Winless through their first 15 games in the North American Hockey League (NAHL), the Port Huron Fighting Falcons had seen enough.
The first-year club had been very close to breaking into the win column on numerous occasions leading up to Sunday’s series finale against Springfield, but put it all together in front of a matinee crowd at McMorran Arena.
Captain Ryan Green scored 2:07 into the first period, igniting a four-goal spurt in a span of 12 minutes in Port Huron’s official welcome to the NAHL.
“Of course it’s great to get that monkey off your back,” said Falcons head coach Ernie Hicke. “We’ve had a lot of player movement, and we think we’ve found that right combination of guys. The team has changed and the atmosphere is just great. We couldn’t be more excited. We’ve been waiting a while for this.”
The Fighting Falcons made a trade last week that Hicke cites as an important part of synthesizing the club’s makeup, bringing in Louis Educate from Chicago. Hicke says the move has been a tremendous boost for the organization.
“Obviously, Louis is a goal-scorer,” he explained. “He’s never been traded, never played away from home, but from the time he got here, he’s been a leader on and off the ice. He’s really helped change the complexion of the team.”
Port Huron, which joined the league during the summer, had to play catch-up in the personnel department coming into the 2010-11 campaign.
“We got started late; we didn’t have any draft picks or tenders, so we were a bit behind the eight-ball,” Hicke said. “We had a couple of good camps, and thought we had some guys that could produce at this level. Of course, we kept getting close but not pulling out games, so we had to make some changes. And while we’re still looking for a couple more pieces to the puzzle, we think we’re definitely headed in the right direction.”
The Falcons will look to build their first winning streak this Friday in Flint, as the clubs kick off a three-game, two-weekend series. Hicke says his team has now seen the blueprint for success.
“This is a team game, not an individual game,” he added. “If we get that same kind of team effort we got on Sunday, we’ll win games. But with the changes, and now getting a win under our belts, it’s a little more fun. The guys are getting to know one another, and we’ll jell even more as we play together for a week or two.”
NORTH DIVISION NOTEBOOK
CHICAGO HITMEN: The winds of change blew through the Windy City ahead of a two-game series against Motor City, with Chicago bringing in local product Jackson Bray in a 1-for-1 trade with Port Huron. Louis Educate, who led Chicago with 19 points, was dealt to the Falcons. Bray, a native of Naperville, Ill., had six points in 10 games with Port Huron before the trade.
JANESVILLE JETS: The Jets enjoyed a weekend sweep of division-leading St. Louis, pulling to within five points of the top spot with a 1-0 win on Friday and a 2-1 shootout triumph on Saturday. Larkin Jacobson scored both of Janesville’s regulation markers, while hometown hero David Jacobson stopped 46 of 47 shots on the weekend.
MICHIGAN WARRIORS: Scott Henegar had a trio of goals and an assist over the weekend to lift the Warriors to a two-game sweep of Traverse City at Perani Arena. Robert Tadazk handled both ends of the two-game set, posting his second shutout of the season in a 4-0 win on Friday, and capping the series with 33 saves in a 3-1 victory. The Lapeer, Mich., goalie earned NAHL Goaltender of the Week honors for his efforts.
MOTOR CITY METAL JACKETS: The Jackets continued to light up NAHL scoreboards across the Midwest, putting up 13 goals in a two-game sweep of Chicago at Kennedy Arena. Seven different players scored at least one goal each in an 8-5 win on Friday, while five individuals did the same in a 5-2 Saturday victory. NAHL top scorer Cody Wydo went without a goal on Saturday for just the fourth time in his 17 outings, but had a score and three assists in the series opener and five points on the weekend.
SPRINGFIELD JR. BLUES: Defenseman Jack Callahan, a Quinnipiac recruit, led the way for the Jr. Blues this weekend, dishing out four assists as Springfield took two of three from Port Huron. The Red Bank, N.J., native leads all NAHL skaters with 21 assists and is tops among defensemen - and tied for sixth overall - with 25 points. Forward Chris Sitler chipped in with three goals and an assist for the Blues, who have played a league-high 25 games.
ST. LOUIS BLUES: Matt Gellatly scored twice, Ryan Stouffer added a goal and two assists, and three other Bandits had two points apiece, but it was the St. Louis defense that sparked a 6-3 victory in a rare mid-week showdown with Springfield on Wednesday. The Bandits, who lead the North Division by a five points, conceded just 14 shots to the Blues, including a mere three in the middle period.
TRAVERSE CITY NORTH STARS: Team captain and NAHL Top Prospects selection Travis White remains tied for second in the league with 10 power-play assists. The Sterling Heights, Mich., product, a two-time All-North pick, will lead the Stars into Springfield this weekend in the club’s first-ever visit to the Nelson Center.