The Abbotsford Heat delivered a victory for new head coach Troy Ward on opening night, edging the Lake Erie Monsters 2-1 in Cleveland on Friday.
Greg Nemisz’s power-play goal at 12:05 of the second period stood up as the game-winner, and Leland Irving made 22 saves as the Heat won their season-opener for the second straight year.
Abbotsford rode a stellar special-teams performance on Friday, going 2-for-5 on the power play while killing off all three Monsters man-advantage opportunities.
“I thought we played a complete game,” Ward said. “We worked hard – which was our biggest concern – and our system play got better as the game wore on.”
Dustin Sylvester, who signed with the Heat last month after leading Freiburg of the German second division in scoring last season, opened the scoring on a power play just over five minutes into the first period. Monsters goalie Trevor Cann stopped an initial shot from Heat captain Quintin Laing, but Sylvester was there to chip in the rebound.
Greg Mauldin drew the Monsters even at the 10:50 mark of the opening frame, as Stefan Elliott’s point shot deflected off him and past Irving.
Just past the midway point of the second period, Nemisz tracked down a loose puck amongst a maze of legs in front of the Lake Erie net and flicked a shot by Cann, who had lost track of the biscuit.
Irving took it home from there, and his teammates played a solid game in front of him, coming up with two pivotal penalty kills in the final frame.
• The Heat and Monsters renew hostilities on Saturday at 3 p.m. Pacific time. The Heat then return home for their home opener, Friday, Oct. 14 against the Rockford IceHogs.
• Forwards Carter Bancks and Krys Kolanos were scratched due to injury for the Heat, while healthy scratches included centre Mitch Wahl, defencemen John Negrin, James Martin and Patrick Cullity, and goalie Joni Ortio. Ward went with David Brown as the backup goalie behind Irving.