Heat Report: 11.11.13
Updates on Markus Granlund, Blair Jones and new Heat captain Dean Arsene
It was a busy week for the Heat having played four games in six days, but that didn't stop them from picking up a massive eight points in the standings and moving themselves into sole possession of first in the Western Conference.
After a mid-week set against the San Antonio Rampage and the Toronto Marlies, the Heat were able to extend their win streak to a franchise-tying seven games.
On Tuesday evening, Joni Ortio backstopped the Heat to a 2-1 victory over the division-rival Rampage.
Markus Granlund opened the scoring on the power play from Corban Knight and Mark Cundari with less than a minute remaining in the first frame. With the game tied at 1-1 in the third, Blair Jones rifled a shot past Michael Houser on the man advantage to seal the win for the Heat.
Wednesday evening was of the close variety as well with the Heat taking a 3-2 shootout win over San Antonio.
Street and Jones made good on their shootout attempts to sweep San Antonio.
The Heat started their weekend back-to-back set against the Marlies with a 4-3 triumph thanks to an outstanding breakout game from Michael Ferland. The 20-year-old rookie collected two goals and a fight, including the game winner. Street, Jones, and Paul Byron each had multi-point nights in the win as well.
In the Sunday rematch versus Toronto, the Heat scored their way to a high-paced 6-3 victory.
Knotted up at 3-3 at the 12:21 mark of the third period, the Heat exploded for three goals in the remaining minutes thanks to Brett Olson, a penalty shot marker from Granlund and an empty netter from Ferland.
The Heat will head out on their longest road trip of the season, which starts off in Texas against the Stars on Wednesday, November 13.
When you're hot, you're hot and Markus Granlund has been sizzling. And while the 20-year-old Finnish forward's English is still a little patchy, there's nothing wrong with his scoring touch.
After an injury held Granlund out of the lineup for a handful of games to start the season, he's put up eight points in his first 12 professional games, including six in his last seven. In case that's not impressive enough for the young pro, he's collected two shootout markers, both of which were game winners and leads the American league in that category.
"He's extremely gifted offensively," said Knight. "He can make a lot of plays out of nothing. He kind of has that knack around the net, so he's a pretty special player offensively. He's fun to watch out there."
However impressive Granlund has looked so far, head coach Troy G. Ward still thinks there's more to his abilities - it's just a matter of getting him the ice time.
"I need to find him more ice to be quite honest with you. I've got to find him more ice. He's a really good player. He has a great feel for the game offensively. He's learning the game defensively after coming over from Europe. He's learning to play on a smaller rink. There's not as much time and space out there, but he has a great great feel for the game. He has a feel for his teammates. He's more competitive than people realize.
"So I'm the one that's the issue there. I think he's playing well. I think he can play better, but that's on me. I've got to put him with the right people and I've got to find him more ice time. But I'm really proud of him."
It was a "dream come true," for Dean Arsene.
On Saturday morning Heat players voted on who they'd like to see don the 'C' for the season and the veteran rearguard got the nod.
"It means a lot," said Arsene after Saturday's victory over the Toronto Marlies. "To have the team vote on it, I don't really know what to say, I really appreciate it from the guys. It shows that what I've been doing and what I've been trying to do with helping everyone out, being a leader, has kind of paid off.
"But it's not one guy steering the ship, it's 20 guys in the dressing room. I have a great support staff with Bancks and Byron wearing the A's. But there's so many other guys. There's Street, Nemisz, Jones, Cundari; there's so many guys, older guys, who really help out and it's just kind of leadership by committee."
This marks the fifth time the Abbotsford native has sported the honourable captaincy and the seventh time he's worn a letter. This letter might be the most special considering the local 33-year-old gets to tack it on for his hometown team.
"It's huge. It's a dream come true just playing here in Abbotsford, having my family and friends and not being away from my wife and my dog," Arsene laughed. "It's nice to be at home and be surrounded by a lot of people I've grown up with and haven't been able to spend a lot of time with during hockey season. To have the 'C' is just the cherry on top."
"I think it's the best honour you can get in sport," explained Ward. "I really believe that's a special time to be named captain by your peers.
"It's a neat thing for Dean. He's been a leader on most every team he's ever been around, so that part is part of his past. The one thing about Dean is he's a consummate leader. He's a leader on the ice, he's a leader off the ice. He's a leader during moments of truth when life isn't so easy…He's really able to feel the temperature of the room and have a real sense of how everybody's doing…I'm happy for Dean and his whole family."
Superstitions are a funny thing, especially for athletes.
For Blair Jones, when things are going right, it's best to keep them under wraps.
"I'm just shooting the puck and trying to put it on net. I've been getting some chances and it's been going in, but I don't really like to talk about it when it's happening," smirked Jones.
Alright, so there's nothing superfluous about Jones' answer, but you can't blame him. Things have just been clicking for the 27-year-old and it doesn't look to be changing any time soon.
Jones has been on a scorching pace as of late. He's picked up 11 points in 11 games this season, including eight points his last seven. Let's also not forget about two game-winning goals and the rights to brag about being a perfect two-for-two in the shootout.
"I'm glad that he's getting some points because I thought that he worked hard early in the year and didn't get any reward for it. He's obviously got some NHL skill," the Heat bench boss explained. "Blair's a guy that, right now, is not happy with where he's at. No disrespect to the Abbotsford Heat. He's an NHL player in his opinion and he feels he should be there…I think Blair's been playing with some jam.
"He wants to make a statement as to who he is and what he is both in the scoring department and the physicality part of the game, he wants to prove that he can play at that level consistently. So he's very motivated, he's very engaged with our team. I have a lot of respect for him as a man and because he's battling extremely hard. There's a lot of guys that'll go one way or the other in his situation where you get sent down and you're on a one-way deal. Either you keep plugging away and you mature through it or you kind of just fall out to the wayside in this business and obviously he's not doing that."