The Phantoms organization called Adirondack home for the last five seasons - and for that - all of us in this region thank them for bringing AHL level hockey back here. Growing up, I had always rooted against the Flyers organization - so it was a bit of work for me to cheer on the Phantoms during those years. Watching the games this weekend, it reminded why I dislike the clutching, grabbing, goon type of play that the Flyers affiliate plays - and how quickly the Adirondack fans are coming to appreciate the uptempo skill game of the Flames.
The Flames had the first of several three games in three nights this weekend. This is fairly common in the minors, and is a true test to the physical and mental toughness of the team. After losing to the Icehogs on Thursday night - a game they certainly could have won - the Flames took on the Phantoms in a home and home on Friday and Saturday.
On Friday in Lehigh Valley, the Flames earned a one goal lead midway through the second, only to find themselves down by a goal early in the third. Dustin Stephenson tied the game later in the third and both teams traded opportunities before the game moved to overtime. The Flames gave up the game winner early in the overtime session, but took a point on the road. Sena Acolatse and David Wolf had the other two goals, both on the power play, and the Flames outshot the Phantoms 32-31.
Saturday evening, the teams returned to a large crowd at the GFCC.
Baertschi / Knight / Van Brabant
Ferland / Reinhart / Granlund
Wolf / Tousignant / Hathaway
Elson / Arnold / Agostino
Culklin / Yonkman
Acolatse / Sieloff
Wotherspoon / Stevenson
The Flames came out flying, owning the first period of play. They effectively used their speed and set up effective cycles down low in the offensive zone. Michael Ferland continued his strong, aggressive play and opened the scoring early in the period with a pretty deflection of a Stevenson shot from the point. About five minutes later, Markus Granlund increased the lead on the power play with an assist from Tyler Wotherspoon. The Flames could have easily scored another goal or two and carried the play until a funny bounce off the boards while the Flames were on a 4-3 power play resulted in Scott Laughton going in on a breakaway on Joni Ortio. The talented Laughton buried the opportunity to bring the Phantoms to within one.
The first half of the second was fairly even, and the Flames actually had several quality scoring opportunities, hitting the crossbar three times. In many games this season, portions of the second period have been a nemesis for the Flames - as they have taken stretches off and allowed their opponents to carry the play to them. This formula was certainly in place the second half of the period, as the Phantoms dominated in stretches. Late in the period, the fans were just homing to get to the final buzzer with the slim one goal lead - but that was not to be. Phantom Scott Laughton scored his second of the game and fourth of the weekend with 14 seconds remaining. The Flames had several opportunities to clear the zone and Ortio made several saves in a scramble in front of the crease, prior to the goal. The Phantoms outshot the Flames in the second 17 - 9.
What was perhaps most impressive was how the team responded. The Flames came out strong and had the better of the scoring opportunities early in the third period. The team played with passion and out skated their opponent. Markus Granlund scored the winning goal on a pretty play with line mates Max Reinhart and Michael Ferland with about three and a half minutes remaining. Dustin Stevenson scored into an empty net sealing the win.
The Phantoms outshot the Flames 38 - 36.
The team saluted the fans from the center ice circle following the win, to the roar of a standing ovation.
- Joni Ortio was solid. His play during the rough part of the second period and during the back and forth portions of the third gave the team the opportunity for their first win.
- The line of Ferland, Reinhart, and Granlund was very impressive - dominate at times. They clearly have chemistry and seem to bring each other to another level.
- David Wolf had several strong shifts and played well on the power play.
- The team showed maturity - it would have been easy to fold the tent after the late second period goal, figuring it was not meant to be. That was not the case and the leadership demonstrated will likely pay dividends going forward.
- The coaching is clearly excellent. This is not the team we saw just a week ago. The power play is much improved (4 for 14 this weekend), and the team defense is coming together. What I like most so far about Coach Ryan Huska is he is steady at the helm (not getting to high or low). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AI7wRp3WAGA