Preview: Heat play final two home games vs. the Marlies
ABBOTSFORD, BC -- The Abbotsford Heat play their final two home games of the regular season this weekend against the Toronto Marlies (AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs) at the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre (AESC). Friday night the North Division rivals meet for the seventh time this season with a 7:00 PM puck drop, and Sunday afternoon at 4:00 PM is the finale of the season series.
The Heat enter play this weekend sitting in the 11th spot of the Western Conference, five points behind the eighth and final playoff spot with four games remaining. Abbotsford split the first half of the final home stand of the season, beating the Grand Rapids Griffins 3-2 in the shootout last Saturday night. The Heat are second in the Western Conference with 21 home wins this season, and face a Marlies club that is three games over .500 on the road.
Ben Walter enters play this weekend riding a six game-game point streak (2 goals, 6 assists) in hot pursuit of his seventh consecutive 50-point AHL season. The 28-year-old centre is the Heat’s all-time franchise leader in points, assists, and sits second in goals behind only Krys Kolanos. Walter leads the team with 45 points in 64 games this season.
Krys Kolanos is coming off a strong weekend of play for the Heat. The 31-year-old forward scored in both games against the Grand Rapids Griffins and added a goal in Saturday’s shootout to help the Heat earn their first win of the season over the Detroit Red Wing’s AHL affiliate. Kolanos leads the team with 16 goals despite dressing for only 49 of the team’s 72 games played. Abbotsford is currently without forwards Sven Baertschi, Max Reinhart and Roman Horak, as well as defenceman Brett Carson, who all joined the Calgary Flames in the wake of last Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline.
Connor Hardowa and Carter Rowney joined the Heat this week signing Amateur Try-Outs (ATO) following the conclusion of their senior NCAA seasons. Hardowa is a 24-year-old defenceman who served as the captain of the University of New Hampshire Wildcats (Hockey East) this season. Rowney is a centre from the University of North Dakota who posted 27 points in 41 games with the Fighting Sioux (WCHA).
Off the ice, Friday night is the last of the Heat’s three Legends of Hockey games. 1989 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Darryl Sittler will be honoured and will be signing autographs until 30 minutes prior to puck drop. Friday is also the final ‘Loonie, Toonie, Dog N Brew’ night and will see over 1,000 prizes given away as part of Fan Appreciation Night. Heat wives and girlfriends are hosting a silent auction to raise funds for the Abbotsford Branch of the BC Cancer Foundation.
Prior to puck-drop on Sunday afternoon the Heat will announce the 2012-13 Team Award Winners, while over 400 students will perform the national anthem and at the intermissions as part of ‘Sing for Spring’.