SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- If the St. John's Ice Caps were going to escape MassMutual Center with a win on opening night, their task would be to match the tempo set by the Springfield Falcons.
But they simply couldn't.
That has been the Falcons' mantra since Brad Larsen took over as head coach this summer: they want to push the pace and get teams back on their heels as much as possible. It's a style of play the first-year bench boss believes strongly in; he was an aggressive player during his professional career and knows that playing "on your toes" can get you on the fast track to success.
It's why he and his coaching staff spent a lot of time harping on details over the past couple of weeks -- the Falcons want to be the team that dictates the pace during hockey games but also wants to stick to its structure in the process.
So far, so good for the Springfield side. Their season-opening 4-2 victory over a very good opponent from St. John's served as a small slice of evidence that paying attention to details can lead to the most desired results.
"I don't think any team's trying slow down, especially us," Larsen told BlueJackets.com. "We have a lot of guys that like to skate and are good at it. For us, we want to play in-your-face and get up ice as quick as we can."
The Falcons were the fresher club and undoubtedly the more fleet of foot throughout the game, which had an impact both on the ice and on the scoresheet. St. John's took a number of careless penalties during the contest, but most were generated by Springfield's quickness through the neutral zone.
Though season openers are never the cleanest of windows, the IceCaps took four obstruction penalties and the last one burned them. Hunter Tremblay scored his first of the year to draw St. John's within 3-2 with over half of the third period remaining, but Dean Arsene took an interference penalty at 14:01 after Springfield kept moving the puck around in the offensive zone.
Tomas Kubalik then cashed in the put-back of Tim Erixon's shot from the point, giving the Falcons a comfortable two-goal bulge with 4:45 left.
"It comes to us being in the right spots, turning pucks over and making them ice the puck," Falcons winger Matt Calvert told BlueJackets.com. "It felt great when everyone's on the same page and it's so much easier to play out there."
Calvert was quick to point out that while the Falcons have a speedy group of wingers that help them play the north-south game they desire, the transition game starts on the back end.
With six defensemen in the lineup who can transport the puck out of trouble quickly and efficiently, it allows the forwards to maintain speed between the blue lines.
"It's great," Calvert said. "When you have six puck-movers with their heads on a swivel all the time, it's always fun because as a forward you just go to the spots. The puck's going to be on your tape and you just go from there.
"For me, my game's about speed and when I go to a spot and know the puck will be there, it's a positive."