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Coach Stirling here!

Although the 2006-07 hockey season is just underway, it has been a month long journey getting to this point.

It all started Sept. in Traverse City, Michigan where the Tampa Bay Lightning participated in an eight team Rookie Tournament. It was my first real coaching interaction with the young players, so it was an important week for me to get a better feel for these players both on and off the ice.

From Traverse City, we headed south to Tampa for the big club's NHL training camp. I witnessed first hand what a great training camp Tampa Head Coach John Tortorella runs and was able to watch and interact with everyone. The other positives included impressive performances by Norm Milley, Eric Healey, Matt Smaby and Mitch earned them a lengthy "extended look" in camp.

From Tampa to Springfield was our next stop as we prepared for our own Falcons Training Camp. We had a big number in camp in an effort to see as many players in the organization as possible.

The competitive camp made for some most difficult decisions as we made "cuts" to get to a manageable number of players. There were some disappointed young players that we assigned to Johnstown but we made it clear that they needed to play and play a lot and only in Johnstown (to start) could that happen.

Before we know it, the 2006-07 season is upon us and we are in Hartford for the season opener. Aside from the 3-2 win, I like our energy, effort and ability to hold the lead under serious pressure. We took too many penalties and had to rely on goalie Sean Burke and our penalty killers on this night.

From there we embarked on our longest road trip of the year as we headed south to Norfolk, VA. We hung around in the first game enough to take the lead midway through the 3rd period, then unfortunately, self destructed in a four minute period. Although it should not have, I believe this self-destruction carried over to the next night as we gave up three goals very early in the 1st period, and were thoroughly outplayed.

With a young team you can expect some "bumps" along the road and I am hoping that we get them out of our system early.

We are close to the final members with the roster but know that with injuries and call-ups this could change at any time.

I am confident that this group of players has what it takes to be competitive and hope that you Falcon fans will stick with us and give up the support that you have in the past because Springfield is and always has been, a great AHL city.

See you at the MassMutual Center! 'Til next week! Coach Stirling