Springfield, Mass. – The Springfield Falcons (34-14-4-3) compiled eight points in three days, finishing off their perfect weekend on Sunday afternoon at the MassMutual Center with a 2-0 victory over the Worcester Sharks (26-23-1-5), as goaltender Curtis McElhinney posted his record eighth shutout of the 2012-2013 season.
Springfield entered Sunday’s game with six points already in the bag on the weekend. The Falcons completed their suspended Feb. 17 game on Friday with a 3-2 win shootout win over Adirondack before defeating the Phantoms later that evening once again, 7-2. Springfield followed up its four-point night with a 2-1 shootout win over the Providence Bruins on Saturday.
McElhinney equaled Manny Legace for the most shutouts in a Falcons career, collecting his eighth in only his 36th appearance with Springfield. The eighth-year pro, who already owned the Falcons record for shutouts in a season, matched Marcel Paille for the most perfect outings in one season in the 70-year history of AHL hockey in Springfield. Paille notched eight shutouts with the Indians in 1960-1961.
Springfield took a 1-0 lead at 16:36 of the first period, capitalizing on quick puck movement around the net. Sean Collins guided a pass to the right circle for Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, whose shot was deflected by Worcester netminder Harri Sateri right to Ryan Russell in the slot. Russell spotted the rebound and chipped the puck by Sateri’s stick for the eventual game winner.
The Falcons netted insurance in the opening stage of the second period. Michael Chaput snatched a puck at the Worcester blue line and skated into the zone, with Tomas Kubalik leading him through the slot toward Sateri. Chaput flicked the puck on Sateri with a backhand, and Kubalik pushed the rebound on the doorstep into the net at 4:23, upping Springfield’s advantage to 2-0.
Already with the benefit of a two-goal cushion, McElhinney received additional aid later in the second after making a stop on a shot by Tommy Grant. Matt Pelech had a look on the rebound at an open net from the right circle, but Ryan Craig slid in front of the shot and deflected the puck to the corner boards.
Pelech had another bid in the third period to crack McElhinney, taking a pass from Curt Gogol off a Springfield turnover. The goaltender thrusted his left pad out, stopping Pelech’s bid and preserving the shutout.
McElhinney (23-10-2) accumulated 30 saves in the game, including 13 in the final stanza. Sateri (11-12-2) stopped 17 of the Falcons’ 19 tries.
Springfield overcame a seven-point gap entering the weekend to tie Syracuse atop the Eastern Conference standings with two games in hand on the Crunch at the conclusion of the Falcons’ game Sunday. The Crunch and the Hershey Bears were tied, 3-3, early Sunday evening.
The Falcons held their 14-point advantage for first place in the Northeast Division over Connecticut with three games in hand following the conclusion of the AHL’s 21st week of play.
After embarking on a four-game road swing beginning in Adirondack on Friday, Springfield returns home to host Providence on Saturday, Mar. 16 at 7:00 p.m. at the MassMutual Center.
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).
The Falcons are 20 games over .500 for the first time since they beat the Portland Pirates on Mar. 28, 1998 to improve to 42-22-9. That victory was Springfield’s final one of its club-record nine-game winning streak. Springfield’s record for games above .500 is 21, set when it defeated the Rochester Americans on Apr. 13, 1996 to claim a record of 42-21-15….The Falcons have won five-straight home games, equaling a 2012-2013 team high…Worcester was 0/5 on the power play, and the Falcons stopped nine of 10 shorthanded situations on the weekend…Springfield let in only three goals in the three-plus contests from Friday through Sunday…The Falcons are now 12-2-0-0 in Sunday games…Legace garnered eight shutouts in 153 outings with the Falcons…The Peoria Rivermen also recorded eight points in three days from Dec. 2 to 4, 2005