Heat Report: 16.12.13
Mike Cadarette reports from Abbotsford, BC
A SPLIT WEEK
It wasn't how they drew it up, but the Heat will certainly take the goals as they battled the Iowa Wild in a rare mid-week set at home taking the first game 6-2, but falling 4-2 in the rematch.
On Wednesday evening, the Heat were taken a bit by surprise when Erik Haula notched the game's first goal just 1:04 into in the first period. However, Michael Ferland responded with a gorgeous wrister to knot it up.
Just seconds later, the Wild jumped out to one-goal lead on the power play. Once again, the Heat, never ones to lay down, answered back. This time, Ben Street tied it up at the 14:40 mark followed by another quick goal just 0:15 seconds later on a shot from Corban Knight that bounced off of Greg Nemisz in front.
It was all Heat from that point on as Markus Granlund picked up his eleventh of the year, followed by Street's second of the game on the power play, then Brett Olson midway through the final frame.
Joni Ortio allowed just two goals on 24 shots in the win.
The following night, the Heat had a deja vu moment as Iowa's Foucault quickly scored just 1:29 into the first period. However, rookie Granlund led the charge shortly after to notch the Heat's first goal of the game on the power play. Then, two minutes later Derek Smith scored his first goal in Heat silks on a filthy wrist shot that beat Johan Gustafsson high glove side.
Unfortunately, the Heat couldn't hold off Haula and the Wild as he collected two goals in the second period to take the lead. Foucault scored his second of the game in the third period to seal the victory 4-2 for the Wild.
Joey MacDonald thwarted 30 of the 34 shots he faced in just his third loss of the season.
The Heat still remain atop of the standings and were the first team in the American League to reach 20 wins on the season. They will travel to Utica to take on the Comets on Wednesday and Friday, followed by a weekend match against the Hamilton Bulldogs on Sunday.
UNSTOPPABLE POWER PLAY
The Abbotsford Heat's power play isn't hot, it's blistering.
The man advantage has simply been firing on all cylinders lately. The Heat have scored a power play goal in their last 10 consecutive games, operating at an extraordinary 38.1 per cent efficiency (16/42) over than span.
"I think it's just that everyone is in sync right now," Heat centre Brett Olson explained. "We know what our job is, we know what we're trying to do out there and that's obviously getting pucks to the net and then trying to pick up pucks in the corners and know our routes If a rebound happens.
"By us getting pucks to the net, that gets us chances to score. So right now they're happening to go in and we'll keep taking that. Timely power play goals are huge right now."
The Heat's scorching power play has ascended them to having the second best man advantage in the American league (26.5%). Much of the team's success on special teams has come from Street's seven power play goals (third best in the AHL) and Chad Billins' 10 power play assists (sixth best in the AHL).
When your teammates can't stop bragging about you, you know you're doing something right.
The Heat have been blessed with another outstanding duo in the goal crease this season. With Ortio as the starter and MacDonald as the sturdy backup, the Heat have a great "one-two punch" in net, according to head coach Troy G. Ward.
"As it's settled in here the last little while with Reto going up and basically Joey Mac and Joni [here], it's been good," explicated Ward. "They've had a one-two punch. I would consider Joni, obviously, a step up. But really, he's been a step up in the course of time because he's been here longer.
"They've kind of provided a one-two punch meaning we're not really pushing one guy to play three or four [games]. Maybe we have in the past so that's given us a little bit of an edge as well. But I think both of them have been tremendous."
Ortio, while he did play 10 games in a Heat uniform prior to this season, still has his rookie status. To be the winningest goalie in the American league as a rookie is a quite a feat for the 22-year-old Finnish net-minder. Ortio currently sits eleventh in goals against average and ninth in save percentage.
"He bails us out in a lot of situations," explained Street, the Heat's leading scorer.
"The big thing is, it doesn't look that outstanding, but he just takes those pucks and deflects them away. It's not like he's flashing leather or anything like that, but it's just so effective for us. He gives us more than a chance to win. He bails us out time and time again. He's huge for us back there."
Being demoted is an awful feeling, but for Sven Baertschi, the best thing to do is not look at it as a demotion, but rather an opportunity.
"I'm just trying to focus on the team here," said Baertschi, speaking to the media for the first time since being sent down.
"I see some new guys and, you know, they've been winning. I want to try and get into a mental state that can help the team, so for me it's important to stay positive and do what I do out there. I don't want to change anything, I just want to play."
The 21-year-old was genuinely excited about joining the American league's top team, which becomes an even more lethal squad with his addition. In 32 career AHL games with the Abbotsford Heat, Baertschi has collected 10 goals and 26 points.
"It's awesome. That was the part that was exciting about it. If you come into a team which is not successful then it's a little more difficult. Coming to a team that's really got going this year, that have been playing really outstanding - I've been watching highlights and I've been studying them too, so that was important for me because now, for me, it's much easier to make the transition."
Baertschi is expected to make his season debut for the Heat Wednesday against the Utica Comets.