AHL Game Night 12/22: Falcons at Wolf Pack

As a part of Bolt Prospects' midterm player evaluations, I will be live blogging this game while watching via the B2 Networks feed. Check this blog post between periods for updates.

Here's the big news tonight in pregame. Not only will Maxime Boisclair be making his AHL debut in this matchup but defenseman Andy Rogers will be returning to the lineup after missing two months due to injury. John Adams and Zdenek Blatny are healthy scratches and Justin Keller and Mike Egener (upper body injury) will be out due to injury.

Starting lineup:
Healey/Corso/Milley
Rosehill/Delmore
Ramo

SPR-1
HFD-2 Final

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
1. HFD- Weller, (Ortmeyer, Korpikoski)

Third Period
2. SPR- Kvapil, (Rogers, Jones)(PP)
3. HFD- Ortmeyer, (Degon)

First Period Notes
The Falcons played 19 minutes of really strong hockey in this period then seemed to let their foot off the gas in the last 60 seconds and almost let a goal in as a result. Final shot totals were 13-10 in favor of Springfield, but that doesn't tell the story of how much the birds dominated teritorially. They looked great on the forecheck, and not just one or two lines either. Every line, all the way down to the extra forwards Boisclair and Fritz were generating forecheck and chances. Al Montoya is playing well and it could easily be 2-0 or worse for Hartford without him.

The best chance of the period came midway through the frame on a Norm Milley centering feed that left Eric Healey all alone on the doorstep with Montoya, but he was unable to finish. Just a couple of shifts prior Boisclair nearly had his first AHL goal off a sharp angle rebound from a David Spina wraparound. Later in the period Montoya stopped Delmore on a quick shot from the middle of the slot off a Spina centering feed from the right wing corner. Marek Kvapil, who looks much more comfortable and in the flow than the last time I saw the Falcons, had another ten bell chance all alone in the slot and he missed the net with a shot wide left. He and Spina have been using their speed to push the pace well and the Falcons blueline is really looking efficient and moving the puck well.

Holy cow does Jay Rosehill look comfortable on the number one pairing. I can't believe this is the same guy who was a timid beanpole who was a rookie for Springfield and Johnstown last year. Rogers looks a little rusty but not too bad. Ramo didn't have many really good chances to deal with until the final minute of the period when a mixup on the defense led to a turnover and 2-3 shots in close. Ramo never really got a bead on the puck but he spread out and made himself big and thankfully the rebound opportunities didn't find twine.

The first 19 minutes of this period were outstanding, getting back to the positive. That's the closest I've ever seen the Falcons stylistically to the way the Lightning play their system. They were really good forecheck, good speed through the neutral zone, efficient moving the puck on the backline. I've got to give credit to Stirling. The last Falcons game I saw was about a month and a half ago and this team looks like it has learned so much in the last 90 days or so. They look poised, confident and polished.

Tonight's Lineup:
Healey/Corso/Milley
Rowe/Jones/Kvapil
Lascek/Cavanaugh/Spina
Fritz/Boisclair

Rosehill/Delmore
Smaby/O'Brien
Rogers/Dufresne

Ramo
Boutin

Second Period Notes:
Controversy. The Falcons had an apparent goal where an Eric Healey shot hit a Wolf Pack defender who piled into the net. The goal light went on and when the defender piled out of the crease the puck was sitting in the net. The referees claimed the whistle had blown before the puck was in the net: no goal. Steve Stirling was living and a couple of minutes later a big hit by Jed Ortmeyer led to a turnover and the only goal of the game as Weller beat Ramo short side from the right wing side.

The Falcons looked less poised in the period and aren't generating as much forecheck as in the first period. Ramo stopped a shorthanded break early in the period with a diving poke check and late in the period stopped a clean shorthanded breakaway from the redline in closing up the 5-hole on Martin Richter. The Falcons need to settle down because they allowed 3-4 odd man rushes in the second after allowing none in the first period. The Falcons seem to really be struggling with Nigel Dawes and Greg Moore's speed (Moore in particular).

And it must be said, the PP looks like poo poo in this game. The Falcons squandered a 2-man advantage in the second period and the Pack has two breakaway chances they've gotten while shorthanded in the game.

For those wondering about the fight, I give it to Fritz on points. Mitch got Lessard's helmets off and they both grappled and started throwing short lefts to the sides of each other's heads before wrestling down to a knee. Fritz was hitting skull, albeit not hard. Lessard was hitting helmet. Decision: Fritz.

