The Abbotsford Heat and Chicago Wolves both unveiled new players in their defensive corps on Saturday evening, and their respective resumés said a lot about the current state of both clubs.
The Wolves – a franchise recently described as “the Yankees of the American League” by Abby head coach Troy Ward due to their financial resources – recently added Joe Corvo, a longtime NHLer who was waived at the trade deadline by the Ottawa Senators. Corvo, who has 708 NHL games under his belt and hadn’t played in the AHL since 2005, was in the Chicago lineup on Saturday at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, and notched a second-period power-play goal.
The Heat, meanwhile, have seen their roster picked clean by the NHL parent Calgary Flames – seven players who were in Abbotsford as recently as two weeks ago suited up in Calgary’s 2-1 road loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday evening.
Among the moves to cover those absences was the recall of Zach Davies, late of the ECHL’s Alaska Aces. He played his first career AHL game on Saturday. He, unlike Corvo, did not score.
And Chicago, utterly unsurprisingly, won 7-2.
“It’s been tough,” Heat forward Carter Bancks acknowledged, reflecting on the Heat’s recent roster attrition.
“But we can’t make excuses. We’ve got a lot of good guys here, a lot of really good hockey players. The bottom line is, we’re kind of shooting ourselves in the foot. We talk about a lot of things like not giving up goals at the end of the period . . . and taking untimely penalties.
“We’re doing things kind of the opposite of what we take pride in doing.”
The Wolves dominated the first period, out-shooting the Heat 17-8 and building a 2-0 lead on goals by Adam Cracknell and Michael Davies.
The Heat had a nice start to the middle frame, as forward Brett Olson notched a lovely breakaway goal – sent in alone by Kane Lafranchise, he sniped top-corner over the glove of Chicago goalie Jake Allen.
But that was as close as the hosts would get. Wolves centre Pat Cannone potted a hat trick over the latter half of the game, and Corvo and Eric Selleck chipped in with singles.
In the midst of the Chicago outburst, Heat centre Ben Street scored his 22nd of the season, one-timing a feed from Derek Smith.
“It was pretty cool,” Cannone said of his hat trick, adding that he probably hadn’t scored three goals in a game since squirt hockey. “I’ve been out for six weeks now so it was just nice to contribute and help out offensively. Getting some goals is always nice.
“We know we have a lot of skill so we if we add the element of hard work we’re pretty tough to beat. We know we have a great goalie back there. He keeps us in games every night.”
Allen picked up the win, turning aside 28 of 30 Abby shots, while Heat keeper Olivier Roy (28 saves on 33 shots) got the hook in favour of recent signee Aaron Dell (six saves on eight shots) in the third period.
It was the seventh loss in a row for Abbotsford (33-20-7, 73 points), which fell behind Chicago (34-18-6, 74 points) for fourth place in the AHL’s Western Conference standings.
The Heat took another roster hit as winger Sven Baertschi was unable to play due to an unspecified injury suffered late in Wednesday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Texas Stars. Head coach Troy Ward said it doesn’t appear to be a long-term issue, but Baertschi is doubtful to play in Sunday’s rematch vs. the Wolves (4 p.m., AESC).
“Right now, we’re really trying to survive and fight,” Ward said afterward, acknowledging the reality of his team’s personnel situation but refusing to offer excuses.
“No panic, no frustration. Fans, media, my parents, they all look at the score. We don’t look at the score. We understand where we’re at. The score doesn’t alter our confidence right now. We just stay with it.”
• Along with Zach Davies – of whom Ward was generally complimentary post-game – Jordan Knackstedt also made his Heat debut on Saturday. Signed on Friday from the ECHL’s Bakersfield Condors, the 25-year-old Saskatoon native skated on a line with Corey Locke and Josh Jooris and had a first-period fight with Tyler Shattock after knocking the latter into the side boards.
• Add Heat forward Turner Elson’s name to the injury list – he departed in the second period, and his status for Sunday is uncertain at this point.
• The recent Heat players who dressed for the Flames on Saturday included forwards Markus Granlund, Corban Knight, Max Reinhart and Ben Hanowski; defenceman Tyler Wotherspoon; and goalies Joni Ortio and Joey MacDonald.
Wotherspoon, playing his second career NHL game, notched his first point – an assist – and tied for the team lead with five blocked shots.