GROUNDED BY THE GRIFFINS
As one of the top teams in the American league, the Abbotsford Heat got set to play another formidable opponent in the Grand Rapids Griffins this weekend.
Although these two titans had nearly identical records, the Heat conceded back-to-back losses against the Western Conference leading Griffins.
Baertschi opened the scoring on the power play with some nifty help from Ben Street and Corey Locke at 6:11 of the first period. The Griffins responded near the end of the period as flashy Finnish forward Teemu Pulkkinen got his team on the board with his twenty-second of the season.
In the middle frame, Pulkkinen picked up his second of the game to give Grand Rapid's the 2-1 lead. Reinhart evened the scoring at 16:09, but the Griffins' Calle Jarnkrok picked up the go-ahead goal late in the period.
In a fast and furious third period, the Heat made a big push to knot up the scoring. In the dying minutes of the final frame, Baertschi made a great individual effort to find Reinhart through a wall of sticks and legs to push the game to extra time.
In the shootout, Baertschi was the only Heat player to solve Petr Mrazek as Gleason Fournier picked up the winner for the visitors.
Olivier Roy stopped 34 of 37 shots in the loss.
The two teams renewed hostilities on Saturday evening, but once again the Griffins got the better of the Heat in a 5-2 victory.
Second-year man Reinhart put on a scoring exhibit as he opened the scoring less than two minutes into the game on a Dean Arsene point shot. With just 0:12 seconds remaining in the first period, Reinhart picked up his second of the night and seventeenth of the season to give the Heat a 2-0 edge.
In the second period, Grand Rapids' head coach Jeff Blashill replaced netminder Tom McCollum with Petr Mrazek, who stymied the Heat for the remainder of the game. Nestrasil's marker brought the Griffins to within one in the second period while Hoggan, McIntyre, Tootoo and Pulkkinen picked up goals in the final frame to win it.
Heat backstop Joey MacDonald faced ample amounts of rubber on the evening as he stopped 37 of 41 shots in his first game back from injury.
The Abbotsford Heat have a tough and compacted schedule ahead of them in the coming week. They will face the Texas Stars in a mid-week back-to-back set starting Tuesday morning at 11:30 AM MT. Then, after just two days of rest they're back at it again on Saturday and Sunday versus the Chicago Wolves at home.
These days it seems you can put Max Reinhart with just about anyone and they would produce points together.
The savvy Swiss native has clicked admirably with his new linemate in their first two games together. Baertschi had a hand in three of Reinhart's four goals this past weekend against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
"We've played together before," said Baertschi. "We've connected before, so it's easy for me to change linemates … With Max, I've always felt that I've had a little bit of a special connection with him.
"Last season I played quite a few games with him and it's been a lot of fun. We play a similar way, so it's easy to understand him."
Baertschi now has 11 points in his last 13 games as he continues to heat up after a slow start in Abbotsford.
"He's a pretty good player," said Reinhart who is on a torrid pace with five goals in his past five games. "All you have to do is get to open ice, put your stick on the ice and usually he hits it."
When asked if there was an adjustment period in changing linemates from Granlund to Baertschi, Reinhart explained, "It wasn't too big of an adjustment. I played with Sven a lot before. Both players are very fun to play with. You always have the puck on your stick and there's not a lot of D-zone time when you play with guys like that."
For the first time in over a month veteran netminder Joey MacDonald has returned between the pipes. Right there beside him is 22-year-old Olivier Roy who continues to hold down the crease for the Abbotsford Heat in Joni Ortio's absence.
MacDonald's return also marks the first time that Roy hasn't had a rookie backstop or a temporary PTO-signing backing him up. The veterans presence is sure to create some competition in the blue paint between the two goaltenders.
"It should push [Roy] now," said Ward. "Now he's more apt to lose his net quicker regardless of how he does. We've got a vet here that can play. So it's going to force him to mentally prepare and kind of get himself in a position where he's got to get tired of saying, 'I don't want to be the backup, I want to get my net and keep my net.'
"It's real positional confrontation … It's a real healthy situation for both goalies. Joey knows that this kid's already won and we're capable of winning with him, so he has to play well and at the same time, Roy doesn't want to lose his net."
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