Cunning’s goals power Heat past Moose

In terms of aesthetic appeal, the two goals Cam Cunning scored during the Abbotsford Heat’s 3-2 shootout win over the Manitoba Moose on Friday were at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Cunning’s first goal of the game, at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre, was of the ugly variety. In the latter stages of the first period, the Powell River, B.C. native dumped the puck in on Moose goalie Eddie Lack from centre ice. Lack attempted to sweep the puck behind the goal, but he accidentally backhanded it into his own net, gift-wrapping a goal for the Heat.

As much as the first marker was the product of good fortune, Cunning’s second was pure skill. On the breakaway late in the second period, the veteran forward was hauled down by Moose defenceman Lee Sweatt to earn a penalty shot. Cunning converted, deking Lack and finishing on the backhand.

Both of Cunning’s tallies erased one-goal deficits, and the Heat went on to finish off the Vancouver Canucks’ affiliate in the skills competition. Greg Nemisz and Jon Rheault scored the shootout goals for Abbotsford, and Leland Irving stopped four of five Manitoba shooters.

The victory enabled the Heat (21-18-6) to leapfrog the Toronto Marlies for fourth place in the North Division, while the second-place Moose (24-12-6) missed a chance to move into a tie with the division-leading Hamilton Bulldogs.

The two teams renew hostilities on Sunday morning in a game that will be televised nationally on CBC (10 a.m. Pacific time).

The Moose goals on Friday came from Jordan Schroeder and Ryan Cruthers. Schroeder, the Canucks’ first-round pick in 2009, was making his return to the Moose lineup after missing a month and a half with a high ankle sprain. He opened the scoring at 6:37 of the first, tipping home Mark Flood’s point shot.

Cruthers was in the right place at the right time, as he cleaned up Kevin Connauton’s rebound at 3:02 of the second.

Irving stopped 24 of 26 Moose shots to earn his 18th win of the season, tying Brad Thiessen of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the league lead.