An unprecedented offensive explosion on Sunday afternoon powered the Abbotsford Heat to a playoff berth.
The Heat blew out the Charlotte Checkers 8-2 on the road, establishing a new franchise record for goals in a game. The previous mark was seven, set on Oct. 16, 2009 against the Milwaukee Admirals.
After Ben Walter and Paul Byron scored in the first period, the Heat took over in the middle frame, racking up five goals to put the game away. Two came off the stick of the red-hot Krys Kolanos, while Hugh Jessiman, Adam Estoclet and Byron also tallied. Riley Nash replied for the Checkers.
Dustin Sylvester made it 8-1 early in the third period, and former Heat forward Brett Sutter rounded out the scoring with a late goal.
The Kolanos-Byron-Sylvester line has been nearly unstoppable since head coach Troy Ward put them together last week, and they combined for five goals, seven assists and 12 points in Sunday’s win. Kolanos has scored a goal in each of the seven games the trio has been together.
The Heat, coming off a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Checkers on Saturday, out-shot Charlotte 40-24. Danny Taylor made 22 saves en route to winning his fourth consecutive start.
The Heat (40-26-3-5, 88 points) needed just a single point on Sunday to clinch a playoff spot for the second time in three seasons in Abbotsford, and they did one better than that. They’re the third team in the Western Conference to clinch, and they’re closing in on home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. With two games remaining in the regular season, they’re six points up on fifth-place Milwaukee, though the Admirals have two games in hand.
• Akim Aliu was reassigned to the Heat on Sunday after a stellar performance during a two-game recall with the Calgary Flames. The 22-year-old forward notched two goals and an assist as the Flames wrapped up their season with victories over the Vancouver Canucks and the Anaheim Ducks.
• The Heat host the Toronto Marlies on Friday (7 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.) to finish the regular season. Playoff tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on Monday.