Heat Report: 31.12.13
Mike Cadarette reports from Abbotsford
The Heat dished out a convincing couple of wins this weekend against the Oklahoma City Barons - wins that saw them shoot up to first place in the Western Conference.
On Friday evening, the Heat punished Barons' goalie Richard Bachman in a 5-1 victory.
It was the college rookies, Ben Hanowski and Corban Knight, who scored quickly for the Heat to give them a 2-0 edge heading into the first intermission. Then, Max Reinhart picked up his sixth and seventh goals of the year in middle frame thanks to two helpers from Ben Street who finished with four assists in the game. Rookie Josh Jooris capped off the scoring with his third of the campaign late in the third period.
Joni Ortio stopped 32 of 33 in the game to take second star honours.
Saturday's rematch wasn't all that different. The Heat's offence continued as they downed the Barons 4-2.
Markus Granlund was the first out of the gate for the Heat as he scored his thirteenth marker of the season on a beautiful top-of-the-circle snipe, ending a four-game pointless skid for the rookie. Knight scored the only goal of the middle frame to give the Heat a 2-1 edge heading into the second intermission. Midway through the third period, Lane MacDermid knocked home a pass from Carter Bancks to pick up his first goal of the season and his first in a Heat uniform.
However, the Barons' Curtis Hamilton responded 0:15 seconds later to attempt a comeback. Sven Baertschi had other plans as he netted his first AHL goal of the year on the power play with less than two minutes remaining in the game to seal it for the Heat.
The Heat hope to continue their winning ways on Friday and Saturday at home against the Hamilton Bulldogs.
With 206 career games played in a Heat uniform, the second most in franchise history, long-time Heat forward Greg Nemisz is moving on.
On Monday, the Calgary Flames acquired tough guy Kevin Westgarth from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Nemisz. The Courtice, Ontario native was drafted 25th overall by the Flames in 2008. As the man who has been around him the most throughout his professional career, Heat head coach Troy G. Ward reflected on the 23-year-old's tenure with the Heat with praise.
"Greg was a good pro. He was a good man. He was a good man to himself, he's a good family guy, he's good to his teammates and he's always good with the coaches. Most of all he was a really good person. In any facet of hockey that came up, whether it was competitiveness or success or failure or just life, Greg was a good man.
"That part will be missed because those are the key ingredients that are behind the scenes that keep things together. As you know him, whether your interviewing him or coaching him, he was never too high, never too low. He was always optimistic. We'll miss that part of him."
However, Ward was able to meet with Nemsiz one last time before he hopped his 6:00 AM flight out of Abbotsford.
"He did come in and meet with me at 4:15 this morning. He came in and met with me, we said our goodbyes and had a good ten minutes together. I was happy about that. He's a class act."
A NEW FACE
The Heat welcomed a new face to the team this week. As is the case in the American league, when injuries and call-ups happen, new players need to be ready to step in. Perhaps no one is more ready than new signee, centre Adrian Foster.
Waiting for his shot in the AHL for over two seasons, Foster, 31, has been around the block a few times, but according to Ward, that didn't discourage him, it only made him hungrier.
"The biggest thing, when we lost Granlund the other day, when we started looking at replacements was somebody that, it's the same philosophy that I had in college, you recruit people that are hungry. You don't necessarily recruit the best players, you recruit people that are hungry. So I wanted to bring in a guy that I thought was humble and really wanted to prove himself.
"He's at the end of his career, he's been in Europe, he's a first-round pick of the Devils, he's had his years, he had a good year for me in Houston one year. But he's really hungry to get back, so he held out this fall to try and get an American league deal, it didn't work. He held out last fall to get an American league deal, it didn't work. So everyone was basically telling him it was over. He went to Idaho [of the ECHL] and had a point per game last year. This year he went to San Francisco [of the ECHL] and had a point per game there. Because he's so hungry and he's been good to me in the past and has some skill, we felt that was the best choice for the short-term."
Paul Byron has been a wonderful story for the Calgary Flames since his call-up, but his former coach isn't surprised at Byron's success.
Ward believes the diminutive forward's success in the NHL is a testament to his other players about the heart and determination it takes to succeed in the business.
"I'm really proud of Paul," said Ward. "We sold him after the first three weeks of the season. We kept saying, 'He's the guy, he's the guy.' They didn't take him because they were questioning his size. We kept saying, 'It's not the size, it's the size of the heart.'
"His speed and his heart have really been a bonafide teaching point for everybody that's down here that hasn't gone up. If Brian Burke likes big guys, big truculent guys, then why is Byron still up? That's sending a huge message to the guys down here … He's been a nice story."