'Crack on the Farm: A Step in the Wright directionAaron McCracken
January 20th, 2002
"This is a talented team who are just starting to come together. They're playing their best hockey of the season now." – Those were the words of Saint John Flames COO and General Manager Stew MacDonald, who greeted a small contingent of Calgarypuck.com fans before the game in Hamilton on Friday night. You could forgive the Flames fans for being a little skeptical, however. Saint John has been a disappointment all season, currently sitting 24th in the 28 team league, while the Hamilton Bulldogs sit atop the AHL standings currently riding an incredible 25-game undefeated streak in regulation.
But MacDonald wasn't lying. Relying on their speed and a strong forecheck, the Flames dominated most of the game and handed the Bulldogs a 4-1 loss, only their 7th of the season in regulation. The story of the night was Jamie Wright, playing his first AHL game after being demoted by the Flames and lambasted by coach Daryl Sutter. Wright was dominant; scoring twice, setting up another, and creating chances almost every time he was touched the ice. The Bulldogs simply couldn't skate with him and seemed to be on their heels for most of the night against the faster Flames' squad.
Martin Sonnenberg opened the scoring for the Flames early in the first after walking in alone from the left side and flipping a backhand by Ty Conklin. After Bill Lindsay tied the score on a power play late in the second, the Flames' recaptured the lead on a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play from Wright to Chuck Kobasew to Ladislav Kohn, who scored his 7th of the season. Wright made it 3-1 early in the third after undressing Hamilton's defense and scoring on a right-side breakaway, and scored his second of the night on a late 2-on-1 with Jason Morgan. Levente Szuper made 21 saves for Saint John for his 7th win of the season in goal.
The Flames dropped the rematch to the Bulldogs by a score of 3-0 on Saturday afternoon.
- The parents of Matthew Lombardi, who made the trip to Hamilton from Hudson, Quebec, and happened to sit next to the Calgarypuck.com fans. The Flames' 3rd round pick didn't register a point on the evening, but showed good speed, strong puck-handling skills, and excellent penalty-killing sense.
- Martin Sonnenberg, who showed good hustle and strong defensive play throughout the night.
- Flames' captain Micki DuPont, who had the best hit of the game on rookie (and former Flames' pick) Jarret Stoll.
- Levente Szuper, who allowed one goal for the 4th straight game.
- The Copps Coliseum pre-game laser light show – very impressive.
- Bill Lindsay, the former Flames who was recently demoted by Montreal. Although he did manage to score Hamilton's only goal, he was invisible for the rest of the night.
- The "Bulldog", Hamilton's excuse for a hot dog.
News and Notes…
- With an excess supply of forwards, the Flames sent Shaun Sutter to Johnstown prior to the game and scratched both Ryan Christie and Robert Dome, victims of AHL's veteran rule.
- Lombardi's 14 goals leads the Flames and ranks 4th among AHL rookies.
- Lombardi, Morgan, and Jan Vodradka are the only Flames to play in all 40 games so far this season.
- The Flames are 5-2-1 since Ron Wilson took over the coaching duties from Jim Playfair.