Heat Report: 23.09.13
GRIT & SKILL ON DISPLAY IN PRE-SEASON VICTORY
In the first and only exhibition match of the Heat's season, Peter Sivak, Brett Olson and Ben Hanowski combined for eight points on the night as they lifted the Heat past the Utica Comets 5-2.
Just two minutes into the opening frame, Olson banged in the Heat's opening tally after a shot on net from rookie Hanowski. Shortly after, the Heat's Brett Lyon engaged in fisticuffs with Utica's Mitch Elliot - just one of three bouts on the night for the 22-year-old Grand Forks, BC native.
With eight minutes remaining in the first period, camp invitee Sivak backhanded the puck over Joacim Eriksson's blocker to put the Heat up by two. Just three minutes later, after a dominating and controlled power play, Hanowski found himself undefended in the slot and slapped it past Eriksson to take a three goal lead over the Comets.
Following the game, Olson spoke on the chemistry he felt with his linemates.
"You can see that Sivak has some very good vision. He's got some good hands and he can skate. I think that combination, with all three of us being able to skate and move to puck and have some good ice balance was great. Hano, on the other hand, is a big-body presence and he can skate.
"[Hanowski] was my competitor in college – he played on the other Husky team from St. Cloud," he said. "You're familiar with him, you know what kind of player he was. But in practice, we seemed to move the puck well and we got the opportunity tonight and it fortunately went the right way."
After a hooking penalty from Jordan Kremyr, the Heat found themselves on the penalty kill late in the period. The Comets' Alex Biega capitalized on the man advantage to cut the Heat's lead to 3-1 going into the first intermission.
Midway through the second period, Olson fed the puck across the ice to veteran rearguard Dean Arsene who blasted a shot from the point to give the Heat a 4-1 lead. However, the three goal cushion was short-lived as Kellan Tochkin beat Heat goaltender Laurent Brossoit glove side on a breakaway.
Hanowski added an empty netter in the final frame to cap off a stellar three-point outing. Olson finished the night with a goal and two assists while Sivak collected a goal and a helper in victory.
"We obviously played well," explained Hanowski. "I thought we got some bounces early and got some pucks to go in, and when that happens you get some confidence."
ORTIO'S RETURN TO ABBY
It's been two seasons since Finnish netminder Joni Ortio made his pro debut in a Heat jersey and he's more polished in his trade than ever.
After a 2011-12 rookie season in which Ortio struggled to gain consistency, the 22-year-old is prepared to show he's a different athlete altogether.
"I've gotten a lot better. I'm a better goalie than two years ago for sure. My technique has gotten better. Playing those 70-plus games last year really kind of taught me to be more consistent - to be consistent day in and day out and give the guys a chance to win every night."
With a full season under his belt as the go-to goaltender for HIFK of the SM-liiga, Ortio took the words of Flames management to heart and will look to be the go-to guy for the Abbotsford Heat - at least for the meantime.
"They just told me to do everything down here as good as I can and be my best every day. If I do that, I'm still in the plans. So, I'm here to work hard and hopefully I don't spend a lot of time here."
GETTING UNDER THE OPPOSITION'S SKIN
Mark Cundari pulls no punches when it comes to his junkyard dog style of play and the fans have embraced it. When the former Windsor Spitfire joined the Abbotsford Heat in April he made a lasting impression with three assists, several big hits and a fight in just two games before getting called up to the Flames.
"I'm either loved or hated around the league and I've embraced that," Cundari said with a smile and a chuckle. "That's been with me from the time I played in junior, so for me it's awesome."
Not so much for the other team though.
"I love to have the fans behind me. It gives me that comfort and confidence out there to know that even if I do mess up a little bit at least they're not going to boo me. I like the fact that they like the way I play and I feel like, realistically, wherever I do play I do have that fan support just because of that nastiness and that edge that I play with."
Cundari's grittiness isn't just an entertaining display on the ice, it's also a style of play that his teammates can thrive on. As the Heat roster bolsters a young crop of prospects and rookie pros, Cundari is prepared to offer leadership as he enters his fourth season as a pro.
"Realistically, regardless of whether I get a 'C' or an 'A' or any type of letter on my jersey I'm going to lead by example. They know that I know exactly what it takes to win. I know that a lot of guys here are very competitive. Getting us all on the same page is going to be pretty easy in my opinion because we don't have that losing mentality here. We're a winning style hockey team.
"Yeah, we are young and inexperienced, but I feel like with the time I played in the American league and my little experience in the NHL, I feel that I can definitely provide that leadership mentality and role that will help bring this team together."