The Adirondack Flames have a big week this week in their attempt to participate in the playoffs this season - three home games against teams that are also in the playoff picture. The home stand began Wednesday evening against the Hamilton Bulldogs, who the Flames were tied with in ninth place going into the game.
The Flames had a strong first seven minutes to the opening period, with several quality scoring chances. Emile Poirier could have easily had two goals on nifty dekes, but he may have been a bit too cute with the puck and came away empty handed. The teams then traded goals in the latter half of the first period in a pretty exciting period of play - Ben Hanowski getting his 15th of the season.
The second period was a very ugly stretch of play. It started at the 3:06 mark of the period when Turner Elson and Bobby Shea squared off in the Flames end. Both players unsnapped their chin strap at the onset of the fight and began throwing haymakers, resulting in both players losing their helmets. Elson lost his balance and as he was falling, was punched again resulting in him landing awkwardly head first against the ice and boards. He lay motionless for an extended period -and was removed from the ice on a backboard and stretcher. Amazingly, it was reported this morning by Coach Huska that Elson did have a concussion, but was not experiencing severe concussion symptoms. He also received approximately 30 stitches on his forehead.
The GFCC obviously got very quiet as the medical professionals tended to the Flames alternate captain. Shortly after play resumed, Adirondack had a full two minute 5 on 3 advantage - that the Bulldogs killed with far to much efficiency for the home faithful. The Flames really never recovered. Hamilton out hustled the Flames the final period and a half, and took the game with a mid-third period goal, 2-1.
The Flames are now in 10th place - two points behind eighth place Hamilton with two games in hand. Nine points separate six through eleventh place in the Western Conference - and the Flames' remaining schedule is more difficult than most of the other teams angling for the final playoff spots, so this home loss to Hamilton is a real tough pill to swallow.
Turner Elson is a real leader on the ice, with his high tempo play setting a tone. As I watched the incident last night, I would have never dreamed he would be at the rink (not on the ice, obviously) today - but he will certainly miss much if not all of the remainder of the regular season. The team has stated that it has no intention of rushing him back.
I am a huge fan of this team and coaching staff. For the first time in all the games I have attended this season - I thought the Flames did not show the heart they normally show following the injury and Bulldog penalty kill domination during the 5 on 3 (Hamilton killed all short handed five situations). I am not a fan that loves watching enforcers fight - that being said, fighting plays an important part in the game (I am not going to start quoting Don Cherry, but you get the point). I thought Adirondack had to "respond" to Elson's injury, which they didn't.
The Flames are not playing well right now - 3-4-2-1 in their last 10 games, and often are out hustled.
The Final Dozen
Adirondack enters the final 12 games of the season by taking on Rockford Friday and Oklahoma City Saturday, both at the GFCC. With the loss to Hamilton these games start to approach must-win situations. The team has six home and six away games remaining.
Coaches Huska and Gill will have to find some new buttons to push to get this team back on track pretty quickly.