Preview: Heat's three-in-three road swing
The Heat set out on their first road trip of the season this weekend with three games in three days against divisional rivals. After Friday and Saturday games against the Lake Erie Monsters in Cleveland, the club faces the Hamilton Bulldogs before returning to Abbotsford on Monday.
This weekend features the first of six ‘three-in-three’ segments of the 2012-13 schedule, and all three contests will be played within approximately 48 hours. The Heat enter play this weekend with three wins and a shootout loss (3-0-0-1), holding the top winning percentage but sitting in fifth place in the Western Conference.
The Heat posted strong results last season against both the Monsters and the Bulldogs. Abbotsford swept the four-game season series with Lake Erie (4-0-0-0) and suffered just a shootout loss against Hamilton (3-0-0-1) – earning fifteen of a possible sixteen points against the two opponents.
The Heat start the weekend action with the top goals for (4.0) and lowest goals against (1.875) per game in the Western Conference, as well as the top ranked power play (37.5%) and penalty kill (100%) in the AHL.
GAMES 5 & 6 @ LAKE ERIE MONSTERS (AHL Affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche)
For the second straight season, the Heat open their road schedule with a pair of games in Cleveland against Lake Erie. Last October, the Heat won a pair of one-goal games, as Leland Irving allowed just one goal against on the opening weekend of the 2011-12 season.
The Monsters are off to a strong start this season, with only two losses through six games (4-2-0-0). Lake Erie has been led by Austrian defenceman Thomas Pock, who has seven points in six games (2-5-7), just two points off the AHL lead among defenders.
The Monsters have recently completed a three game Southern road trip that saw them visit the Oklahoma City Barons and Texas Stars, earning two wins and a loss (2-1-0-0).
Abbotsford’s Ben Walter and Dustin Sylvester have both suited up for Lake Erie previously in their career. Walter led the Monsters in scoring during the 2010-11 season with 70 points, while Sylvester played three games on an amateur try-out in the spring of 2010 following his final season with the Kootenay Ice (WHL).
GAME 7 @ HAMILTON BULLDOGS (AHL Affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens)
The Bulldogs, like the Heat, have played just four games through the first two weeks of the season, splitting the set with two wins and two losses (2-2-0-0).
The Bulldogs are led by Aaron Palushaj, who has two goals and an assist. Palushaj had 35 points in 35 games with Hamilton last season, and also played 38 games with the Montreal Canadiens.
Before hosting the Heat on Sunday evening, the Bulldogs will face the Toronto Marlies on Friday night at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton.
Heat newcomer Joe Callahan returns to Hamilton to play his former teammates from last season. Callahan’s only season with the Bulldogs saw the 6’3”, 215 lbs defender collect 20 points in 60 games.