A stirring third-period rally lifted the Abbotsford Heat to a crucial 3-1 road win over the San Antonio Rampage on Friday evening.
The Heat trailed 1-0 heading into the final frame, but rookie forwards Ryan Howse and Dustin Sylvester scored to give Abbotsford the lead, and Clay Wilson added an insurance marker into an empty net.
The win lifted the Heat (33-25-3-3) back into playoff position – with 72 points, they’re now in sixth place in the Western Conference, leapfrogging the ninth-place Rampage (33-25-3-1, 70 points) in the crowded standings.
The Heat got a lift from the return of Sylvester, Paul Byron and Krys Kolanos to the lineup. Sylvester and Byron were coming back from illness and injury, respectively, while Kolanos was reassigned to the Heat by the Calgary Flames earlier in the week.
The Rampage out-shot the Heat 18-7 in the first period, and opened the scoring with just 5.1 seconds left in the frame on a goal by former Vancouver Giant Michal Repik.
San Antonio goalie Jacob Markstrom kept Abbotsford at bay until the 7:01 mark of the third, when Howse popped in a rebound off a Kolanos shot on the power play.
Sylvester got the go-ahead goal less than two minutes later, stealing the puck at the Heat blueline before beating Markstrom with a high blocker-side shot on a two-on-one rush.
Wilson’s empty-netter was his 14th goal of the year, which is tied for the most among AHL defencemen. Byron picked up an assist on the play.
Danny Taylor made 32 saves to backstop Abbotsford to the win.
The Heat wrap up their current road trip with stops at the Houston Aeros on Saturday and the Texas Stars on Monday.
Heat defenceman Joe Piskula closes in on Rampage forward Bill Thomas as he tries to turn the corner.