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Frolik rewarded on scoresheet for strong play

The winger opened the scoring in a 4-2 win over the Coyotes on Saturday night

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH /

CALGARY, AB -- You could've been forgiven for perhaps thinking Michael Frolik had just passed a kidney stone the size of the ball that drops every New Year's Eve in front of tens of thousands jammed into Times Square.

After six increasingly painful weeks of pushing.

"I'm happy it happened today. A nice way to start the New Year,'' admitted the versatile right winger, whose early goal launched the Calgary Flames to a 4-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

"It's been a while. But that's hockey.

"Obviously it's in your head a bit, after a long stretch like that."

Frolik's last snipe could be traced all the way back to Nov. 16th. Same opponent. Same venue.

In between, he'd gone 44 days, 20 games and 40 cracks on various nets against a variety goaltenders in differing locales.

During the goal outage, though, Frolik, ever the pro, continued to be his usual dependable self, a multi-tacker who never moped.

"It's not as if he hasn't had scoring chances,'' pointed out centre Michael Backlund of his linemate. "He's just an excellent pro. The big key in this league is grind away, day in and day out. Come in with a positive attitude, don't let your head drop, work hard and good things will happen.

"With him, it was only matter of time."

Frolik struck for his seventh of the season at 6:08 via the power play, with left winger Lawson Crouse incarcerated for a needless offensive-zone cross-check on Sean Monahan.

'Yotes goalie Louis Domingue blocked a rising, sharp-angle Matthew Tkachuk try and Frolik, in prime position out front of the blue paint, pirouetted to slot the puck home.

"We put Fro on the power play, they made a couple plays, that line together,'' adjudged Flames' coach Glen Gulutzan. "He does so much every night. He's a top-rate penalty killer, great 5-on-5 player, plays in all situations.

"I was really happy, actually, to see him get rewarded."

When the puck actually went in, the sweet, blissful sense of relief on Frolik's face was palpable.

"At the start season, everything went in for me and the then the other guys started scoring,'' he reasoned. "Then Backs got hot. He's been playing really, well. Chucky (Matthew Tkachuk), too.

"My job is to be dependable defensively first.

"Obviously I want to score goals sometime, but what's important is that somebody on our line scores."

The Flames opened with as much sparkle as freshly-iced bottle of ringing-in-the-New-Year Moet Chandon champagne.

Buoyed by Frolik's opportunism, at 12:09, the locals were back for more, Dennis Wideman powering a snapshot short-side from the right point. 

A scant 29 seconds later, Lance Bouma's centring pass intended for Garnet Hathaway, beelining to the net, bounced off Arizona defenceman Alex Goliogski, frantically trying to tie up Hathaway, and behind Domingue.

When the in-form Backlund re-directed a Mark Giordano power play point shot past Domingue at 15:42, Calgary had a four-goal cushion.

A commanding opening 20 minutes.

After that … well, not so much.

"We got outplayed,'' said Gulutzan flatly. "The good part is, this is one of the few times lately that I can stand at this podium and say we won the speciality-teams game.

"But as far as 5-on-5 game, our general game, I didn't like our game. I let that be known after periods. I thought we executed in the first, I thought we were good in the offensive zone, went to the net hard, got the two powerplay goals and that's why we got the lead.

"But after that .. that's what happens when you're off a degree."

His charges, too, were far from satisfied.

"Our second period,'' acknowledged Backlund, with a soft shake of the head, "was awful. Really bad."

Good thing Brian Elliott was on hand to keep the Coyotes from chipping too far into the lead.

"That opening period, I don't think I saw a shot for 12 minutes. That's the way we want to play,'' said Elliott afterwards. "We got away from it a little bit after that. It's a weird game, not playing the way you want to but you're up 4-0 and it's a bit of false facade.

"But we played a better third period and that's what you want to take forward."

In winning his fourth straight, Elliott was superb through a slovenly middle stanza from the Flames, stopping 15 of 16 Arizona pellets. His most timely piece of thievery arrived near period's end, when a badly-judged Micheal Ferland turnover released Tobias Rieder on a breakaway.

Refusing to bite as Rieder slid to his left and the far post, Elliott managed to stab a toe at the centreman's stuff attempt.

"He was the difference,'' praised Gulutan. "The breakaway save … Hey, 4-2 going into the third period is a different story than 4-1.

"He's never wavered on work ethic. Like every other player in this league, confidence is a big thing. Winning four in a row, I can see within him now, even the way he is in the locker room, it's coming.

"This is a veteran guy who's won at this level, for years. But you still need confidence and I can see him getting it."

So for the Flames, a happy way to ring in a new year.

None happier, it goes without saying, than Michael Frolik.

"You try not to think about it, put it out of your mind, but it's always there, when you're not scoring,'' he sighed, an hour and half or so before renditions of Auld Lang Syne would reverberate around Calgary. "You start fighting it. Now I can breathe. Now I can relax a bit.

"It's a good way to end 2016. I'd like to pick up where I left off next game, next year."

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