Following practice earlier this week, Mark Cundari was about to be interviewed by a small number of reporters - but he asked the first question. "Were those fans up there (watching practice)?" It was a simple answer - yes. Welcome to Adirondack, where we have strongly supported minor league hockey since 1979. It may not have been the case where these players were last year, but at Adirondack - the team and players are a major part of the community.
The opening weekend did not end the way we had all scripted it, however. Saturday night, the rival Albany Devils were the opponent for the home opener in front of a standing room only crowd of 5078. The players were introduced to a standing ovation with the cheering so loud, the PA announcer could barely be heard.
The Lines -
Ferland / Granlund / Jooris
Baertschi / Reinhart / Van Brabant
Arnold / Tousignant / Agostino
Elson / Knight / Hanowski
The D Pairings -
Kulak / Cundari
Stevenson / Acolastse
Culkin / Yonkman
The Flames carried the first period of play, outshooting the Devils 13 to 5. Many of the shots, however, were from the perimeter and with clear sight lines for Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid. The Flames used their speed effectively and often pinched at the blue line to keep the play in the offensive zone. This aggressive play cost them two odd man rushes on Joni Ortio - the first resulting in a Devils goal at 7:21 and the second with a shot that rang off the crossbar about three minutes later.
The second period was evenly played, with both teams scoring power play goals early. After falling behind 2-0, Adirondack got on the board at 12:22. The Flames generated good pressure on the power play, and got the Devils PK unit out of position and collapsing low. The puck was passed out to the point by Turner Elson and Brett Kulak buried it in the half empty net from the top of the left circle. Ryan Culkin lso had an assist.
The third period started very even as well, but when an apparent goal by Elson following a scrabble in front of the Devils net was disallowed following video replay - it seemed to take a bit of the starch out of the home team. The Devils tallied three goals in 5 minutes midway through the period to seal the two points.
Observations - The Flames are VERY young, and it shows. Both Rochester and Albany are more veteran teams and took advantage of that at critical parts of each game. Although we had a lot of shots, we did not generate a lot of great scoring opportunities. We got caught several times on odd man rushes that resulted in goals, good scoring opportunities for the opponent, or long shifts where we would get caught in our own end. The only player that really stood out for the entire game Saturday was Turner Elson - who used his speed effectively in generating chances on the PP and even strength, as well as effectively defending on the PK. Some of our other top players seemed to disappear for shifts at different parts of the game.
The Flames season opener was Friday night in Rochester, where we were on the wrong end of every stat line. The game was tied midway through the second period, as Kenny Agostino scored the first goal of the Flames season. Rochester then scored the next five goals to easily take the win. The Flames were outshot 34 -28 and the game turned ugly late in the third, with two separate brawls that resulted in 187 PIM, and a Trevor Gilles suspension.
Update 10/13/14 - Trevor Gillies has been suspended an additional 12 games for his actions during a fight with Rochester's William Carrier. On his twitter account, he has issued an apology to his family, the team and the hockey community. Footage of the fight is in the Youtube clip below:
Ryan Huska has a lot of material to work with this week, and seemed to take things in perspective following his first weekend behind an AHL bench.
The team has a busy week ahead, with home games on Thursday (Rockford) and Saturday (Lehigh Valley) as well as an away game Friday (Lehigh Valley).