Heat news and notes: Nemisz stoked to face ex-teammate Ellis, Admirals

Abbotsford Heat forward Greg Nemisz is excited to face former junior hockey teammate Ryan Ellis and the Milwaukee Admirals this weekend.

Heat forward Greg Nemisz is off to a solid start to his second pro season.

Greg Nemisz and Ryan Ellis have accomplished an awful lot in their hockey careers while wearing the same jersey.

They played four seasons together with the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires, winning back-to-back Memorial Cups in 2009 and 2010 on what is considered one of the best teams in Canadian junior hockey history. They were also teammates on Canada’s silver medal-winning entry at the 2010 World Junior Championships.

This weekend, their paths will cross for the first time as pros, as Nemisz’s Abbotsford Heat host Ellis’s Milwaukee Admirals (Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m., Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre).

“We’re really good friends – it’ll be weird for the first few shifts, but it’s exciting,” Nemisz said with a grin Wednesday. “It’s a challenge to play against a guy who’s that special of a player.”

Indeed, during his junior days, Ellis fashioned a resumé as one of the all-time great offensive defencemen at that level. Over the course of three appearances at the World Juniors (2009-11), he scored points than any other blueliner in tournament history, and he’s Canada’s all-time assist leader. He was named the Canadian Hockey League’s player of the year last season, after racking up a mind-boggling 100 points (24 goals, 76 assists) in the regular season.

Ellis, the 11th overall pick in the 2009 NHL entry draft by the Nashville Predators, has two assists in his first three games as a pro this fall with the Admirals.

“There’s not too many players in the game who can read things offensively the way he does,” Nemisz noted. “For us to be successful this weekend, we’re definitely going to have to limit his time and space.”

Nemisz, for his part, is off to a solid start to the season. The sophomore forward is tied for the Heat scoring lead with Brendan Mikkelson with four points (two goals, two assists) in four games, while showcasing his defensive chops on the penalty kill.

Heat head coach Troy Ward said Nemisz has been “effective in all phases of his game,” and noted he was impressed to see him drop the gloves with Kyle Beach of the Rockford IceHogs last Friday.

“Having the big 6’5″ tough guy who’s going to do all the fighting has kind of gone away over time with the new rules and the size of players,” Ward asserted. “It’s a business now where you have to not only have skill, you have to be able to stand up for yourself.

“I think it’s important that players understand how to protect themselves and defend themselves, so I was happy for Greg in that respect.”

NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN

Speaking of tough guys, the Calgary Flames assigned Raitis Ivanans to the Heat on Thursday morning after he passed through waivers unclaimed.

The 6’4″ enforcer from Riga, Latvia has amassed 569 penalty minutes in 281 NHL games with the Montreal Canadiens, L.A. Kings and Flames. He missed the vast majority of last season after suffering a concussion in a scrap with Steve McIntyre of the Edmonton Oilers on opening night.

Ward, as mentioned earlier, doesn’t see the necessity of designated scrappers, so Ivanans will need to “fit in as a player,” he said.

“Our job is to welcome him to our family and our group, and then help him make his game what it needs to be so he can get back up and play in the National Hockey League,” Ward said. “He doesn’t have to do any mopping up of anybody, or come down here and fight.”

ARMSTRONG AIMS TO MAKE IMPRESSION

John Armstrong wasn’t a happy camper when he was sent down to the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies on Oct. 1.

Ultimately, he decided it was counterproductive to waste energy being upset about it, and he feels that’s a big part of the reason why he was recalled by the Heat on Tuesday.

“When some guys go down there, they’re all, ‘Oh no, I’m down in the East Coast,’ and I think those are the guys who get buried down there,” Armstrong said. “If you go down with a determination to get back and just play the game as hard as you can, good things are going to happen for you.

“The first day there, I wasn’t too happy. But as I realized that I’m still playing hockey, I tried to stay positive. I knew people were going to be moving up and down, and I just worked my bag off and tried to get back here.”

Armstrong notched a goal and an assist in two games with the Grizzlies prior to his recall, and there’s a good chance the versatile forward will crack the lineup against Milwaukee. That’s because Ward has been dissatisfied with his fourth line – the trio of Gaelan Patterson (-2), Ryan Howse (-2) and Logan MacMillan (-3) are the team’s only three forwards on the negative side of the plus-minus ledger.

