The Farm: Flames battle hard, but remain winless in four.
Despite being winless in their last four, the Saint John Flames have clawed and scratched for three points in their last three games, thanks to a pair of ties and an overtime loss last week.
On Wednesday night, the Flames played in Quebec where they've won just one regular season game in the last three seasons. The Flames struggled early and found themselves down 2-0 after two periods, but were able to send the game to overtime after Daniel Marois and Jukka Hentunen scored just over a minute apart in the 3rd period. However, the talented Citadelles stole the show in the extra frame and were able to beat Kay Whitmore with just under a minute remaining to take the victory. Whitmore made 34 saves in a losing cause, and was the primary reason that the Flames were able to manage a single point in the contest.
Saint John returned home on Friday night to face the Portland Pirates and played a very solid game, despite running into a very hot goaltender in Cory Hirsch. With the game tied 1-1 late in the 3rd, Oleg Saprykin took a horrible high-sticking penalty and the Pirates were able to convert on the power play to take the lead. However, the Flames regrouped, and with Kay Whitmore on the bench in favor of an extra attacker, Alan Letang scored his 2nd of the game to send the contest in to overtime. In sudden-death, Portland's Glen Metropolit was awarded a penalty shot after he was tripped on a breakaway by the Flames' Dave Huntzicker. However, Metropolit was unable to get a shot away, as Kay Whitmore calmly stood his ground, allowing the Flames to escape with a 2-2 tie.
The Flames ended the weekend with another 2-2 tie on Saturday night against the expansion Manchester Monarchs. In a reversal of the previous night, Ryan Christie scored on the power play with just over a minute remaining in the 3rd to give the Flames a 2-1 lead and an apparent victory. However, the Monarchs Ted Donato, a veteran of over 700 games, scored on a scramble with 0.8 seconds remaining in the period to spoil an otherwise impressive performance by goaltender Levente Szuper. The Flames looked disinterested in overtime, and settled for the draw. Szuper finished with 33 saves in one of his better outings of the season.
Saint John (6-7-5-1, 18 points) currently sits last in the tough Canadian division, but would occupy the 10th and final playoff spot in the East if the season ended today.
- Kay Whitmore – If Whitmore starts, the Flames are all but guaranteed to have a chance to win. He's been one of the top goaltenders in the league this season.
- Alan Letang – Saw a lot of icetime this weekend and moved into 2nd place in team scoring (4G, 8A, 12 points).
- Jeff Mitchell – His efforts are starting to pay off…
- Oleg Saprykin – Many a Saint John fan has wondered how this guy could stick for an entire season in the NHL… uninspired play and ill-advised penalties haven't helped his cause.
- Dave Huntzicker – Rookie defenceman would probably be in the ECHL if the Flames had more bodies on the blueline.
- Daniel Marois – Has scored some goals, but not much else. A long way from returning to the NHL.
By the Numbers…
- Kay Whitmore is 4th among AHL goalies with a 2.11 GAA.
- Blair Betts continues to lead the team in assists and points (12 assists, 16 points).
- The Flames' power play (17.1%) and penalty kill (79.6%) are both below the league average.
News and Notes…
- Whitmore has stopped both penalty shots that he's faced this season. Metropolit's penalty shot on Saturday night was the first by an opposition player in Harbour Station's 9-year AHL history.
- With Steve Montador on recall to Calgary, the Flames decided not to recall an extra body from Johnstown, and used 5 defencemen on Friday and Saturday night.
- The Flames continue their homestand next Friday and Saturday with two games against division rival Manitoba. Goaltender Martin Brochu is expected to return to Harbour Station for the first time since May 28th, when he led the Flames to a 1-0 victory to win the Calder Cup.
- Martin Brochu's return to the AHL has been far from successful. In 5 games after being demoted by the Canucks, Brochu has a 4.17 GAA and a .854 save percentage.
- Rico Fata has 8 points (4G, 4A) in 8 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack.
- Darrell Hay, son of former Calgary coach Don Hay, scored his first AHL goal this weekend for the Manitoba Moose. The Moose were playing against the Utah Grizzlies, who are coached by none other than… Don Hay.
Aaron covers the Saint John Flames for Calgary Puck / Fire on Ice. He can be reached at email@example.com.