Typically the Abbotsford Heat and Hamilton Bulldogs match up extremely well against each other - tight checking, superb goaltending and low scoring games are generally the highlights when these team play.
Not this weekend.
The Heat were clearly the dominant club in back-to-back victories over the Canadiens' top affiliate. Number one on the list of reasons for the Heat's successful home set is rookie net-minder Joni Ortio who allowed just one goal in his two starts and joked, "I could've been better."
In Friday's match, Abbotsford was able to pull off a 6-0 drubbing where seven Heat players finished the game with two points or more.
After a scoreless first period, rookie sniper Markus Granlund opened the scoring on a flashy power move to cut around a Bulldogs defender and roof it short side on Dustin Tokarski. Less than two minutes later, Brett Olson fed a nifty backhand pass to Corban Knight in the slot who made no mistake sniping top shelf. With under a minute left in the middle frame, Knight struck again from almost the same spot, picking up his eleventh tally of the year.
In the third period, the Heat continued to pour it on as Sven Baertschi carried the puck into the slot where Josh Jooris powered his way to the net and slid it past a sprawling Tokarski to make it 4-0. Midway through the final frame, Granlund and Reinhart hooked up for a crafty passing play as Reinhart fed Blair Jones for an easy tap-in. Two minutes later, Derek Smith passed it cross ice to Blair Jones who powered home the one-timer to pick up the team's second power play marker of the game.
Ortio picked up a 34-save shutout performance and was named the game's third star.
The two teams renewed hostilities on Saturday night as the Heat topped the Bulldogs 4-1.
Reinhart, who leads the Heat in scoring, collected his tenth goal of the season on the power play from Granlund and Billins at 7:56 of the first period. Nearing the end of the period, Jooris picked up his second goal in as many games on a beautiful feed from Baertschi to put the Heat up 2-0.
After a scoreless second period, Carter Bancks led the charge shorthanded as he sprinted up the ice and fed a saucer pass over to Granlund who made a nifty deke to catch Robert Mayer off-guard and bury his nineteenth of the season.
At 7:41 of the final frame, Stefan Fournier was able to solve Ortio and bring the score to 3-1, but it wasn't enough as Derek Smith capped off the win with a empty netter.
The Heat have picked up a point in their last five games and will hope to continue that momentum into a busy upcoming week. On Tuesday and Wednesday, former Heat forward Greg Nemisz and the Charlotte Checkers will visit the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre. Then, on Saturday and Sunday, the Heat will take on the always-tough Texas Stars before heading out for a two-week road trip.
O'BRIEN ASSIGNED TO HEAT
It's been a tumultuous week for Shane O'Brien. After clearing waivers and being demoted to the AHL (where he hasn't been in eight years), one would expect the gritty veteran to feel a little deflated.
But that hasn't been the case.
"I had a feeling it was coming," said O'Brien. "I've been in the league long enough, you can see the writing on the wall. As for clearing waivers, it is what it is. I haven't been playing very much up in Calgary.
"I'm just excited to play here. There's a lot of young kids here. After today's practice, they can really skate. It was a good pace, it was a good practice and I'm excited to get my passion back for the game and just to enjoy every day I can."
Upon arriving in Abbotsford, the 30-year-old was left with quite the first impression of his new club after speaking with the coaching staff, going through a gruelling first practice and meeting his new teammates.
"First class all the way. I had a great conversation with coach Ward this morning, probably thirty minutes, just talking hockey and talking life. He's a great person, you can tell that. I'm a firm believer in this sport that if you're a good person, good things are going to happen to you. And obviously, coach Ftorek's been around for a long time, he's got a lot of energy, he's got that good Boston accent. As for the boys, they're great … So I'm excited to get back playing hockey again and helping this team win as much as I can. If I can help the defence out in any way with some questions they have or anything like that, I'm going to do my part to help."
While O'Brien was left with a good first impression of the Heat players and staff, the Ontario native has been "a breath of fresh air," according to Heat head coach Troy G. Ward.
"He's been great all week," Ward said. "He's a veteran with a young man's heart, a young man's attitude. He's very young, so he's able to fit into the group really well … He's got a lot of pizazz to him. He's got a lot of life to him.
"He's 30 years old? He's like a 20-year-old, really. He's young, he's vibrant, he went bowling with the guys on Monday. He jumped right in. He's had good energy on the ice with body and voice, he's been vocal in the locker room. You hear him all the time in there."
O'Brien's level of professionalism in his demotion is what has set him apart from many veterans who are sent down to the AHL.
"What it shows you," Ward explained, "if you put things in perspective, it's just a game and he treats it like a game. 'This is how I make a living, but it's still just a game. I want to have fun doing what I like to do.' We like to go to work and have a good time with the people we work with and I don't think he's any different … It just gets to a point where you want to have fun."
On Thursday, the Abbotsford Heat signed veteran tough guy Trevor Gillies to a standard players' contract (SPC).
In an effort to bring energy, toughness and intimidation to the young lineup, the Heat have certainly succeeded in just that.
Gillies is no stranger to the face punching and rough stuff. In 380 career AHL games, the 35-year-old has amounted 1536 penalty minutes.
"We're going to mirror a little bit of Calgary in a lot of ways," said Ward. "They have McGrattan and Westgarth and we have MacDermid and Gillies. It's pretty much the same, tit for tat … It's definitely going to give our team a different identity for sure. No question about it because this guy's not a weakling."
With sturdy veteran Joey MacDonald taking some precautionary time away from the ice due to concussion symptoms, the Heat summoned Olivier Roy, who was acquired along with Ladislav Smid on November 8, from their ECHL affiliate Alaska Aces.
"Good glove. Really quick," said Ward. "Like most East Coast leaguers, he's competing for his life. He doesn't want to leave. He wants to prove that he belongs here.
"Since the trade he's been somewhat of a stepchild. Most guys get an opportunity to go up in a trade right away. He got put in Alaska and played a lot of minutes, which is good, but he wants to stay and prove that he's worthy. His attitude, his work ethic, his compete in net has been outstanding."
In 20 games with the Aces this season, the 22-year-old put up an impressive 2.10 goals against average and a 0.922 save percentage to go along with four shutouts. With a busy week upcoming and MacDonald still recovering, expect the Quebec native to get some time in the Heat's crease.
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