ABBOTSFORD, BC -- While the Abbotsford Heat weren’t pleased with dropping their tilt with the Oklahoma City Barons 2-1 in overtime, head coach Troy Ward liked what he saw out of his charges on Saturday night.
“I enjoyed the game, it was a good hockey game,” he said in his post-game media address. “It was somewhat of an easy game in terms of matchups, (they) were pretty consistent. Lines matched up pretty well.
“Obviously they had a good push but I thought the ice balance wasn’t bad overall. We had a good push in the third. It was a good game by us. I enjoyed our play.”
The Heat picked up three of a possible four points in their homestand against the Barons and outscored Oklahoma City 5-2. They didn't allow a single five-on-five goal through two games against the Edmonton Oilers AHL affiliate.
"You look at the weekend and there's a lot to celebrate," Ward said. "I feel pretty good about where our team is at.
"But give them credit tonight. They got the win."
The Barons held an edge through the first 40 minutes, outshooting the Heat 24-13. Dustin Sylvester chalked up the team’s play in the opening two periods to gripping their sticks too tightly.
"We didn't play too well in the first two periods but near the end of the second we were starting to come on. Then obviously in the third I thought we played a lot better. Fortunately we got one point out of it."
Abbotsford netminder Danny Taylor, who was named the game’s second star, was rock solid for his club. He stopped 32 of 33 shots in regulation, many in spectacular fashion.
Taylor’s best save came early in the third period when he absolutely robbed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the slot. Taylor Hall dished the puck off to Nugent-Hopkins, who was streaking through the offensive zone, and the centreman slapped a hard shot on net. To make life even tougher for Taylor, Jordan Eberle buzzing around the net, trying to provide a screen or deflect Nugent-Hopkins shot.
Taylor flashed the glove for a highlight-reel stop, earning a roar from the sold-out crowd in the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
Hall opened the scoring at 7:46 of the third period with a power play goal, his second tally this season. Teemu Hartikainen and Nugent-Hopkins picked up the assists.
The goal ended the Barons scoring drought which had lasted 187:02. It was the first goal Taylor had allowed in over five periods of play.
The Heat continued to press throughout the third frame and were finally able to get the puck past Yann Danis with just 1:45 remaining in regulation.
Paul Byron forced a turnover in the offensive zone and Ben Street quickly wired a shot on net. Sylvester snapped up the rebound and threw it past a sprawling Danis, collecting his fifth goal of the campaign.
“Street has been pretty good at that lately, getting the puck off the far pad,” Sylvester noted. “I was in the right spot at the right time and had an open net.”
Justin Schultz scored the game-winner 1:36 into extra time, slamming a howitzer past Taylor off a pass from Eberle to give him seven goals on the year.
The Heat are back in action on Tuesday when they host the Lake Erie Monsters. The game will be broadcast on TEAM RADIO at 8:00 PM MT.
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