A shot by Grand Rapids Griffins forward Calle Jarnkrok eluded Abbotsford Heat goalie Olivier Roy on a second-period power play.

A shot by Grand Rapids Griffins forward Calle Jarnkrok eluded Abbotsford Heat goalie Olivier Roy on a second-period power play.

Griffins edge Heat 4-3 in shootout

The Abbotsford Heat iced a bit of a MacGyver lineup on Friday, held together by metaphorical duct tape, rubber bands and paper clips.

The Abbotsford Heat iced a bit of a MacGyver lineup on Friday, held together by metaphorical duct tape, rubber bands and paper clips.

But they managed to manufacture just enough magic to take one of the AHL’s elite teams into a shootout.

With leading scorer Markus Granlund and top goalie Joni Ortio basking in the NHL limelight (both players made their big-league debuts on behalf of the Calgary Flames on Thursday), the Heat fell 4-3 after an eight-round shootout to the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday evening at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.

“It’s just a turnstile of players right now,” said Heat head coach Troy Ward, estimating that he used 26 different line combinations on Friday.

“What we have to do right now is just weather some storms, take the fresh bodies, but we’ve got to get them up to speed real quick in how we have to play our hockey games right now.

“We just have a lot of working parts kind of up in the air. I feel like we’re kind of juggling a lot of players.

In addition to missing the likes of Granlund and Ortio, the Heat were assimilating forwards Ben Street and Corey Locke and defenceman Kane Lafranchise back into the lineup after injury absences of varying lengths. Ward acknowledged that both Street and Locke, who were nicked up during the team’s recent five-game road trip, played at less than 100 per cent on Friday.

The Heat also brought in forwards Jordan Kremyr and Brett Lyon from the ECHL to add depth, but neither player dressed vs. the Griffins.

The roster flux aside, the 3,068 paying customers were treated to a thoroughly entertaining conclusion to Friday’s game.

The Griffins took a 3-2 lead into the third period courtesy of goals from Teemu Pulkkinen (2) and Calle Jarnkrok, with Sven Baertschi and Max Reinhart replying for the hosts.

It took the Heat just over 16 minutes to find the equalizer, with Baertschi and Reinhart clicking once again. Baertschi, entering the offensive zone, zipped a fantastic pass through a pair of Griffins defenders and onto Reinhart’s stick, and he simply had to tap the puck into the yawning cage to the right of Grand Rapids goalie Petr Mrazek.

“I went across the blue line, and the whole time I was skating I heard Max,” Baertschi recounted with a chuckle. “He was yelling the whole time – ‘Baerts, Baerts, I’m over here!’ I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I know where you are.’ I kind of took my time, got my ice and then I saw him. He was going back door, and it worked out well. It went right on his tape, and he put it home.”

The Heat had some great chances to end matters on a late power play that continued into overtime, and the extra session was rife with odd-man rushes both ways once that man advantage expired.

Baertschi had a couple of great looks at Mrazek, while Griffins D-man Ryan Sproul jumped into the rush and rang a shot off the crossbar behind Heat goalie Olivier Roy.

The shootout was an epic, with Baertschi, Abby’s fourth-round shooter, the first player to score.

Brennan Evans, the Griffins’ fifth shooter, had to convert to extend the affair, which he did, and fellow blueliner Gleason Fournier notched the winner in the eighth round.

Afterward, Ward said his team needs to find an extra gear in terms of effort, but noted the Heat have traditionally struggled in their first game back at home after a long road trip.

“It’s a little disappointing to let it slip away,” Reinhart said. “But having said that, I thought it was a good effort in the third to tie the game up.”

Reinhart had spent the better part of two months playing alongside Granlund, but he transitioned seamlessly back to Baertschi, with whom he played frequently last season.

“(Granlund) and Sven are pretty similar skill level,” Reinhart said. “Both players are very fun to play with. You have the puck on your stick, not a lot of D-zone time when you play with guys like that.”

Ward lauded Reinhart’s ability to play all three forward positions and make those around him better. Baertschi, with a goal and an assist, notched his first multi-point game in 27 AHL contests this season playing alongside Reinhart.

“Max is a very flexible player,” Ward noted. “It’s a coach’s dream that you can move him around.”

The Heat and Griffins are jockeying for position near the top of the AHL’s Western Conference standings, with Grand Rapids (34-17-5, 73 points) edging one point ahead of Abbotsford (33-17-6, 72 points) based on Friday’s result.

The two teams clash again on Saturday (7 p.m., AESC).