Kotalik, Heat shoot down Stars

After spending the early portion of his Abbotsford Heat tenure making plays for others, Ales Kotalik's transition to triggerman powered his team to a big road win over the Texas Stars on Tuesday.

After spending the early portion of his Abbotsford Heat tenure making plays for others, Ales Kotalik’s transition to triggerman powered his team to a big road win over the Texas Stars on Tuesday.

The veteran NHLer scored his first two goals as a member of the Heat in a 5-3 victory before 5,878 fans at Cedar Park Centre.

“Ales Kotalik getting two goals was huge for us, and for his personal confidence,” Heat head coach Jim Playfair said. “I really thought he was probably our best forward, in the sense of being a well-prepared player.”

Kotalik’s first goal of the night, at 13:36 of the first period, capped an early three-goal explosion by the visitors which also included markers from Stefan Meyer and Cam Cunning.

The Stars found some traction at that point, trimming the Heat lead to 3-2 before the intermission on goals by Greg Rallo and Brad Lukowich.

Abbotsford’s Logan MacMillan, with his second goal in three games, and Texas’s Francis Wathier traded second-period goals, and Kotalik sealed the win with an empty-netter with 23 seconds left in the third.

“He scored a big-time goal for us (in the first period), and he stayed with it,” Playfair said. “He’s in a position now in the American League where I put him out there in the last 30 seconds to hammer the lead down, and he took it upon himself to score the goal. That’s what good pros do, and Kotes has been very good.”

Tuesday’s outing, combined with a four-assist performance in Saturday’s 6-2 win over the Providence Bruins, has Kotalik on a point-per-game pace (12 points in 12 games) since joining the Heat. He’s also a +7.

T.J. Brodie, Chris Breen and Greg Nemisz notched two assists apiece in the win, while recent acquisition Ryan MacMurchy notched his first point as a member of the Heat – a helper on MacMillan’s goal.

ICE CHIPS:

• With the win, the Heat (29-24-3-5, 66 points) moved to within two points of the fourth-place Toronto Marlies in the AHL’s North Division standings. Abbotsford has two games in hand.

• Heat captain Quintin Laing did not play on Tuesday for personal reasons, according to the team.

• The Heat continue the road trip tonight in San Antonio, where they face the Rampage at 5 p.m. Pacific.