The Abbotsford Heat’s record this season suggests they’re a very good team, but local fans hadn’t seen much first-hand evidence of that until this weekend.
Heading into a Friday-Saturday set with the Lake Erie Monsters, the Heat had made most of their hay in the standings on the road, where they’d posted a stellar 14-3-0-0 record. At the not-so-friendly confines of the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, the Heat were a mediocre 2-5-1-0.
Thus, winning both weekend games against the Monsters represented a significant momentum boost for the Heat. Hot on the heels of Friday’s 2-0 win, they posted a 3-1 victory on Saturday.
“It was great for the guys, emotionally,” Heat head coach Troy Ward said. “They felt good about the fact they played hard enough and consistent enough to get four points at home. I think that will go a long way as a build momentum towards more of a home schedule in the second half.”
Blueliner Brett Carson, with the Heat on a two-week conditioning assignment from the NHL parent Calgary Flames, opened the scoring with his first goal of the season at 17:52 of the first. Carson was jumped into the rush a three-on-two break, and jammed a rebound past Monsters goalie Cedrick Desjardins.
Hugh Jessiman drew Lake Erie even at 7:01 of the second, capitalizing on a Heat breakdown in the offensive zone to score on a three-on-one rush.
With just 33 seconds left in the second period, Dustin Sylvester restored the Abby lead, one-timing a pass from Quintin Laing on the power play.
Lance Bouma rounded out the scoring with an empty-netter with 49 seconds left in the third.
Heat goalie Danny Taylor was terrific in both weekend wins – he stopped all 38 shots he saw on Friday, and turned aside 24 of 25 pucks on Saturday.
“The word I’d use to sum up Danny is consistent,” Ward said. “You felt like he was in control back there – you didn’t feel like he was squirming all over the place. And the one goal he gave up this weekend was an odd-numbered situation.”
Another newcomer, Roman Horak, was terrific in his second game in Abbotsford. The Czech centre, assigned to the Heat by the Flames on Friday, was reunited with his former Chilliwack Bruins junior hockey teammate Ryan Howse on a line with Paul Byron.
The trio was effective as a whole, and Horak, in particular, was terrific. He registered a team-high five shots on goal and posted a +2 rating, and picked up an assist on Sylvester’s power-play marker.
“Roman’s an amazing player,” Laing asserted. “I told him before the game, I think he’s not going to be here long. He’s an NHL player, and he showed it tonight.”
• The Heat host the Hamilton Bulldogs next weekend on Friday (7 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.) at the AESC.