Heat go 8-1 on tough road trip
Notes, quotes and updates on the Flames top affiliate
Abbotsford, BC - The Calgary Flames top farm club is fresh off a season-high nine-game road trip where they went 8-1, put together a season-high five-game winning streak, and moved up a spot in the AHL’s North Division.
Abbotsford (31-24-4-6) wrapped up the trip with a pair of wins over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Wocester Sharks and a win over the Providence Bruins finishing up the month of February with a 10-3-0-1 record good for third place in the division.
According to defenceman Keith Seabrook, the team’s success can be credited to its’ ability to find a way to win.
“I think we’re just coming together more as a team we’ve had a lot of injuries and different parts of our team have been dismantled,” Seabrook said. “We’re coming together as a team and we’re not really feeling the pressure we were before.
“It’s a lot more fun in the dressing room and away from the rink we’re a lot more loose and having a little bit more fun and joking around a little bit more.”
Since coming home to the Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Centre the Heat have picked up a pair of points in two shootout losses to the Providence Bruins.
Abbotsford has just one regulation loss in their last 11 games going 8-1-0-2 in that span.
The two shootout losses coupled with three shootout games prior to the nine-game road trip has seen Abbotsford play a bizarre five straight shootout games at home.
The team spent much of January talking about its’ penalty kill and needing to be better a man down. Last month the attention to the penalty kill finally paid off as the Heat managed to kill off 59 of 69 opponents chances with the man advantage good for an 85.5 per cent efficiency rate.
“I think early on it was real important,” said Abbotsford head coach Jim Playfair. “I think it got away from us a little bit at the very end there.
“I think overall we’ve tried to create a little more up ice pressure, we’ve tried to do a better job of clearing pucks, we still have lots of areas to improve on.”
So far in the month of March the penalty kill is a perfect 4-for-4 after two games.
SEABROOK SEES GOLD
Much of the team got back in to B.C. mid-way through Sunday’s gold medal men’s hockey game between the US and Canada and gathered around TVs at Vancouver International Airport to catch the finish.
However, for Keith Seabrook the gold medal game is one he will not soon forget. Keith’s older brother Brent, a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, patrolled Canada’s blue line during the Olympics and made arrangements for his younger brother to be in attendance for the game.
Keith traveled to New York from Worcester, where the Heat had just finished playing the Sharks on Saturday night and caught a red-eye in order to be in Vancouver in time for puck drop.
We’ll let him re-live the adventure:
Q: How cool was the experience?
Keith: Oh... it was unbelievable! Big time!
Getting there (Canada Hockey Place) I had goose bumps walking up into the stadium and seeing all the fans out there. It was quite unbelievable to see.
The atmosphere like that, especially for them to win it like they did it was unbelievable. I couldn’t be more proud to be Canadian, proud of my brother Brent so it was a fun day and I’ll never forget it.
Q: What was the highlight?
Keith: I have to say the highlight of the night was definitely the game, meeting a bunch of the guys after the game.
The whole day, it just kind of got better and better… definitely seeing that goal go in overtime there – I’ve never seen a crowd jump up and yell so loud. It was pretty crazy to see.
Q: How did you react to the overtime goal?
Keith: I don’t think I’ve ever actually jumped out of my seat and started yelling for a goal in my life before, but that was probably the first one and that was quite special.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
In net for Abbotsford David Shantz is the one with the ball at the moment. The Heat goaltender was quite impressive last month putting together an 8-3-1 record while posting a 2.46 GAA and a .918 save percentage.
“All along I said it had to be a three horse race for it to be a good competitive environment,” Playfair said. “Leland (Irving) and Matt (Keetley) had a chance to both be here.
“We had it structured out so that up to Christmas time they were going to take their turns going back and forth cause of the way the schedule laid out. Keetley had a good run, then Leland had a good run and David is on a good run now.”
The Heat saw a slight re-shuffling between the pipes this week as Matt Keetley was called up for Calgary’s tilt against the Minnesota Wild Wednesday night.
As a result, Abbotsford re-called Irving from Victoria (ECHL) to back-up Shantz against Providence.
John Negrin (D) – wrist
Brett Palin (D) – concussion
Kris Chucko (RW) – concussion
Matt Pelech (D) – pinch nerve
Carsen Germyn (RW) – concussion
Colin Stuart (LW) – upper body
John Armstrong (C) - Shoulder
With seven regulars out of the line-up the Heat have had to look elsewhere to fill the line-up.
Ben Gordon, who played three games with the Heat earlier in the season, was signed to another PTO.
Radek Smolenak joined the Heat in the middle of their road trip and has three assists in ten games with Abbotsford.
At Wednesday’s noon/pt trade deadline the Calgary Flames sent Riley Armstrong to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for veteran defenceman Andy Delmore.
In 54 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins Delmore had 15 assists and 20 points.
Riley Armstrong was still in the Abbotsford-area as the Heat took on the Providence Bruins Wednesday night and took the opportunity to say goodbye to his teammates.
Armstrong admits the trade was tough to take.
“I really didn’t know what to think,” admitted Armstrong. “I just woke up from my afternoon nap and I was getting ready to play tonight.
“When I got the call from Duane (Sutter) a lot of things were running through my head. I didn’t really know what to say to him. I never did ask for a trade or wanted to leave here. I like all the guys here, I love being here and I had tons of fun here.
“Detroit’s an awesome organization so hopefully I can go there and maybe get a call up.”
THE LOOK AHEAD
The Abbotsford Heat are in the middle of a stretch which sees them play 10 of 12 games during the month of March at home.
Up next for Abbotsford is a pair of games against the Worcester Sharks this Friday and Saturday.
One of the highlights of the month will come towards the end of March when the Heat travel to Toronto for a pair of games on the 20th and 21st.
For the first time this season the Heat will appear on national television as their tilt with the Marlies on Sunday, March 21st at Ricoh Coliseum will air on the CBC to honor the Canadian Armed Forces as part of Salute the Troops Day.