ROUGH ROAD SWING
It was a tough three-in-three weekend for the Abbotsford Heat as the team took only two out of a possible six points on the road.
At the head of the Heat's woes were their special teams. In three games against the Oklahoma City Barons and the Texas Stars, the Heat converted on just one of their 13 man-advantages and only operated at a 41.2% penalty kill (7/17).
When asked about his special teams in the early going this season, Heat head coach Troy G. Ward admitted special teams would be key for the young group and said, "We have the right people on the bus, we just don't have them in the right seats."
On Friday evening the Heat fell to the Oklahoma City Barons 4-3, but not without a good push back effort late in the game. After the Barons scored four unanswered tallies, Ben Hanowski got the team back in the game with his fourth goal of the season. Rookie Markus Granlund picked up his first professional point on the goal.
In the third period, Chad Billins and Brett Olson helped the cause by chipping in a goal each, but the comeback fell short.
In the Saturday evening rubber match, the Heat prevailed 2-1 in the shootout over the Barons thanks to Reto Berra's 29 save performance and late game heroics from Paul Byron who scored with 0:39 seconds left in the game to even it up and force extra time.
In the shootout, Granlund and Billins (who was a career five for five in the shootout entering the game) were able to seal the Heat two points.
After a six-and-a-half hour bus ride south to Cedar Park, Texas on Sunday, the Heat got shelled 9-3 by the Texas Stars.
The Heat will face off against the Avalanche-affiliate Lake Erie Monsters this weekend on October 25 and 26.
The season is still young, but three players have stood out as the Heat's offensive engine so far. Hanowski, Corban Knight and Jooris started the season on a line together and put up impressive numbers.
While the line has now been broken up on the ice to make way for a healthy Granlund, the trio can't be separated off the ice.
"I room with them," Jooris noted. "We've got a house together, so we've got great chemistry off the ice and that translates on the ice. It's just easy to get along with those guys and they're great players. Ben's got a great stick and he's got good hands around the net. Corban's a really poised player and can make great plays, so it's been good."
In just seven games, the three players have combined for 15 points.
For the newcomer Jooris, it's been an easy adjustment to his new teammates. After going mini-golfing and having dinner as a team on a couple of occasions, the chemistry has been growing amongst the young group.
"It's almost like a college atmosphere being a college kid. Coming in, it's a really young group of guys. They're easy guys to talk to and develop friendships with.
"You know, you get some pro teams where there's a lot of older veteran players and they all have families and stuff, but here we've got a couple of guys like Arsene and those guys. They're a really good veteran presence in the locker room and they're good guys to learn from, so it's a good team and good camaraderie that we're building."
Watching Turner Elson and Carter Bancks play, it's not hard to see that they're cut from the same cloth. They're tenacious, fiery, love to throw the body around and get under the opposing team's skin. Now plying their trade on a line together, the two feisty wingers are taking a mentor/pupil approach in building their chemistry.
"I played against him in the WHL and I hated playing against him," Elson smiled. "He's just a guy you hate playing against, but you love him on your team. Having him on your line is even better."
"I love the way Turner plays," said Bancks. "When I was an older guy in the Western league, he was just coming in and I remember playing against him. I had a lot of respect for the way he played. I think he plays the game the right way."
The duo are no strangers to the rough and rugged style and act as the heartbeat and pace-setters of any given game, which is why Bancks has continually been impressed with the young 21-year-old.
"He plays really hard. He lays his body on the line for the team, he has a good skill set, can get pucks to the net and he's been great here so far for us. I've had a ton of fun playing with him. I'm going to look forward to watching Turner play this year. I like to think that we play a similar style. He shows up every night and that's what I love about him."
At 24 years old, most would agree Bancks is still young and has his whole life ahead of him. But on a team chock-full of 20- to 23-year-olds, he's an old man amongst kids, at least experience-wise.
Now with more than four years of AHL experience under his belt, Bancks knows the ins and outs of the professional lifestyle more than most on the Abbotsford Heat and he's ready to spread his knowledge to his rookie teammates.
"It's definitely a change," laughed Bancks about being the elder statesman of the group. "I mean, I'm only 24 years old and I'm one of the older guys in the locker room. But it's fun. I love it. I love the opportunity to have that leadership role.
We've had some great leaders here in the past with Quintin Laing, Ben Walter, guys like that, and I just try to pass on a little bit of what I've learned from them, ways you can help them through, not just hockey, but the travel, life, getting their own place, all those sorts of things."
No doubt Bancks has seen his fair share of changes in the Heat organization. He's seen teammates and coaches come and go. He's been through exhilarating winning streaks and arduous losing slumps. This season, however, there's an excitement around the youthful club - not just from Bancks, but his teammates as well.
"The first thing you notice is the age," Bancks explained. "Last year we were probably one of the older teams in the league and this year we're one of the younger teams and that's really exciting.
"Obviously some of the signings that Calgary's made with bringing in Corban Knight, Josh Jooris, Ben Hanowski through the trade, a bunch of those guys - John Ramage, Billins - you notice our skill sets are improved. We've got a lot of really skilled players. We've got a lot of guys that play really fast and play at a really high pace. I think that's a ton of fun to play with. We also don't really have any older veterans, so it's just kind of, with coach Ward, whoever plays well that night is going. Those are the guys that are going to get the opportunities. Everyone still has to prove themselves and earn what they're going to get. It's been a ton of fun."
|Back to top ↑|