The Abbotsford Heat picked up a confidence-boosting character win on Saturday evening, edging the Chicago Wolves 3-2 on the road.
In a game televised nationally on Sportsnet One, Paul Byron’s third-period goal lifted the Heat past the Vancouver Canucks’ farm team.
It was a welcome glimmer of sunlight in an otherwise chilly December for Abbotsford, which had dropped eight of its previous 10 games in the month.
The Heat (16-8-6, 38 points) and Wolves (13-11-4, 30 points) don’t have to wait long to renew hostilities – they clash again on Sunday at Allstate Arena.
On Saturday, Abbotsford caught a break early in the second period thanks to goalie Danny Taylor. Off a faceoff in the Heat zone, Wolves captain Darren Haydar made a deft redirection of a point shot that Taylor got his right toe on. Haydar took another whack on the puck, but Taylor kept his toe down to keep it on the goal line. The red light went on, but the referee ruled no goal, and video review backed up the call to keep the game scoreless.
Ben Street opened the scoring at 9:25 of the middle frame. Brett Olson corralled the rebound off T.J. Brodie’s initial point shot and lobbed the puck at the net, but it hit Street in the back and dropped to the ice in front of him. Street was staring at a yawning cage, and swatted it home.
Krys Kolanos made it 2-0 less than two minutes later. He picked up the rebound off Joe Piskula’s point shot, calmly stickhandled into the slot and slid the puck between the legs of Wolves goalie Matt Climie.
The Wolves trimmed the deficit in half before the period was up, capitalizing on a defensive-zone turnover by Byron. His ill-conceived breakout pass was picked off by Jordan Schroeder, and tic-tac-toe feeds by Schroeder and Zack Kassian led to a tap-in goal by Darren Archibald.
Wolves defenceman Zach Miskovic levelled the score at 11:54 of the third, hammering a slap shot past Taylor off the set-up from Schroeder.
Heat head coach Troy Ward took a timeout at that point, and just 24 seconds later, Abbotsford went ahead for good. Kolanos made a pretty backhand feed to Byron, and he snapped a shot past Climie.
Taylor took it home from there, counting a point-blank stop on Kassian among his late saves to preserve the win. He turned aside 25 of 27 shots on the night.