It has been an interesting first half of the season for the Utica Comets.

There have been ups and downs for the American Hockey League team while navigating through a myriad of injuries – the team has lost nearly 200 man-games due to various ailments – as well as roster changes (Adam Gaudette was recalled Tuesday after three games) and uneven play.

There are positives for Utica, which reached the midpoint of its schedule last weekend in Cleveland.

General Manager Ryan Johnson said the team has “done a good job” managing the challenges, including the introduction of numerous rookies.

The team has hit a stride since a brief tumble to the bottom of the North Division standings. With help from a recent 13-6-1-0 stretch, Utica has climbed into third place in the North.

“I feel like as a group, regardless of what we’ve faced, we managed to stay competitive. We’ve managed to keep our group in things,” Johnson said Monday. "We've managed to develop (players)."

Is there a key to this recent turnaround? Is resilient the right word?

Johnson: That’s the word I use to our group all the time. … When we have the opportunity to fold and have the excuse and we could move on … we don’t let that creep into it. We use them as opportunities to find solutions and challenge ourselves individually and as a team. I think that is the makeup of the culture and the group we’ve tried to build. …

The Comets’ goaltending situation is in flux due to recent moves. Is there a plan to add another goaltender on an NHL deal?

Johnson: Obviously, we’re up against it a bit due to the situation on how everything worked out. It is certainly something being worked on.

Zack MacEwen has been doing well in his second season. Are you pleased with his production and the strides he’s made?

Johnson: I’m happy with the production. I’m even more happy with the way that he’s doing it. … His puck management is excellent, which is allowing him to have more time where he is hard to hold off. … I love the professionalism and the way his game is coming together. He’s a great example for our other young guys that are maybe just a year behind him to look at and go ‘OK, that’s what I need to do if I’m going to get to that next step of pushing to get an opportunity to go up and play,’ which is what Zack is doing. …

How do you feel about the progress of prospects like Jonah Gadjovich? Trent Cull has said he’s still learning the pace of the game.

Johnson: He’s improved. In his last game, he was playing with (Carter) Bancks and (Wacey) Hamilton because they ignite players. They force you to be more aggressive. They force you to play your heart out or you look bad. Jonah is … still learning the sandpaper side of his game and that he has to be physical. He has to be a presence and that will allow the skill side to come out. It is not uncommon for a lot of young players. They have to learn to play in the hard areas because if you don’t have that, you have no foundation. Travis Green or Jim Benning don’t call asking about who has the most goals, it is who is playing the right way. Again, that’s a natural learning process for a kid. …

Kole Lind played with Cam Darcy and Vincent Arseneau last weekend. Did it seem to force him to play a harder game?

Johnson: That’s one of the things we’ve been harping on Kole. He’s got a great skill set and he does really good things with the puck. But, how do we get the puck into your hands as much as possible? … We need (him) to be physical. We need (him) to be first in on the forecheck and turning over pucks. The amount of time Kole had to make plays last weekend was a lot, which we were ecstatic about. But, it was because he was initiating. … Where he was in September to where he is now, is a great first step in the development process.

How do you feel about the progress with Jonathan Dahlen and Lukas Jasek?

Johnson: It is the same type of thing. It is the compete, it is playing the total game. Those are guys we want to have the puck as much as possible. … It is the details of the three zones and making sure they’re taking care of the puck in all areas and being part of the forechecking, competing and giving yourself a chance to have the puck and make plays. As a group all those guys have improved on it and getting better and we hope that continues. Post-Christmas, it seems to settle in and they take a big step.

Note: The Comets also added defenseman Cliff Watson on a professional tryout contract Tuesday. Read more at uticaod.com.