One night after turning in an effort that head coach Jim Playfair termed “disgusting,” the Abbotsford Heat brought a surplus of passion, grit and elbow grease to their rematch with the Oklahoma City Barons on Saturday.
The sweat investment yielded a hollow result, though, as the Heat suffered a 3-2 overtime defeat to the Edmonton Oilers’ affiliate at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
The hosts out-shot the Barons by a 36-21 margin and had the better of the scoring chances, but Mark Arcobello’s goal with 1:05 left in OT sent the Heat down to defeat.
“We deserved the win tonight, I thought,” Heat captain Quintin Laing said afterward. “We’ve got a lot of character guys, and when you put out an effort like we did last night, you know the guys were going to come through tonight.
“We would have liked a better result, obviously, but it shows the character of the team when you’re challenged.”
On Friday, the Heat were badly outplayed in the third period and dropped a 3-1 decision to the Barons at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.
Playfair shook up his roster for Saturday’s rematch in Abbotsford. Forwards Logan MacMillan and Ryley Grantham and defenceman Josh Meyers were inserted into the lineup, replacing Bryan Cameron, Jon Rheault and Matt Pelech. Rheault was nursing a back injury; Cameron and Pelech were healthy scratches.
The moves seemed to spark the Heat, who came roaring out of the locker room and grabbed a quick 2-0 lead.
Greg Nemisz opened the scoring, tipping Keith Seabrook’s point shot past OKC goalie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers at 6:46 of the first.
The fourth line combined to double the lead at the 12:49 mark. Grantham’s go-ahead pass sprung Gaelan Patterson and MacMillan on a two-on-one break, and MacMillan converted Patterson’s cross-ice feed.
The Heat held a 10-0 edge in the shots-on-goal department at that point, but Oklahoma City finished the period strong, out-shooting Abbotsford 5-2 for the balance of the opening frame and getting a goal back courtesy of Brad Moran. Moran, an Abbotsford native, beat Heat goalie Leland Irving with a high glove-side wrist shot on the rush.
Oklahoma City found the equalizer early in the third period. Teemu Hartikainen, on the power play, burst down the right wing and chipped a shot over Irving’s shoulder.
Drouin-Deslauriers made a series of ridiculous stops to keep the score level. On a Heat power play, he went left-to-right to rob Matt Keith on a one-timed slap shot.
Then, with the Barons on the power play a couple minutes later, Heat forward Stefan Meyer stole the puck at the Abbotsford blueline and broke in all alone. He deked to the forehand and got Drouin-Deslauriers to go down, but the OKC keeper foiled him with a sensational glove save.
Irving has been the Heat’s MVP this season, but he wore the goat’s horns on this night. In the late stages of overtime, Arcobello’s weak backhander on a three-on-two rush fooled the Heat goalie.
“It went off the inside of my blocker and then down between my legs,” Irving said. “I don’t know how it happens, but it found a way.
“We’ve got a long time before our next game, so there’s no sense hanging on to that.”
Playfair felt that with a better performance from Irving, his troops would have had a better result.
“I thought it should have been a 2-1, maybe a 3-1 game,” the Heat bench boss said. “I thought the last two goals, Irving was weak on, and it cost us the game.”
One Abbotsford hockey player went home happy. That would be Moran, who had a crowd of friends and family in attendance at the AESC on Saturday.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I was looking forward to it, and it’s exciting to have (pro) hockey here and be able to play.”
• The Barons (30-19-2-5) moved into a tie with the Peoria Rivermen in the AHL’s West Division with the win, while the Heat (27-23-3-5) remain mired in fifth in the North. Abbotsford is, however, just four points back of the division-leading Manitoba Moose.
• Heat defenceman Meyers returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering a neck injury on Jan. 28, but Playfair was lukewarm on his performance.
“He was average,” Playfair said. “He’s got to make his mind up how he’s going to play for us. He’s a nondescript guy right now. He’s not going to go beat people up, so he’s got to produce on offence for us.”
• The Heat return to action with a Friday-Saturday set against the Providence Bruins at the AESC.