The one thing that has been consistent since the calendar turned to November, has been the play of Joni Ortio. Early in the Fall, as I researched the players that would be in Adirondack this season -I had a perception of the goaltending we would see out of the Flames top net minder prospect. What we saw in October was far from that (not that the play in front of him helped the cause) - but since that poor start against Utica on November 1st, he has been somewhere between solid and outstanding (with a sprinkling of unbelievable on occasion).
Ortio leads the Flames into the second third of the season on a roll. His stats in November were a GAA of 2.22 and a save percentage of .924. His play through the first half of December is even better - GAA = 1.80 and a save percentage of .939. He is now 13-5-1 and has two shutouts. His play has given this team a chance to win every night, even during the stretch when the call ups and a few injuries seemed to be taking it toll, following that great nine game winning streak.
In the pleasant surprise department - how about center Taylor Vause. Vause was recalled from ECHL Colorado in mid November and in 11 games, has 3 goals and 4 assists. He plays on both the power play and penalty kill. This kid is FAST, and he generates great opportunities for himself and his line mates. As players return from Calgary and the Adirondack gets healthier, the front office will have some difficult decisions. I just don't see them seeing this kid back down. The AHL.com website had a very nice story on him a couple weeks back.
I noticed that Tyler Wotherspoon began getting shifts with Captain Nolan Yonkman last week. Up to this point, Wotherspoon had predominately been paired with Corey Potter. He had commented to a local reporter that Potter has been a real mentor to him and he enjoys playing and learning from him. With Potter's call up, it would appear that Wotherspoon will continue to gain minutes and responsibility. He has one goal and nine assists in 24 games, and has really settled in nicely as a key contributor on the blue line.
The return of Michael Ferland should be a big boost to the offense. Ferland had only played 10 games in Adirondack (10 points in those games), and is still the fifth leading scorer on the club and is only 4 points from leading scorer - Ben Hanowski.
The team continues on their mid west swing, playing in Iowa tonight and Chicago on Wednesday.