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Season Midpoint in Adirondack

The Flames passed the mid point of the season with a loss and overtime loss against two of the elite AHL teams.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Adirondack passed the half way point of the season this past weekend with two games against the Western Conference elite.  The Flames took one point against the Oklahoma City Barons and lost their seventh of the season against the Utica Comets.  So, where is this young team at the mid point of the season?

The Standings - The team is presently in fourth place in the conference, but the other teams in the conference have between two and five games in hand.  This situation will correct itself over the next few weeks, as the Flames only have four games between now and the end of the month.  Clearly the Flames will drop slightly from their present position, but they are one of the stronger teams in the conference.

The Utica Factor - The Flames have lost to their rival seven times so far this season, which is THE reason they find themselves in second place behind the Comets.  They will need to unlock the secret to Utica's defense over the course of the second half.  In the two most recent tilts, the Flames had high shot totals - but have not generated many high quality scoring opportunities and have yet to solve the best goaltending in the AHL.

The Offense - This has been the strength of the young team, and with the injuries and call ups to date - is really nice to see the balance.  The top line of Sven Baertschi, Bill Arnold, and Emile Poirier continues to produce.  The line had three goals this past weekend and watching the chemistry of the line develop has been really fun.

With the trade of Corban Knight for Drew Shore, the Flames have added an AHL all-star and a center that has six points more than their leading scorer.  What will be interesting to see this weekend is how Huska juggles the lines to maximize the new addition.   The movement of players back from Calgary has also taken a toll on a player I really enjoyed watching - as Taylor Vause was sent back to Colorado of the ECHL this week.  The speedy center made an impression in his time here, but the decrease in minutes as well as PK and PP time resulted in his production dropping the past few weeks.

The scoring has been balanced all season, with the team continuing to use an up tempo system that pressures the puck in all three zones.  The effort that David Wolf shows on every shift has made him a fan favorite.  The German winger has 7 goals and 8 assists and is one of those player opponents hate to play against.  Ben Hanowski is quietly tied with Poirier for the lead in goals scored - with twelve.  If the roster settles a bit in the second half and he can play with constant line-mates, I look forward to seeing if the winger from Minnesota can take another step in his development.   When Michael Ferland was called up to Calgary, I thought he was the best forward in Glens Falls.  Since his return, he has not yet achieved the same level of play we saw earlier this season - the team will need his strong play in the second half.

Additionally, the team now has two enforcers on the roster (Gillies and McGrattan), and typically does not dress one based on their style of play and the use of four lines pretty evenly.  The team has not been able to benefit offensively from Devin Setoguchi being sent down, as the veteran has spent much of his time here scratched due to injury.  The forward portion of the roster is still very crowded, and it will be interesting to see if future moves are pending.

The Defense - This was thought to be a question mark going into the season, but I think it has actually developed very nicely.  Veterans Nolan Yonkman, Corey Potter and Mark Cundari have done a great job mentoring the young defenseman on the roster.  Watching Tyler Wotherspoon is a pleasure, and it is just a matter of when (not if) he finds himself in Calgary.  Ryan Culkin and John Ramage have been coming along very nicely - both are strong offensively, moving the puck up the ice, and are solid in their own end.  Dustin Stevenson is a stay at home defenseman who is a plus-7 and I hope he gets more ice time in the second half of the season.  Another rookie, Patrick Sieloff, has a tendency to make some errors in his own end, and has not yet developed as quickly as the other young D-man on the roster.  The team also signed veteran AHL'er Sena Acolaste - but he has been a real disappointment in his own end.  I would rather see the kids play with a couple of the other veterans to maximize their ice time.

Goaltending - Congratulations to Joni Ortio on his shutout win last week in Calgary.  He has been outstanding in his play here in Adirondack.  The tandem of Ortio and Brad Thiessen give this young team a chance to win every night out.  Ortio's call up during this stretch of the schedule may not hurt the team to badly - given the number of games the team has during the next two and a half weeks.  Should Ortio remain in Calgary for an extended period of time, this would put pressure on the young squad when Thiessen needs a night off.

Coaching - I have said this before, Ryan Huska and Todd Gill have done a great job with this very young roster.  They are developing these young players and have brought them along quickly.  They compete hard every night, every shift and play an up tempo entertaining style.

It is hard to believe that we are already past the midway point of the Flames first season in Glens Falls, and it has certainly been a fun and entertaining few months.  We all look forward to seeing how this team handles the second half and the possible pressure of a playoff run.  The Flames return to the ice Saturday at the GFCC against Milwaukee.