8:35 P.M. -- This couldn't be a more evenly-matched game, and it shows on the scoreboard. Springfield and Hershey are deadlocked at 2-2 after 40 minutes of play at the MassMutual Center, and it only seems so appropriate.
QUICK TAKE: Ryan Johansen has been a monster for the Falcons in this game, and it feels as if he's been out there every other shift for Brad Larsen's club. He should have at least three goals tonight, but has created at least that many scoring opportunities, as well. He made a great play to start a 2-on-1 with JAM through the neutral zone, and an even better play that allowed JAM to re-direct the puck under the crossbar for a 2-1 lead.
Old habits have reared their ugly head, though. Springfield has taken several careless penalties tonight and gave Hershey a 5-on-3 late in the second period. McElhinney and Ryan Russell were huge for the Falcons on the penalty kill, and kept it a 2-2 tie following Matt Pope's equalizer.
The Falcons are fresh, no doubt, and they need to come out in the third period with a big push to regain the lead. Hershey's been hanging around and cashed in on a couple of gift-wrapped chances, and Springfield can't let that linger into the final 20 minutes of play.
7:35 P.M. -- Given that these two clubs don't play each other much, we expected a tentative and "safe" first period from both sides. There was some of that, but also familiar bad habits for Springfield.
QUICK TAKE: The Falcons took the first penalty of the game just a few minutes into the opening period, but were successful in killing it off. Just moments later, Hershey took a minor penalty of its own to put Springfield on the man advantage. Though they couldn't capitalize, the Falcons would draw first blood not long thereafter, as Michael Chaput tallied his first professional goal by cashing a rebound in front of the net.
Sean Collins led the charge into the offensive zone and fished the puck out of the near corner, taking it right to the cage guarded by Braden Holtby. The first save was made, but the rebound popped back out into the slot and Chaput slid it between Holtby's pads for a 1-0 lead.
The Bears leveled things up minutes later, thanks to captain Boyd Kane. Springfield was guilty of coughing up the puck behind its own net, and Kane stepped in front of Curtis McElhinney and lifted the puck under the crossbar to draw Hershey even.
Although a pair of goals were scored, it was a cautious first period at the MassMutual Center. Wouldn't be too surprised if things opened up a bit more in the second period.
6:35 P.M. -- Lineups and scratches are out for tonight's game between the Falcons and Hershey Bears. On defense, Theo Ruth and Greg Amadio are scratched for Springfield. Jake Hansen, Tim Spencer and Cody Bass (suspected injury) are the forwards out tonight.
Curtis McElhinney opposes Braden Holtby between the pipes for the Bears, who will be without stud defenseman Dmitry Orlov this evening.
5:00 P.M. -- As we always do on the game day blog, we bring you some of the best "shots" from Falcons action over the last few weeks...
4:30 P.M. -- In case you hadn't heard, Springfield won two of its three games last weekend (3-0 over Providence and 3-2 over Portland). The Falcons were 2-0-1 overall, the lone defeat a shootout loss to Bridgeport. JacketsTV has the highlights, made even better by the voice of play-by-play man Mike Kelly:
4:00 P.M. --
The calendar has turned to November, and with that, comes a bit of reflection.
Springfield Falcons head coach Brad Larsen knew the month of October would be important for his hockey club. They had a solid training camp and got many things accomplished, but starting the year on the right note was huge for his team. I think we can safely say the Falcons took care of business and took advantage of a home-heavy October, going 5-1-1 in the season's first month and taking hold of first place in the American Hockey League's Eastern Conference.
Their next big task is to capitalize on October's momentum and keep it going with a difficult schedule in November. After playing all but one of their games inside the MassMutual Center last month, the Falcons play five home games and six road games this month.
Step one of establishing good vibes in November is tonight against a rejuvenated Hershey Bears club, which got its No. 1 goaltender (Braden Holtby) back last weekend -- and he looked pretty darn good. Holtby played a key role in the Washington Capitals' playoff run last spring, almost singlehandedly willing them to victory against the Boston Bruins.
Hershey's been a strong club in recent years and has 11 Calder Cup championships in its illustrious franchise history, and the Bears are even more formidable with Holtby back between the pipes. Springfield needs to continue what it has been doing at home: scoring first. The Falcons have jumped out on their opponents with regularity and used their north-south style to set the pace, forcing mistakes and penalties as a result.
As we kick off today's game day blog, be on the lookout for video highlights from last weekend's games, features on some of the Falcons' top players, photos, and more!
Oh, and remember...