Heat Report: 31.03.14
The Abbotsford Heat closed out their road swing with two wins in three games
BACK ON TRACK
The Heat got back to their winning ways this week in a busy three-in-three weekend against the Utica Comets and Toronto Marlies.
Minus some big pieces like Markus Granlund, Tyler Wotherspoon and Ben Hanowski, Abbotsford's roster is beginning to look fairly close to what it was during their unstoppable ways earlier in the season. It's merely a matter of re-discovering the chemistry that was lost while injuries and call-ups depleted the club.
The Heat faced a familiar foe in the Utica Comets on Friday. Despite the Comets having a below average record, Abbotsford has had a tough time finding the wins against Utica. That outcome came to an end in a big way as Joni Ortio lifted his team to a 2-1 overtime victory.
Utica's Alex Friesen opened the scoring with a shorthanded marker midway through the first period. With just one second remaining in the middle frame, the red hot Sven Baertschi picked up his tenth goal of the campaign to level the score at 1-1. Despite numerous chances, neither team could solve the goaltending duo of Ortio and Joacim Eriksson. In overtime, Max Reinhart and Chad Billins found Ben Street who made no mistake and lifted his team to a big two points.
Ortio had an enormous performance in the crease, making 43 saves for his 21st win of his rookie season.
Less than 24 hours later, the two teams reacquainted themselves as the Heat exploded for seven goals in a 7-2 rout, chasing the normally-sturdy Eriksson from his net.
Big, bruising Jordan Kremyr opened the scoring with his first career AHL goal in the first period. Then, it was all Heat from that point on as blueliner Zach Davies picked up his second goal in as many games while Brett Olson scored back-to-back. Street added a marker of his own while Josh Jooris gave the Heat a 6-1 lead on a penalty shot heading into the second intermission.
Shane O'Brien picked up the seventh goal of the game from Baertschi and Lafranchise midway through the final frame. Once again, Ortio stood tall as he thwarted 32 of the 34 shots he faced.
In their third game in three days, there's no doubt fatigue was setting in when they faced off against the Toronto Marlies on Sunday afternoon. The fatigue factor didn't play a role in their ability to score goals, but they simply couldn't hold on as they fell 6-4.
After a scoreless first, Toronto's TJ Brennan was able to get his team on the board early on the power play. Shortly after, Reinhart tied it up on a gorgeous power play one-timer from Derek Smith. Brett Olson picked up his third goal in two games just over a minute later. Street added to the lead with an unassisted marker, walking around a defender and sniping it top shelf on Drew McIntyre.
The Heat's lead didn't hold for long as the Marlies scored three unanswered tallies. After Heat rookie Allan McPherson looked to have scored his first career AHL goal, a Marlies defender pulled it from the goal line, but O'Brien blasted it past McIntyre to knot it up at 4-4. In the final frame, Toronto's Josh Leivo got the go ahead goal midway through the period, which would prove to be the game winner.
The Heat are back at it again this coming weekend at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre against the Rockford Ice Hogs. With just seven games remaining in the regular season schedule, Abbotsford is so close to the playoffs they can taste it with four of their remaining games being played at home.
It's an exciting time of year when some of the Flames' top junior prospects get a chance to flaunt their stuff in the professional ranks.
While the disappointment of being knocked out of the WHL postseason still looms, Brett Kulak will still have another chance at helping another team make a playoff push. He was assigned to the Heat after the Vancouver Giants fell to the Portland Winterhawks in the first round of the WHL playoffs.
The smooth skating two-way rearguard already has four AHL games under his belt and was able to develop a familiarity with both the Heat coaching staff and teammates at the end of last season. The 20-year-old Stony Plain, Alberta native is coming off an enormous career season with the Giants. Kulak amassed 60 points (14 goals, 46 assists) in 69 games. His steady skating and vision will surely be an important addition to the Heat's playoff depth.
THREE STARS OF THE WEEK
First Star: Ben Street - The Heat's all-star came through in a monstrous way this weekend. The Coquitlam, BC native collected six points (3 goals, 3 assists), including an overtime marker and three points in the 7-2 victory over the Utica Comets. The 27-year-old is back to his point per game pace with 53 points in 51 games.
Second Star: Joni Ortio - Despite a tough game against the Toronto Marlies, Ortio showed he's gearing up for the AHL playoffs. The Finnish backstop allowed just three goals on 78 shots against the Utica Comets, picking up a win in both games. Unfortunately, he couldn't replicate those performances against the Marlies. Having played his first three-in-three of his career, there is little doubt fatigue began to show in the final game of the road trip.
Third Star: Max Reinhart - The second year forward continued to do what he's done all season by putting up a bushel of points this weekend. The 21-year-old posted a goal and four points in three games as he builds upon an already impressive sophomore campaign.