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Irving gets hot in goal

Goaltender Leland Irving has been on top of his game since missing five games with a groin injury

Saturday, 09.04.2011 / 7:01 PM / News
By Dhiren Mahiban
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Irving gets hot in goal

Abbotsford, B.C. - Goaltender Leland Irving has been on top of his game since missing five games with a groin injury.

Irving returned to the Heat line-up for the Heat's April 1 match-up against Grand Rapids and is 4-1-0 with a .967 save percentage, 0.80 GAA and has three shutouts in five games.

"I feel a little refreshed I guess," said Irving trying to explain his recent success. "I don't really know what the major difference is, but I'm just finding pucks and seem to be pretty solid positionally - I'm moving well actually.

"I just got to keep on top of things and keep the body under control."

His recent success has vaulted him to the top of the leader board in shutouts, with eight, and minutes played. Irving is now second among goaltenders in wins with 30 behind only Brad Thiessen of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

"One of the things I've noticed about Leland is he's been a pro from the get-go from his July developmental camp - he came in, in the best shape of his career, he came in in great shape to training camp, he's come down here and given us 50 plus games, which we needed," said Flames goaltending coach Jamie McLennan.

"From my standpoint there's always little details that him and I will work on to get him to the National Hockey League on a consistent basis and that's my biggest, I guess, concern for Leland and I've told him this before - I want him (in Calgary) for the whole meal and not just a cup of tea."

Irving, a native of Swan Hills, AB, has also set career-highs in games played (60), shutouts and wins.

Week in Review

With Irving back in the fold the Heat have just lost once in regulation as they continue to push for the final playoff spot in the North Division.

On April 1 the Heat kicked off their final home stand of the season with a 4-2 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins. Ales Kotalik, Ryan MacMurchy, Quintin Laing and Matt Keith had the goals in the win.

The following night Abbotsford blanked Grand Rapids 1-0. Rookie Justin Dowling had his first American Hockey League goal with his parents in attendance.

This past Monday the Heat beat the Hamilton Bulldogs with a similar 1-0 score. Tyler Ruegsegger had the lone goal in the win.

Abbotsford was unable to stretch their winning-streak to four games on Tuesday as the Bulldogs edged the Heat 2-1. Jon Rheault had the only goal for the Heat in the loss.

Abbotsford began their final road trip of the season on Friday night blanking the Griffins 6-0. It was Irving's third shutout in five games while Ryan Stone picked up a hat-trick and chipped in with a pair of assists.

Cuts for the Cure

The Abbotsford Heat wives and girlfriend along with the players raised over $18, 000 last Saturday with their Cuts for the Cure fundraiser for cancer awareness.

Many of the Heat players took part as did head coach Jim Playfair.

"Everyone understands it and they respect what the girls are trying to accomplish by doing it," he said. "The players all looked at it like it was a situation to help out a really good cause and I think they raised upwards of $18,000.

As for his new hair do, "No one's said a word actually."

Ortio Adjusting

Newly signed prospect Joni Ortio may not get into a game this season, but the native of Turku, Finland has been with the Heat for over a week now and practicing with the team.

"It's been really exciting for sure," said Ortio of making the transition. "(To be) in an NHL jersey is what I've always wanted and this is one step in that path so I'm really happy to get over here, get to know all the guys and my future teammates."

Ortio spent the majority of the year with TPS in the Finnish Elite league playing in 15 games with a 3.12 GAA and a .910% save percentage.

"I had an opportunity when I went and worked with Miikka (Kiprusoff) to see him," said McLennan. "He's very highly touted over there, excellent skills - to me if I had to compare him he is a young Mikka Kipprusoff as far as the body type, the skill set, the really good feet. He moves real well, very nice temperament."

The 19-year-old represented his country at both the 2010 and 2011 World Junior Championships.

In Buffalo, NY this past Christmas Ortio finished the tournament with the second lowest goals against average (1.86), the second highest save percentage (.931%), tied for the lead in shutouts (1) and played the second most minutes (354:52) in six games.

Ortio understands his debut with the Heat may have to wait till next season.

"We're battling hard for the playoffs and Irv has done a really good job after his injury," he said. "I'm just adjusting and getting some ice time in practice and getting into good shape to be ready for next season."

According to McLennan, familiarizing himself to the North American game is something that will take a bit of time for Ortio.

"Honestly, adjustment if I had to say one word," McLennan said. "He's played with men over there in the TPS level with the Finnish league, he's played two World Juniors, he has a lot of world experience, but on giant ice surfaces where it's a different skill game, different skill set.

"You come over to an ice surface that's 200-by-80 it's a lot different, things happen a lot quicker, guys are bigger, stronger more aggressive here - they go to the net.

Every play in North America is 10-to-20 feet around the net whereas in Europe there's a lot of skill plays from further out and that extra pass. Where here it's shot and drive so Joni's going to go through an adjustment period, but he's certainly somebody who we obviously coveted and that's why we signed him."

Injury Update

Kris Chucko - Concussion

Mitch Wahl - Concussion

Stefan Meyer - Lower Body

Cam Cunning - Knee

T.J. Brodie - Ankle

Look Ahead

Abbotsford closes out the regular season with a pair of road games Saturday night and Sunday afternoon against Lake Erie and Toronto.

In order for the Heat to make it to the playoffs they'll need to win out and finish ahead of the fifth place team in the West Division, which will require some help from other teams.