“That’s not kosher to being a winning team,” Ward noted. “We need to make some changes there.”

WAHL NEEDS TO PLAY

Mitch Wahl was assigned to the Grizzlies to make room for Armstrong, and Ward said it was simply a case where the sophomore centre needed to see some game action.

Wahl, a second-round pick by the Flames in 2009, is coming off a season where he missed all but 17 games due to head injuries sustained in a collision with Aaron Volpatti of the Manitoba Moose, and he’d been a healthy scratch for the Heat’s first four games this fall.

Ward explained the Seal Beach, Calif. native wasn’t able to crack the Heat lineup because he’s a pure centre who needs to play on one of the top two lines. Ben Walter and Paul Byron have a hammerlock on the top two spots on the depth chart.

“It wasn’t necessarily that Mitch did anything wrong here,” Ward said. “He’s got to get down there and play – get his game going, get his confidence going.”

BANCKS ON THE WAY BACK

Carter Bancks skated with the main group at practice on Wednesday for the first time since training camp. He’s been out with an upper-body injury.

All the way along, Ward has said he’d like Bancks to be at 100 per cent before he returns to the lineup – a nod to the kamikaze style he plays. He said there’s “a chance” he could play this weekend.

“He’s got to get through another day, for me, and see how he does,” Ward said. “I’m a little bit concerned about his conditioning level.”

Krys Kolanos was absent from practice Wednesday. He’s coming off major hip surgery, and is battling a lower-body injury.

ADMIRALS A STIFF TEST

The Milwaukee Admirals arrive in Abbotsford this weekend as one of only two remaining unbeaten teams in the AHL, along with the Worcester Sharks. Under the tutelage of rookie head coach Kirk Muller, the Predators’ affiliate has raced out to a 3-0-0 start.

“They’ve always been a classy organization, top-to-bottom through Nashville,” Ward said. “I’m not surprised they’re undefeated.

“We’ll have our hands full this weekend, and it’s about what we need, too. We need to find out where we stand within this league, and it’ll be a good measuring stick as to where we’re at.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Abbotsford Trail Running Club has transformed the Valley Vertikiller into the Valley Verticuddler for 2020. (Matt Bolam photo)
Abbotsford Trail Running Club transforms Valley Vertikiller into Verticuddler for 2020

Local club has raised close to $3,000 for Central Fraser Valley Search and Rescue with event

File Photo
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Agassiz Seniors Community

First declared outbreak in Agassiz-Harrison since pandemic began

The family and friends of Abbotsford resident Kaitlyn Cassels have launched a GoFundMe for her after she suffered serious injuries following a bad fall on Thursday night. (Submitted)
GoFundMe created for Abbotsford woman after horrible fall

19-year-old Kaitlyn Cassels suffers many injuries after falling 27 feet off Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge

The group Fabric Bag Solution recenty donated 45 handmade reusable shopping bags to the Archway Food Bank in Abbotsford. (Submitted photo)
Volunteer group donates homemade shopping bags to Archway Food Bank

Fabric Bag Solution makes reusable bags for B.C. food bank patrons

A pair of crashes on Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Chilliwack have snarled traffic in both directions.
Pair of crashes snarl traffic between Abbotsford and Chilliwack

Traffic delays eastbound, large westbound backup

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner, Senator David Braley speaks after the CFL announced Vancouver will host the 2014 Grey Cup championship football game during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Lions owner David Braley dead at 79

Braley had bought the CFL team prior to 1997 season

NDP Leader John Horgan speaks with the owner of a barber shop while campaigning in Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Campaigning was restricted by the coronavirus pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s B.C. majority came with historically low voter turnout

Barely half of eligible voters cast ballots in snap election

A police pursuit ended with an arrest in Williams Lake on Highway 97 Sunday afternoon. (Facebook video screenshot)
Video catches police pursuit that ends with man kicked, punched in Williams Lake

A video of the arrest is getting widely shared on social media

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

This Crescent Beach home, located at 12505 22 Ave., was subject of a police search warrant June 18. (Google image)
Civil forfeiture office alleges $2M Surrey home was used to launder cannabis money

Court documents request the home, and $85,000 to be turned over to the government

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Most Read