The Abbotsford Heat weathered a nightmarish travel scenario last weekend in rather impressive fashion – they just ran out of gas in the end.
Coming out of the AHL all-star break, the Heat had to fly cross-continent to face the Charlotte Checkers. But due to a major snowstorm on the Eastern seaboard, their connecting flight out of Chicago was cancelled.
That forced the team to take a 20-hour bus ride from Chicago to Charlotte, and their Friday game was rescheduled to Saturday.
The Heat showed no sign of bus legs, though, crushing the Checkers 5-1 on goals from Markus Granlund, Blair Jones, Sven Baertschi, Ben Street and Ben Hanowski.
They got off to a terrific start to Sunday’s rematch, opening a 4-1 lead before the first period was up, with Granlund, Jones, Josh Jooris and Derek Smith scoring. But Charlotte took over at that point, rallying to win 5-4 in overtime as Chris Terry notched two goals and an assist and ex-Heat forward Brett Sutter got the OT winner.
“(The bus ride) had an impact more mentally than it did physically,” Heat head coach Troy Ward analyzed. “Any time you arrive late at a rink in any form of sport, you usually play pretty well in the first game. It’s the second game that costs you.
“And that’s just the way it went. We just didn’t manage a real good second game. I didn’t mind our structure, we just didn’t have real good mental aptitude to play the game. We made a lot of mental mistakes.”
The Heat (32-15-5) still sit first in the Western Conference, and they continue the road trip vs. the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday.