Ahonen's second straight shutout paces Rats' 1-0 win over Springfield
ALBANY, N.Y. (March 26, 2005). For the third time in the last four games, the Albany River Rats recorded a shutout as a defense-first game plan payed dividends. Ari Ahonen garnered his second straight blanking of the Springfield Falcons as the Rats rode to victory on Ilkka Pikkarainen's 9th goal of the season.
For the Falcons, it was the 15th consecutive road loss (they last prevailed away from home last year, on December 26, 2004, at Worcester). It was also the second straight 1-0 loss to the Albany River Rats in eight days. Brian Eklund, who was sharp in net for the Falcons, took the loss as Springfield was blanked for the 16th time this season.
The River Rats came back to defense after an off night against Lowell (L, 3-5). The Rats did not lack for scoring chances tonight. Tuomas Pihlman had a breakaway early in the game that forced Eklund out to trip him between the circles. Ahren Nittel hit two posts (on a power play in the first period; and an even strength shot late in the game). Zach Parise also clanged iron.
What turned out to be the only (and therefore, game-winning) goal came moments after an Albany power play expired. Aleksander Suglobov kept the puck in play and Matt DeMarchi found Pikkarainen open in the slot. His shot through a screen eluded Eklund at 18:57 of the second period for the only tally.
At the other end of the ice, Ari Ahonen up to the challenge from Shane Willis in the minute after the Rats scored. The Rats' netminder also briefly faced a two-man Springfield power play midway through the third period. Ahonen made a great save on Nick Tarnasky late in the game. Doug O'Brien dinged one off the cross-bar in the final half minute of the game.
Albany's offensive scoring chances took advantage of some well-time pinching by defensemen, particularly Matt DeMarchi.
Though both Springfield and Albany are eliminated from any possibility of post-season play, they still played for pride, and, for some, for contracts for next season.
The three stars: third, Brian Eklund of Springfield, for 35 saves on 36 Albany shots; second, to Ilkka Pikkarainen of the Rats with the game-winning goal; and, first, Ari Ahonen of the Rats with a shutout on 25 Springfield shots.
Others deserving honorable mention include Ryan Murphy of Albany for good penalty kill work and Dean McAmmond of the Rats. He hit one cross-bar and fired another shot that was stopped by Eklund's goalie mask.