one of those things you can't control. So the best thing you can do is stay in the present and give it all you've got on every shot. The rest will take care of itself.”
Not bad for someone who had no job waiting for him when he finished up his four seasons in Amherst last spring.
“He has an amazing quiet confidence to him,” said Falcons coach Rob Riley. “He comes in with a smile and says he's ready to go. It kind of rubs off on people around him. He believes we're going to win, and it's contagious. They love playing for him because he's a battler.”
He battled for respect coming out of UMass, and managed to grab an amateur tryout deal with the Birds. He impressed management enough to merit a callback this year, although he was about half a dozen spots down on the parent Columbus Blue Jackets’ depth chart.
Naturally, Dainton found he had to adjust to the jump from Division 1 to the pros.
“I come from college hockey where there are four or five snipers on the team,” he said. “But you come up here, and everyone is like that. There's everything from puck movement being faster to guys being in position all the time. Everything like that.
“Everything's faster, and that's what you enjoy about it.”
It would be even more enjoyable if he gets to stick around in Springfield for a while. However, if both Legace and Dekanich make their way back from the MASH unit, Dainton may be the odd man out.
If so, Dainton said he'll just take it all in as it comes.
“I'm not fighting the waves,” he said. “There's a lot of stuff that's been tossed my way this past year. Mental hurdles to get over. By the number of times you move around. Getting over that is one of the things I've been working on.”
Around the AHL
One of Dainton's old Minuteman teammates, forward Casey Wellman, made his way back into New England via a trade this week. Wellman is now a member of the Connecticut Whale, having arrived from Houston (via Minnesota) following a trade with the New York Rangers for Erik Christensen. Christensen recently completed a conditioning stint with the Whale … Another former Whale, center Tim Kennedy, is now with Worcester following a minor league trade between Florida and San Jose that sent defenseman Sean Sullivan (Boston, Mass./Boston University) out west.
Dan Hickling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.