Believe it or not, the Springfield Falcons are on pace to break a franchise record for wins and points that they set just one season ago. And this comes despite a stretch in which they haven't played their best hockey - and still, maintain a sizable lead on first place in their division.
Last season, the Falcons were the talk of the AHL with head coach Brad Larsen pushing all the right buttons and finding ways to win in the midst of a lockout-shortened NHL season and roster moves at seemingly every turn. Springfield used a small handful of goaltenders, saw some of its best players recalled to Columbus in January and managed to keep winning games in the process.
The 2012-13 Falcons won 45 games and clinched their first playoff berth in nearly a decade. After a first round win over Manchester, Springfield was eliminated by the Syracuse Crunch in the second round...a disappointing finish to what had otherwise been a benchmark season in franchise history.
But that's not anything to be satisfied with, they'll tell you. This season has been about building on the success of the previous one and establishing a long-term winning culture in Springfield, and so far, the Falcons are on the right track once again.
What's ailed the Falcons lately? Not much on the whole, but a pair of home-ice defeats over the weekend to arch-rival Hartford and Bridgeport didn't provide many highlights.
Springfield is 4-4-0 in February and has cooled a bit after a scorching start to the season, but the Falcons have also made moves to bolster the lineup in areas of need. They acquired Paul Thompson from the Penguins organization for some help up front (sending AHL veteran Spencer Machacek to Wilkes-Barre in the deal) and also got Rocky River, Ohio native Carter Camper - a former offensive standout with the Miami RedHawks - in a deal with the Bruins.
Camper, 25, has yet to play a game with the Falcons but is expected to make his debut sometime this week.
Here are some other notable nuggets from the place they call "The Nest"...
CHAPEAUS FOR CHAPUT
Blue Jackets prospect Michael Chaput, in his second season, recorded his first professional hat trick on Sunday in Springfield's 4-1 win over Worcester. Chaput is third on the team in scoring (counting Camper's 31 points in Providence this season) with 29 points in 33 games.
MCKENNA = MCSOLID
This from the Falcons' PR staff: Mike McKenna ranks second among all AHL goaltenders in goals-against average (2.03) and save percentage (.929). In 22 appearances (20 starts) this season, the St. Louis native has posted a 14-6-0 record with three shutouts. McKenna is tied for the AHL lead with four shootout wins.
ON PACE FOR SUCCESS
The Falcons remain on pace to set the best record in franchise history, previously held by the 2012-13 club that finished with 45 wins and a .651 points percentage to lead the Northeast Division. This year's team, currently leading the division by nine points over the second-place Albany Devils, is on pace for 47 wins and 101 points.
Springfield is currently second in AHL in wins (32), point total (69) and points percentage (.663). The Falcons trail the Manchester Monarchs by six points for the most in the league, but have played three fewer games.