It was a disappointing weekend for the Abbotsford Heat as they came out on the losing end of a game of Red Rover against the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Montreal Canadiens affiliate played a sound defensive game, limiting the Heat to just two goals in the two-game set.
On Friday evening the Heat fell 2-1 to Hamilton thanks to Bulldogs' netminder Dustin Tokarski and his 28 saves on 29 shots.
In the first period, Victoria, BC native Justin Courtnall, son of former NHLer Geoff Courtnall, opened the scoring in front of family and friends to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead. Christian Thomas added to the lead midway through the second period.
The Heat, however, came out in the final frame with a big push as Sven Baertschi potted his second of the season on a tap-in from a Mark Cundari to cut the score to 2-1. Despite a flurry of shots and near misses in the dying minutes, the Heat couldn't mount a comeback.
Saturday's rematch proved to be just as difficult to score for the Heat in a 3-1 loss.
Midway through the first period, Markus Granlund collected his 14th of the campaign on a flubbed pass from Kane Lafranchise.
Unfortunately, it was all Bulldogs from that point on as Gabriel Dumont netted two goals in the game. Maxime Macenauer later added an empty net goal to give Hamilton an insurmountable lead.
Yet, despite the loss, Joey MacDonald had an outstanding performance in the Heat crease as he turned away 24 of 26 shots.
The Heat return to action on Tuesday to face the San Antonio Rampage followed by a weekend set on Friday and Saturday against the Texas Stars and Rampage once again.
There's a lot of pressure in being a promising young prospect and nobody has felt that pressure more than second year pro Sven Baertschi.
After making the Flames roster out of training camp, the young Swiss winger now finds himself in a Heat uniform - something he admittedly didn't want to see happen.
"That's something as a pro athlete you've got to deal with," Baertschi told the media. "There's ups and downs in sports. The last thing I really wanted this year was to be back here playing for the Heat again, but it's the way it worked out. The main thing is you've just got to try and stay positive. Sometimes it's not easy, but I think you've got to battle through it. Grind through it."
While being back in the minors may not have been the ideal situation for the 21-year-old, Heat head coach Troy G. Ward likes the way he's managed the adversity.
"He's dealt with it real well. He's a good pro. He's a good man and he's got a great heart. He's a good teammate. He's a joy to coach. I think he's handled it well. How he handles it on his own - that's something different. That's all about maturity. That's why you play in the American Hockey League - it's to grow up as much off the ice as you do on the ice. With that part, he's going through the process like any player would."
With Baertschi's demotion, however, comes an opportunity to grow and develop his game. Spreaking frankly with the media, Ward expressed concerns that Baertschi is behind in his development, but noted his attitude was in the right place in order to learn and grow.
"Being me and being direct, he's behind everybody else. He's behind. He's played a different game. You come down to the American league and it's a little more of a rat race. It's not chess. It's simpler up there. It's just a simpler, easier game.
"So in some ways he's behind some of our guys. He just hasn't played the minutes we're giving him. He's trying to get all that back into form again. That's going to take some time. I've been happy with him. I'm not disappointed, I just think he's behind in development than some of these other guys. Some guys get their eyes and have been making more plays than Sven right now, but he's also got to understand, and we all understand within the organization, we're trying to develop a hockey player. If he can become part of our winning formula in certain games and get some points, then that's a bonus. But in general, we're trying to make him a better hockey player and help his game. I think he's coming along."
When your two younger brothers have donned the red and white Canadian jersey, it's hard not to be proud of their achievements.
And while a whole nation of people were cheering on Team Canada in the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, there was no greater support for Griffin and Sam Reinhart than from their older brother, Max, who's been waking up early to catch the games.
"It's been nice coming into the rink and the games are always on," said Reinhart. "I've got to catch a lot them. Obviously, watching Griffin play his first game was pretty cool. Sam's been playing well the whole tournament and I hope he keeps it up."
Unfortunately, Team Canada was unable to bring home a medal this year, but the 21-year-old Heat centre is proud of his brothers nonetheless.
SOLIDIFYING HIS SPOT
Lafranchise was called up from the ECHL's Alaska Aces as a reinforcement for a banged up blue line, but has now appeared to solidify himself a spot on the Heat.
In twelve games with the Heat, the Edmonton product has shown sound defensive abilities as well as having chipped in five assists in that span. However, for the 25-year-old rearguard, it's a matter of growing alongside a young team and never being satisfied with his play.
"I just try and play my game as simple as possible," Lafranchise explained. "The biggest thing is, like the team, I'm learning every day. I'm growing with the team. It's been a great opportunity. Obviously, I'm trying to do my best to stay here and so far so good. But you can never be satisfied and I think that's the biggest thing with me. I take what Robbie [Ftorek] and Troy [Ward] say and I try and learn from it and keep trying to get better so I can stay here. It's been a great team to be a part of and I'm looking forward to keep going."
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