Curtis McElhinney has been exceptional for the Springfield Falcons this season, coming down to the AHL due to the NHL lockout. He entered tonight’s game with 14 wins on the season to go with a 2.08 goals against average, .935 save percentage and five shutouts through twenty games.
McElhinney continued to come up large for the Falcons Saturday night in their 1-0 victory over the Bears, stopping all 19 Hershey shots on goal for his sixth shutout of the season. Admirals’ forward Matt Calvert recorded the lone Springfield goal, depositing a puck past Holtby while shorthanded. Bears’ goalie Braden Holtby was also exceptional in net for Hershey, turning away 29 of the 30 shots he faced.
“We didn’t generate a lot for our time in the offensive zone,” Hershey coach Mark French said. “They did a good job getting in the shooting lane, but I think we have to think shot quicker. We directed a lot of pucks toward the net, but they didn’t get through. Often times if you wait that extra two or three seconds, especially when you got that shot blocker they’re able to close.”
“We do a good job keeping pucks to the outside of the net,” said Falcons forward Matt Calvert. “Any puck that gets inside we got [Curtis] McElhinney there to step them, it’s obviously great having a good goalie like that, but I thought we played a solid game tonight.”
Springfield entered tonight’s game with a 9-3-1-0 record on the road, one of the best in the in the entire AHL. The Falcons are led offensively by forward Cam Atkinson, who has 15 goals and 15 assists on the season, along with points in nine straight games. Hershey inserted seven defensemen into the lineup, looking to keep up with Springfield’s speed and 19.7% power play unit, sixth ranked in the AHL entering tonight.
“We’ve got a veteran rotation right now,” Bears coach Mark French said about dressing seven defensemen. “With seven vets, we’re going to rotate through. In our estimation the six [defensemen] that played the other night, we didn’t think any of them were deserving to come out, so we went with the seven.”
The Falcons recorded for the first and only goal 18:24 into the first stanza, converting on the penalty kill. Admirals’ forward, Matt Calvert stole the puck from Garrett Stafford and deked out Holtby for his eighth goal of the season. The Bears played a solid defensive game in the first period, also outshooting Springfield 7-6.
“We had a pretty good fore-check going,” said Calvert of his goal. “I got a stick on it and it hit something else, I’m not sure what it was and then I had a chance for a breakaway and just used my speed and go one on one with the goalie after that.”
Hershey’s penalty kill came up huge in the second period, stopping four Springfield power plays. Garrett Stafford was sent to the box 8:42 into the second period, putting Hershey on a four minute penalty kill for high sticking. The Bears’ penalty kill came up huge following Stafford’s penalty, led by Ryan Potulny and Jon DiSalvatore. The two forwards limited the Falcons to perimeter shots and Braden Holtby came up huge in net for Hershey. The Bears killed of nine Springfield power plays on the night.
“Braden was strong when he needed to be,” said French of Hershey’s ability to kill of penalties. “I thought our penalty killers did a very good job keeping the one nothing game and giving us a chance to get back.”
The Admirals controlled the majority of the second period puck possession wise, outshooting Hershey 13-5. Springfield goalie Curtis McElhinney continued his dominance between the pipes for the Falcons, padding aside 12 Hershey shots on goal through two periods of play.
Hershey struggled offensively once again in the third period, only managing seven shots on McElhinney. The Bears had two opportunities with the man advantage, but failed to capitalize.
Boyd Kane took the Bears out of rhythm 17:03 into the final period, committing a high-sticking penalty that would put Hershey shorthanded for four minutes. Hershey struggled gaining puck possession while shorthanded, allowing no shot at sending the game to overtime.
“We were looking for one big game before we went into the break,” Springfield goalie Curtis McElhinney said. “I think we got the results that we were looking for, obviously a pretty tight game and if it wasn’t for Holtby I think it would have been more than that.”
Hershey returns to Giant Center on December 26th to take on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
1. Attendance: 9,139
2. Bears Injuries: T.J. Syner, Ryan Stoa, Dmitry Orlov and Jonathon Kalinski
3. Hershey Healthy Scratches: Matt Clackson, Zach Hamill and Alex Berry
4. Garrett Stafford returned to the Hershey lineup following injury as one of the seven Hershey defensemen who dressed.
5. T.J. Syner is listed as day to day according to Mark French
1. Curtis McElhinney (19 saves on 19 shots, sixth shutout of season)
2. Matt Calvert (one goal, plus one, two shots on goal)
3. Braden Holtby (29 saves on 30 shots)