The Flames returned to the ice on Saturday night, taking on the Rochester Amerks for the third consecutive game and first since returning from the All-Star Break. The action off the ice this week got much more attention than on-ice activities - with the announcement of the AHL franchise moving to California and being replaced with Calgary's ECHL affiliate here in Glens Falls. It was great to see all these distractions did not deter the fan support - as a very large crowd cheered their Flames to a 3-2 chippy victory over their instate rivals.
This victory was critical to the sixth place Flames, as the standings have tightened significantly in the Western Conference - with six points separating third through ninth place.
Hathaway / Granlund / Ferland
Hanowski / Shore / Van Brabant
Elson / Reinhart / Poirier
Agostino / Tousignant / McGrattan
Potter / Culkin
Cundari / Ramage
Acolaste / Stevenson
Goal - Ortio
Setoguchi and Arnold continue to be scratched due to injury, but Setoguchi has been skating this week.
With these teams playing each other three times in eight nights, there was a great deal of animosity in the play. The officials did a poor job of controlling the teams early, then attempted to gain control in the second and third periods by calling the game tightly - but the result was many poor calls and a game that did not have flow.
The Flames were the better team on the ice, and should have won this game by several goals.
- Turner Elson had another very strong game, using his speed to create opportunities. He scored the first goal of the night on a beautiful snap shot from the right hand circle. Elson scored his second while on the penalty kill, stealing the puck at center ice and buried the breakaway with a defender harassing him from behind.
- Max Reinhart continued his strong play of late. He was pressing the play all night and seemed comfortable playing with Elson and Poirier. Max had an assist on Elson's first goal and was plus 2 for evening.
- Rookie defensemen Ryan Culkin and Dustin Stevenson had solid games. It has been great to watch how Culkin has developed over the past month or so - while being paired with Corey Potter. He is very comfortable in his own end, and leads Flames defenseman in scoring. Stevenson is a very good stay at home defenseman, and covered several times Saturday night for his defense partner.
- Joni Ortio got his 19th win Saturday, but not without some embarrassment. With the Flames leading 3-1and the Rochester net empty for the sixth attacker, Ortio played the puck behind his net and attempted to shoot the puck down the ice - only to have his pocket picketed by the Rochester forward, who put in into the empty Flames net. This made for a much more interesting final minute of the game than was necessary.
- Brian McGrattan played a much better game than his last two starts, as far as effort and speed - but took a couple untimely penalties that hurt the momentum of the home team.
Ryan Huska's post game press conference:
The Flames have a busy week coming - hosting Iowa on Wednesday night, and then back to back home games against Utica Friday and Saturday. With the Flames only four points behind the North Division leading Comets - these games and this week will be important to the team's playoff aspirations.
The off-ice activities have been a bit emotional for the fans here. In speaking to many on Saturday night at the game - the feelings are consistent. Fans are appreciative of the Flames coming to our community and for have an exciting product on the ice. They look forward to the rest of the season (and hopefully a playoff run) and also look forward to having hockey guaranteed for at least the next three years (we have had a great deal of uncertainty each year about what the hockey future holds until now). In speaking to a person who is familiar with the discussions between the team, the community leaders and the ECHL - it is clear that the community has gotten as good a deal as possible, given the changing landscape of the AHL.
I am certainly looking forward to an exciting week of on ice activities. Go Flames.