Big third period here. The Falcons deserve points because they've played well. They need to crack Montoya and do it early. Next goal in this game is critical. Whoever gets it has the big mo.

Third Period Notes
That one stings. I thought the Falcons outplayed Hartford tonight and deserved at least a point but made a critical error with about 2 minutes left that ended up in the back of their net to lose the game.

The Falcons started the period needing a goal to tie up the game and Stan Lascek drew an early tripping call. Blair Jones had a really good chance on the PP off a great centering feed from Boisclair but had his shot deflected away by the d-man. At the end of that PP Dan Cavanaugh got a little room and had a good wraparound chance but was stopped by Montoya. A few minutes later Ramo saved the Falcons' bacon for about the 4th time in the game stopping a pair of rebound chances while down on his side. There's no faulting the goaltending tonight. Ramo was strong.

The tying goal came on a broken play late on the Falcons' seventh power play as Andy Rogers nearly had the puck stolen from him at the left point. The puck squirted to Kvapil at the top of the left wing circle and Marek buried a slapshot on Montoya on the broken play. Kvapil did some good things, did some dumb things, but all in all was pretty good in the game. At least he's a factor these days. He was invisible earlier this year.

After Kvapil's goal Lascek took a snap shot to the head from Martin Richter. He was in a lot of pain but returned later in the third period. The game looked destined to head to overtime as both teams seemed to be playing pretty well defensively. Jay Rosehill in particular was very strong along the wall. The carry away from this game for me is that Rosehill is growing up in a hurry.

And then the mistake happened. Doug O'Brien lost the puck at the side of the net on a bad turnover on a seemingly harmless play. In the resulting scramble Healey had a chance to get the puck out of the zone but could not. Delmore then tried to reverse the puck around the boards to an empty left wing. Degon cuts it off and fires the point shot that Ortmeyer tips in for the winner. Sickening. Ortmeyer was outstanding in this game, but O'Brien should've never lost that puck to begin with on that sequence. Shame. You expect more from an experienced guy like that.

General impressions of the forwards:
Healey is playing outstanding hockey. He's the straw that stirs the drink on that #1 line. Milley is Milley. He doesn't dominate you, he's just a crafty son of a gun.

Second line, Kvapil's speed was a factor. He's 3000 times better along the wall than he was last season. Made some dumb decisions with the puck in his own end and at the Hartford blueline. Still, he was a factor. Third star of the game. Jones is just an honest hard working player at both ends of the rink. Rowe can play at this level.

Third line, Spina was awesome tonight. His speed backed Hartford off their blueline a lot and he was very active. Cavanaugh was scrappy. Lascek quietly got a lot of shots on goal, but played too much on the perimeter to be successful.

Extra forwards, Fritz did his job and won a fight. Boisclair after a bad first shift didn't look out of place. That behind the back pass to Jones on the PP was stylish.

General impressions of the d-men/goaltender:
Delmore is so talented that at this level he can do something incredibly stupid and still have the speed and skill to get away with it. Rosehill's stock jumped a lot in my book as the game went on. I like his progress.

Smaby was quietly efficient. So was O'Brien until he pissed the game away with that turnover.

Rogers showed some rust, but he always looks freakishly comfortable. Stirling seemed to be feeding him more and more ice time as the game wore on and he began to trust Andy more. Dufresne didn't scare me too much except on a penalty kill where he went for a big hit in the neutral zone, missed, and the resulting odd man rush nearly ended up in the back of the net.

Ramo was good tonight. Not great, but good. He deserved better than what he got. Big game tomorrow against Portland. The hot hand, Mr. Boutin will be in net I'm sure.

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Rogers/Egener

That figures that one is back and the other is out. So far none of our "Big 4" D prospects are making me believe they're a sure thing for a full season on the NHL roster next year. It would comfortable to know that we could clear Sarich's $1.9 mil and plug one of those guys into the 3rd pair next year. Smaby is the only one that doesn't break like a china doll and he seems to be struggling to be a top end AHL guy according to the reports we've heard thus far. If one-to-two don't emerge by March, it'll cause Jay to make an extra move next offseason to secure a 3rd pair guy.

I wouldn't be too worried.

I wouldn't be too worried. Eggs says he's close to returning and he'll be back shortly after Christmas. Rogers looks preternaturally comfortable for a guy who has been out for two months, but that's just Rogers. The Smaby/OB pairing has been quiet and workmanlike. Rosehill has been surprisingly steady in a first pair role with Delmore so far.

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