BOUNCE BACK WEEK
The Heat faced quite a test this week against the Rockford Ice Hogs and a back-to-back set against the Western Conference leading Grand Rapids Griffins.
Fortunately, the Heat passed the test with two wins in their three games this week.
On Wednesday afternoon the Heat pulled off a 4-3 overtime victory against the Ice Hogs due, in part, to an outstanding three point game from Chad Billins.
After falling behind 2-0 in the first period, Mark Cundari was able to respond 7:21 into the middle frame with his fourth marker of the year on the power play. Soon after, Rockford's Brandon Mashinter gave his team a 3-1 edge. It was all Heat from that point on as newcomer Evan Trupp, playing in his first career AHL game, sparked the rally with his first professional goal just 0:17 seconds into the final frame. With just over six minutes left in the game, Billins potted his eighth goal of the campaign to knot up the score and force overtime.
The Heat knew that entering Friday and Saturday's match against the Western Conference's top team would be quite the measuring stick if they could pull off a couple of wins against the Griffins.
Unfortunately, on Friday evening, the reigning Calder Cup Champion Grand Rapids Griffins got the better of the younger, more inexperienced Heat in a 3-0 win.
After a long scoreless start to the game, David McIntyre put the Griffins up 1-0 with less than two minutes left in the first period. Mitch Callahan added to the lead with his sixteenth goal of the year midway through the middle frame. Finally, Landon Ferraro gave the Griffins a 3-0 edge in the third period.
Knight led the Heat with five shots on goal, but Tom McCollum stood tall at the other end of the rink to shutout Abbotsford.
It was a different story in Saturday's rematch, however, as the Heat topped the Griffins 3-2 thanks to Reinhart's big three-point outing.
Carter Bancks ended a lengthy personal 30-game goalless drought when he got on the board midway through the first period with a shorthanded tally. The lead didn't last long as defenceman Nathan Paetsch responded quickly on the power play to tie it up 1-1. About three minutes later Reinhart picked up his eighth goal of the year to give his team the lead going into the first intermission.
In the second period, Grand Rapid's Xavier Ouellet tied the game once again. However, Granlund responded with a goal of his own just two minutes later to put the Heat up 3-2. Abbotsford was able to hold onto the lead for the remainder of the game to pick up their 26th win on the season.
They currently sit fourth in the Western Conference, just one point back of their division rival Texas Stars.
The Heat will return home after their long two-week road trip to face the Canucks' affiliate Utica Comets on Friday and Saturday night at the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre.
THREE STARS OF THE WEEK
First Star - Max Reinhart
Few Heat players are as hot as Reinhart is right now. The sophomore pro added a goal and five points to his stats line this week. Of his four assists, three were of the primary variety. The 21-year-old now has 18 points in his last 16 games, which brings him to 30 points in 35 games this season.
Second Star - Chad Billins
The Heat's All-Star blueliner showed why he'll represent the AHL in this year's All-Star game. Billins notched a goal and three assists this week and has five points in his last four games. The 24-year-old sits third on the AHL scoring list by a defenceman and is now just six points away from tying his rookie point total from last season.
Third Star - Markus Granlund
The flashy Finnish rookie was able put home two goals this week, including an overtime winner, bringing his goal total to 16 on the season. Granlund sits just one goal behind Ben Street for the team lead. The 20-year-old leads all American league rookies in goals.
- All good things must come to end and Steve Begin experienced it the hard way. After being told by doctors that he shouldn't return to hockey, the rugged veteran has decided to retire. Unfortunately, the 35-year-old wasn't able to don an Abbotsford Heat sweater, but he will end his career in the same Flames organization that gave him his beginning.
- Rookie power forward Michael Ferland's season has ended early. Ferland will be needing surgery to repair his knee, which will end what was an impressive start to his professional career. After starting the season with no points in his first 11 games, Ferland exploded for six goals and 18 points in his final 14 games.
- Rookie rearguard Tyler Wotherspoon leads the Abbotsford Heat with a plus/minus rating of plus-11. His superb defensive stats have him sixth amongst all rookies in the plus/minus category.
- While offence has never been the bread and butter of Heat assistant captain Carter Bancks, it was nice to see the gritty forward pot one this week. The Marysville, BC native ended a personal 30-game goalless drought on Saturday against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
- The Heat will receive some much needed reinforcements this week. Blueliner Derek Smith has been reassigned to Abbotsford. In five games with the Heat this season, Smith has one goal.
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