In hockey, sometimes the difference between winning and losing comes down to a wacky bounce or two.
The Abbotsford Heat saw their two-game weekend set against the Manitoba Moose in Winnipeg pivot on two such plays.
On Friday evening, the Heat were the recipient of some good fortune. Late in the first period, with Manitoba leading 1-0, Moose goalie Eddie Lack mishandled Cam Cunning’s shoot-in, accidentally backhanding the puck into his own net. That goal was the first of two on the night for Cunning, and the Heat ended up winning 3-2 in a shootout.
In Sunday morning’s rematch, the Moose got a fluke goal of their own. With his team nursing a 3-2 lead in the third period, Manitoba forward Guillaume Desbiens threw a backhand pass in front of the Heat net that took a pair of 90-degree deflections off Joe Piskula and Gaelan Patterson and slipped between the legs of stunned goalie Leland Irving.
That tally would prove pivotal, as Cunning scored shortly thereafter to draw the Heat back to within a goal. But Desbiens tacked on an empty-netter to clinch a 5-3 victory for the Vancouver Canucks’ affiliate.
“That’s just the way it goes,” Cunning shrugged. “It happened to both teams, and that’s just the way it is.”
Cunning’s weekend production was an encouraging sign for the Heat. The burly veteran forward was sidelined for a month bridging November and December due to a separated shoulder. He had just one goal in 14 games since returning from the injury, before potting three in two games against the Moose.
“To tell you the truth, I just felt better out there,” Cunning said. “It’s always tough coming back from an injury, but I felt I’d been playing well – I just hadn’t been getting the bounces. But this weekend, I just got lucky with one bounce, and just kind of went from there.”
• The Heat make a tour of the Lone Star State this week, visiting the San Antonio Rampage (Wednesday), Houston Aeros (Friday) and Texas Stars (Saturday) before dispersing for the AHL all-star break.