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Falcons Season Comes to an End in 5-2 Loss to Crunch

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (falconsahl.com) – The Springfield Falcons (3-5) saw their postseason run come to an end on Friday night in a 5-2 loss to the Syracuse Crunch (7-0) at the War Memorial Arena.

The Falcons were swept by the Crunch in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinals, bringing a season to an end that saw Springfield set multiple franchise marks, including the best record in team history.

The Crunch will move on in the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs to face the either the Providence Bruins or the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final.

Springfield faced an uphill climb throughout Game 4, as Syracuse struck twice in the first period to grab command of the contest.

J.T. Wyman gained possession of a puck along the end boards, fed Philip-Michael Devos, and darted to the front of the net. Wyman took a feed from Devos, and jammed his second chance past Falcons goaltender Curtis McElhinney at 6:04, as the Crunch held a 1-0 edge.

Vladislav Namestnikov sped through the neutral zone and flew to the net to start the Crunch’s second scoring play. After arriving at the goal, Namestnikov’s shot was slowed by McElhinney, but Mark Barberio charged the cage and tapped in a loose puck at 7:32, as Syracuse upped its lead to 2-0.

Springfield, which was shut out by Syracuse goaltender Cedrick Desjardins in Game 3 on Wednesday, broke through in the second period to draw to within one.

Ryan Craig, with the Falcons working on a power play, tipped a David Savard blue-line shot past Desjardins just five seconds into the man advantage at 3:38, making it 2-1.

Syracuse gained momentum back, scoring to go up by two again later in the period.

Wyman, who had a chance in the opening 10 seconds of the game before connecting later in the first, capitalized on another opportunity by snapping a wrister over McElhinney’s glove from the left circle on a two-on-one rush. His goal increased Syracuse’s cushion to 3-1 at 17:20.

The Falcons refused to go down without a fight, and Andrew Joudrey’s goal at 8:35 of the third gave the club hope in what would prove to be the final period of the year. Boone Jenner’s shot from the top of the crease was stopped by Desjardins, but Joudrey whacked the rebound in to narrow the gap to 3-2.

Matt Taormina converted moments after keeping the puck in at the blue line to provide the Crunch with breathing room. His shot from the high slot soared by McElhinney’s stick at 9:45, as Syracuse added to its lead, 4-2.

With McElhinney on the bench for the extra attacker, Dan Sexton sealed it all with an empty-net goal from center ice at 18:01, as the Crunch won Game 4, 5-2, and the series, 4-0.

McElhinney (3-5) battled through 39 shots, allowing four goals. Desjardins (7-0) made 28 saves on 30 attempts, as Syracuse won for the seventh-consecutive time to begin the playoffs.

Springfield had advanced in the postseason to face Syracuse after defeating the Manchester Monarchs in the best-of-five Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, 3-1. Cody Bass became the third player in AHL history to score overtime goals in back-to-back contests of a playoff series by registering the winning tallies in Games 1 and 2 of that series. The Falcons moved on in the postseason when Nick Drazenovic ended Game 4 in sudden death on the road, as Springfield became the second team in AHL history to win three overtime decisions in a best-of-five series.

The Falcons, whose record in the regular season of 45-22-5-4 was the best in franchise history in terms of points percentage (.651), put together a campaign not seen in their first 18 years.

Springfield finished the season a franchise-record 23 games above .500, and tied the club mark of victories in one year of 45, initially set in 1997-98. The Falcons lost 22 games in regulation, matching the team low from 1995-96.

With the consistent goaltending of McElhinney and a strong defensive core, the Falcons allowed the fewest goals in one season of 186, shattering the previous club valley of 215 from 1995-96. McElhinney led the AHL with nine shutouts, the most by a goaltender in one season in the 70-year history of AHL hockey in Springfield.

Springfield was playing in the AHL’s Conference Semifinals for the third time in franchise history, and first since 1997…The Falcons were led in scoring during the series at three points by Craig (2g-1a), Jenner (1g-2a), and Nick Holden (0g-3a). Jenner and Savard each posted two goals and three assists for five points to top Springfield in the postseason…Bryan Helmer made his 2013 postseason debut and skated in his AHL-record 159th Calder Cup Playoff game…Dalton Smith made his professional playoff debut

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