Cam Atkinson scoring goals isn’t the news item du jour – he’s a regular at lighting the lamp. But it’s his proclivity for doing so at just the right time that has folks excited.
His timeliness has benefited his team, too: the Springfield Falcons hold the Northeast Division lead just beyond the first quarter of the regular season, and have sustained their momentum by sustaining their pace.
They haven't flinched if the ice tilts in the opponents' favor; they instead get back to their system in attempt to take advantage of the next available opportunity. Atkinson has seemed to follow that mold, but that's not surprising to anyone who has followed his career.
He scored goals in buckets at Boston College and has a truckload of important goals to his credit, and he's continued doing so in Springfield.
His month of December goes as follows: five goals, three assists and three game-winning goals in five games. Atkinson netted the winning goal in each of the Falcons' victories in St. John's last weekend that (albeit briefly) helped them take over first place in entire American Hockey League.
But Atkinson said his line mates have been equally important to his offensive success. He's been paired with Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and Nick Drazenovic for the past few weeks, and "JAM" has added a dynamic play-making element to his strong preexisting partnership with Drazenovic.
"We’ve been working really hard at our chemistry, doing extra reps during practice, after practice, things like that," Atkinson told BlueJackets.com. "We’ve been creating a lot of opportunities to score goals and we’re clicking really well. If we’re playing well defensively, it’s going to lead to chances at the other end.
"Those are two confident guys on my line and they’ve been getting me the puck a lot. I've been lucky to bury some of those chances."
Maybe it's pure coincidence (I tend to think not, but let's carry on) that Atkinson has scored some of the most crucial and timely goals for Springfield this season, but the patterns are encouraging.
Back in October, the Falcons blew a two-goal lead on home ice to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and were on their heels in the third period. A simple forecheck led to a turnover in the offensive zone, and one cross-ice pass later, Atkinson was right on the doorstep to slam in the winning goal with minutes to play.
When asked if any particular goal stood out, Atkinson paused but pointed to a highlight-reel goal he scored in Norfolk late in the second period (also a game-winner). He had three goals that weekend as Springfield completed the sweep.
"After that weekend, I just sat back, played my game and felt really comfortable," Atkinson said. "It helped me figure out my game again, for sure. I’ve been able to score some pretty big goals at key times in the game this year, but like I said, it’s all about who you’re playing with.
"I love shooting the puck and scoring goals just as much as anyone else does. But when you’re put with great players, they’re going to give you the chance to score goals, too. My line mates and I have worked well together and, most importantly, we’ve been burying pucks when we have the opportunity."
The "everyone contributes" mentality has been the Falcons calling card during their franchise-best start. With another three-in-three weekend on tap -- including two on the road, where they've been the league's top team -- having all hands deck becomes even more important.
What's also motivating, Atkinson said, is that each player on the bench knows they can impact the game. No matter who gets the tap on the shoulder, they're ready.
"That’s what makes us successful -- it’s not one guy pulling all the rope," Atkinson said. "We have four lines of guys and a bunch of talented defensemen that can make a play and we can play against any team in this league.
"We’ve proven that we can get contributions from anywhere in the lineup, and it doesn’t matter who you are or what role you play. In any given situation, anyone can step up and make a big contribution for our team."