It was just another day at the office for the AHL’s hottest player.
Krys Kolanos continued his scorching play for the Abbotsford Heat, scoring a pair of goals including the game-winner in the third period as the Heat beat the Milwaukee Admirals 4-2 on Sunday.
A second straight victory at Milwaukee’s Bradley Center gives Abbotsford a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five first round playoff series, and they return home with three chances to eliminate the Admirals at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
Kolanos has been absurdly hot over his last 10 games, registering 15 goals and nine assists for 24 points. He had two goals and two assists in the Heat’s 6-2 victory in Game 1 on Friday, and he continued to roll on Sunday.
“Krys is a money player,” Heat head coach Troy Ward analyzed. “He always wants to be on the ice when the game’s on the line . . . He feels like he can change the outcome of the game.
“The big thing about Krys versus a lot of guys at this level is, you’ll find a lot of guys aren’t really sure they want to be out there when things are kind of hairy. But Krys always wants to be out there.”
The Heat twice battled back from one-goal deficits. Milwaukee’s Brodie Dupont opened the scoring 32 seconds into the second period, but Kolanos equalized on a two-man advantage at the 4:08 mark.
Admirals leading scorer Chris Mueller restored the hosts’ lead in short order with a power-play marker of his own at 6:48 of the middle frame, but Ben Walter knotted the score once again, converting a rebound off Hugh Jessiman’s initial shot.
Kolanos notched the game-winner early in the third on the rush, faking a pass to Clay Wilson to draw Admirals goalie Jeremy Smith off the post, before ripping a shot past him.
Jon Rheault rounded out the scoring into an empty net with 1:04 remaining.
Ward was heartened by the way his team battled through adversity – rallying from a pair of deficits, and killing off three consecutive Milwaukee power plays bridging the second and third periods when the score was tied 2-2.
“I thought we grew up a lot today,” Ward said. “We had some major adversity at different times, with all the penalty kills.
“We didn’t do anything extraordinary – we just managed a good hockey game.”
The Heat have won nine games in a row dating back to the regular season, and goalie Danny Taylor said it’s simply a product of the team buying into Ward’s one-day-at-a-time philosophy.
“We take every day like it’s a new day,” said Taylor, who stopped 28 of 30 shots in the victory. “Just because we won before doesn’t mean we’re going to win again.
“It’s all about the process, and just playing and doing your part.”
The Heat’s success in Milwaukee to open the series was an extension of their strong play on the road in the regular season. They won 24 games away from home, tied for most in the Western Conference with the Oklahoma City Barons.
“I think a lot of people were like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe you guys are going to go start (the playoffs) on the road, what’s wrong with you?'” Ward said. “But I know my team, I know these people I work with every day, and they don’t mind playing on the road.
“That’s the way they’ve been all year. They’re resilient and they keep it simple. I thought they were in their comfort zone.”
• The Heat can finish off the Admirals on Wednesday at the AESC at 7 p.m. Games 4 and 5, if necessary, would go on Friday and Saturday.
Heat goalie Danny Taylor makes one of his 28 saves as teammate Joe Piskula tries to contain a Milwaukee forward in front of the net. (Milwaukee Admirals photo)