SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … Nestled in a group of seven teams that are as close in the standings as they are on the map, the Springfield Falcons are in the middle of a run that has them four points out of the top spot in the Atlantic Division.
Led by head coach Steve Stirling, in his first season behind the bench in Springfield after reaching the 2002 Calder Cup Finals with Bridgeport and the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the New York Islanders in 2004, the Falcons have won eight of their last 10 games – mostly in dramatic fashion. Four of those victories have come in the shootout, one came in overtime and their most recent was courtesy of a tiebreaking goal with 4:42 left in regulation. For the season, Springfield is 8-2-0-0 in one-goal games.
Karri Ramo, who has won eight of his last nine decisions in net for the Falcons, spent the weekend with the parent Tampa Bay Lightning and made his National Hockey League debut with a strong relief effort against Ottawa on Saturday night. In Ramo’s absence, Jonathan Boutin earned victories over Manchester and Providence and Gerald Coleman made 36 saves in a win over Lowell as the Falcons improved to 10-5-0-0 against Atlantic Division opponents.
Daniel Corso, acquired by Tampa Bay in a trade with Philadelphia last month, has registered 10 points in his 10 games in a Falcons uniform, and now ranks third on the team in scoring behind captain Norm Milley (22 points) and two-time AHL All-Star Eric Healey (21 points). Heading into this week, Milley had scored a goal in each of his last four games, while Healey had recorded seven points in his previous five contests.
Forward Blair Jones had a torrid start to his rookie season, recording 12 points in his first nine games. He was rewarded with a recall to Tampa Bay, where he registered two assists in six games before returning to the Falcons last week.
Springfield is currently in a three-way tie for third in the Atlantic Division, where just five points separate first place from sixth. The Falcons are back in action with three games this week, hosting Lowell on Wednesday night before visiting Albany on Friday and Worcester on Saturday.
SNYDER TOUR HITS HOUSTON … Graham and LuAnn Snyder, parents of the late Dan Snyder, are driving a recreational vehicle across North America during the 2006-07 hockey season to raise awareness and funds for the Dan Snyder Memorial Fund (www.37risingstars.com).
Dan Snyder, who won a Calder Cup title with the Chicago Wolves, was killed in a 2003 car accident.
One of two non-NHL stops on the tour (which ends at a Wolves game on Apr. 14) takes place in Houston beginning Tuesday. The Snyders will be joining Aeros players in delivering food to the Houston Food Bank, attending a youth hockey function and participating in a ceremonial puck drop prior to Thursday’s Aeros game against Omaha.
OH BROTHER … Jordan Sigalet made 23 saves for his first shutout of the season and younger brother Jonathan Sigalet provided the offense with a second-period power-play goal in Providence’s 1-0 win over Lowell on Friday.
The Vancouver natives are both in their second professional seasons after being drafted by the Boston Bruins (Jordan in 2001, Jonathan in 2005). The 20-year-old Jonathan is tied for the AHL lead among defensemen with seven goals this season. Jordan, 25, is 4-0-1 in six appearances for the P-Bruins this year.
FEAT OF GOEHRING-DO … Karl Goehring improved his career shootout record to 10-1 when he backstopped Milwaukee to a 4-3 victory in Toronto on Sunday. Goehring made 42 saves in regular play before stopping four of five Marlies in the shootout, helping the Admirals pull back even at 4-4-0-0 through eight games of their 10-game road trip.
In his 11 shootouts over the past three seasons, Goehring has an impressive .836 save percentage, allowing nine goals on 55 attempts. Since the shootout was re-instituted in 2004, the average success rate for AHL goaltenders is .689.
ETC. … Peoria extended its winning streak to five games and improved to 7-0-1-1 in its last nine games with three weekend victories… Springfield has won six straight shootouts after losing their previous six trips to the breakaway tiebreaker… Darren Haydar and Jason Krog extended their scoring streaks last week, Haydar to 23 games and Krog to 22… Eric Fehr’s 16-game streak ended in Hershey’s 4-1 loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday night… The Bears’ Frederic Cassivi is one win shy of 200 for his AHL career, a plateau reached by only 10 goaltenders in league history… Chicago fired 60 shots at San Antonio’s David LeNeveu in a 5-4 win on Saturday… Rookie goaltender Marek Schwarz is 9-1-0 in his last 10 decisions for Peoria… Curtis McElhinney snapped a personal three-game losing skid by stopping 50 of 51 shots in a pair of weekend wins for Omaha… Jason LaBarbera, who won league MVP honors playing for Hartford in 2003-04, returned to the Civic Center as a visitor for the first time on Saturday and was on the short end of Manchester’s 3-0 loss to the Wolf Pack… Earning the shutout for the Pack was Stephen Valiquette, who shared the Harry “Hap” Holmes Award for team goaltending with LaBarbera in 2004-05… Riley Armstrong has 10 goals in 23 games for Worcester this season after scoring 12 times in 134 games over his first two AHL campaigns… Kip Miller recorded his 700th professional assist on Friday and his 1,100th professional point on Saturday as Grand Rapids swept a pair of meetings from league-leading Rochester.