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Calder Cup Playoffs: Falcons move on with OT win

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets




Would they get it done any other way?

The Springfield Falcons have been the "cardiac" team at times during a long, 76-game schedule that began in the middle of October and has reached its second stage with the franchise's first playoff berth in a decade.

They've won games in pretty much every way imaginable, with players shuffling in and out of the lineup due to injuries, recalls and trades. The number of different players who have helped this club in its most successful season in 15 years is quite staggering, but sometimes, that's just how it has to happen.

And it was no different in Game 4 of the Falcons' first-round Calder Cup playoffs series with the Manchester Monarchs, a team against which they've had some memorable battles this year. A three-goal, third period comeback in November and a seven-goal output later in the spring...Springfield had to like its opening draw but knew it would not be an easy out.

"It was real tough," Falcons coach Brad Larsen said. "They played us extremely hard and we're not shocked at all with how the series went. We knew it would be a grind and they play really good hockey in the playoffs. Their goaltending was excellent and they competed really hard.

"We had to fight for space this whole series, and I was proud of our guys for sticking to the game plan. It was all through hard work, it wasn't through flash...that's what this series was all about."

Manchester held serve with a Game 3 win on home ice that made a Springfield win last night the top priority. The Falcons couldn't let the series go on any longer, for a winner-takes-all fifth game at the MassMutual Center is a risky proposition for any team - let alone the top seed playing an underdog with nothing to lose. But those scenarios went out the window after the Falcons' third overtime win of the best-of-five series last night at Verizon Wireless Arena.

The winning play was started by solid work in the neutral zone from Cody Bass (the overtime hero in Games 1 and 2) and Boone Jenner, and Jenner made a quick pass to Drazenovic at the blue line to start a 2-on-1. Drazenovic held the puck and snapped a wrister by Martin Jones at 8:06 of the first overtime, sending the Falcons to the second round and capping a wildly entertaining series.

Springfield had to battle back in Game 4, erasing a 3-1 Monarchs lead with goals from Jenner and Michael Chaput to draw level. Despite the deficit, Larsen liked his club's energy throughout the game and its determination to get pucks on Manchester goalie Martin Jones, who played well in all four games.

"I felt really comfortable even when we were down two," Larsen said. "We were so amped up with the start we had that we got a little careless in some areas, and they made us pay for it. Again, I was comfortable with where we were at with our game and I liked the pace of our game.

"These guys are committed to doing the right things, they really are, and we'd been in this position a couple times already and pulled through."

While Bass' pair of game winners and the Drazenovic tally will get the most attention, goaltender Curtis McElhinney was terrific between the pipes for Springfield - just as he was throughout the regular season. McElhinney made 37 saves in the Game 4 win and was also a big factor in the Game 2 victory as the Falcons were under siege in overtime before Bass notched the winner.

Some notes:

- Springfield now awaits the result of today's Game 5 between Hershey and Providence (game begins at 5 p.m.). The winner of that game will decide the Falcons' second round opponent.

- The Eastern Conference semifinals will begin at the MassMutual Center on either May 10 or 11.

- All four games of the Falcons' first-round series were decided by one goal, and the club has won seven of its last eight one-goal decisions dating back to April 12.

- Springfield is not 9-3 all-time in Calder Cup playoff overtime games, and the winning goal was the first overtime playoff goal in Drazenovic's career.

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