Fans who attended both ends of the Abbotsford Heat’s two-game home set with the Milwaukee Admirals likely felt a strong sense of déjà vu on Sunday.
On Saturday, the Heat got an even-strength goal from Krys Kolanos in the first period, a power-play tally from newcomer Brett Carson in the second, and a stellar goaltending performance from Danny Taylor in a 2-1 victory.
In Sunday’s rematch, the formula for success was eerily similar – Kolanos scoring in the first, Carson hammering home a carbon-copy point shot in the second, and Barry Brust making 30 saves in a 2-0 triumph.
Kolanos, the Heat’s trigger-happy sniper, opened the scoring at 6:15 of the first on one of those shots only he’d try. He accepted a pretty lead pass from Joe Piskula and broke into the Admirals zone on the left wing, but his path to the net was cut off by a defender. So he flicked a sharp-angle backhander, and it somehow found its way through Milwaukee goalie Magnus Hellberg.
Carson made it 2-0 at 3:15 of the second. Just seven seconds after Ads forward Mark Van Guilder took an offensive-zone interference penalty, Carson took a feed from Mike Matczak and hammered a slap shot that beat Hellberg cleanly to the blocker side.
“When we heard we were getting Brett back down…we were excited from a power play standpoint,” said Heat head coach Troy Ward, noting that Clay Wilson gave the Heat a similar big-point-shot threat last season, but that the team hasn’t had that element in 2012-13. “Just that shot alone changes that whole outlet.”
Brust hadn’t posted a victory since Dec. 15, but he turned in a vintage performance, mixing some Ron Hextall-esque moments of rugged physical play with rock-solid goaltending.
His most memorable sequence came in the third period. With Admirals captain Mike Moore bearing down on him after he’d frozen the puck, Brust popped to his feet and leveled Moore with his blocker.
Off the ensuing faceoff, the Heat ‘tender picked out Scott Valentine’s point shot through a crowd and made a nice glove save.
“It’s been a struggle for me lately, and that’s probably why I’ve had two weeks without playing,” noted Brust, who was selected for the AHL all-star game on Friday and leads the league in goals against average (1.44) and save percentage (.948).
“I needed this one tonight. I was in a lot of close games, and my last game (a 5-2 loss to Rochester on Jan. 4) didn’t go so well. It’s nice to get back on the winning side of things, and I felt pretty good out there.”
Among the déjà vu elements of Sunday’s game, Carson’s goal came off a pass from Matczak with Quintin Laing providing the screen in front – exactly like his marker on Saturday.
Ward offered post-game plaudits to Laing, whose game is characterized by grit at both ends of the ice.
“Quintin takes great pride in that,” the Heat bench boss said. “He has a little bit of a dirtbag mentality when it comes to screening the goalie and he’s not afraid to hang in there or hit by the puck, as you can see him laying down to block a shot tonight. It makes a big difference.”
• The Heat (21-12-7) closed the book on an eight-game homestand, their longest of the season, on a four-game win streak. They now hit the road for a five-game jaunt, beginning with a Friday-Saturday set at the Western Conference-leading Charlotte Checkers.
• Abbotsford has sustained some injuries up front – Carter Bancks sat out after being nicked up Saturday, and Paul Byron left in the third period Sunday. Ward didn’t disclose any specific details, but did say the injuries would “cost them probably a little bit of time in our lineup.”
• Heat defenceman Matczak has posted four points in five games with Abbotsford since being summoned from the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings just over a week ago.