Preview: Heat head to North Carolina to take on the Checkers
The Abbotsford Heat play their final two games ahead of the AHL’s All-Star Break this Friday and Saturday in Charlotte against the South Division’s Checkers (AHL affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes).
The Checkers have won seven of their last nine contests, while the Heat are riding a four-game winning streak that closed a season-long eight game home stand on Sunday. The Checkers have 55 points in 43 games and are tied with the Texas Stars for the South Division lead, while the Heat are tied with the Marlies for the North division lead with 49 points, though the Marlies have played two fewer games.
The Heat have had superb goaltending of late from the tandem of 26-year-old Danny Taylor and 29-year-old Barry Brust. Taylor leads the team in Wins (10) and Minutes Played (1175:49) and has allowed just seven goals over seven appearances since Christmas. Brust – who will represent the Heat at the 2013 AHL All-Star Classic – is coming off his fourth shutout of the season and leads the AHL with a 1.44 Goals Against Average and a .948 Save Percentage. Brust and Taylor sit first and second in the league in Goal Against Average and have the Heat holding a league best goals against per game of 2.03.
Friday night’s contest in Charlotte is the first of five straight road games for the Heat, including a four day break for Sunday and Monday’s All-Star festivities in Providence, RI. After two games in Charlotte and the All-Star break, the Heat will gather in Cleveland for stretch of three games in three nights in the Midwest to close the trip.
The Heat have a record of 6-6-1-3 on the road this season, while the Checkers hold a mark of 11-8-0-1 at the Time Warner Cable Arena. Last season the Heat won both games against the Checkers in North Carolina, securing a playoff spot with four points earned against the Checkers on the second last weekend of the season.
The Heat will return to the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre (AESC) in February for four games over six days. The home stand will include visits from the Rochester Americans and Lake Erie Monsters, both making their second and final regular season visits to the Fraser Valley. Tuesday February 5th is the Heat’s annual school-day game, with nearly 5,000 students expected to fill the AESC for a 10:30 AM puck drop. Rochester then closes a two-game set with a 7:00 PM puck drop on Wednesday February 6th before Lake Erie arrives for games on Saturday February 9th and Sunday February 10th.