Against a high-powered offensive team like the Rochester Americans, you can’t make a parade to the penalty box without suffering some consequences eventually.
On Tuesday, the Abbotsford Heat handed the Amerks eight power plays but got off scot-free – their top-ranked penalty killers bailed them out in a 3-2 victory.
On Wednesday, the Heat found themselves shorthanded on nine occasions, and this time they paid for their sins.
With the score tied 2-2 late in the second period, Rochester finally capitalized on their sixth man advantage of the night, as Brian Flynn’s wrist shot from the left faceoff dot beat Heat goalie Barry Brust though a screen. (Appropriately, Heat forward Greg Nemisz was in the box for boarding at the time – one of his three minor penalties on the night.)
Flynn’s goal, his second of the game, ignited a blowout, as the visitors went on to smoke the Heat 6-2 at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
“We were undisciplined again – not many positives you can take out of a game like that,” Heat captain Quintin Laing noted afterward.
“Our skill guys don’t get as many touches on the ice with the puck, and they don’t get the ice time they should (with all the penalties). It just kills any momentum offensively that we create.”
The Heat out-shot the Amerks 40-30, but any sustained pressure was invariably derailed due to penalties.
“Obviously we out-shot them big time, but it was huge mental breakdowns at critical times,” Abby defenceman Joe Piskula analyzed. “You can’t have that against a team like Rochester, one of the leading scoring teams in the league.
“We’ve got to find more energy than that. We were just slow. Our first guys would get there (to the puck) and be in a battle, but there was no support after that, offensively or defensively.”
The Heat handed the Amerks an early five-on-three power play when Ryan Howse was sent to the box for cross-checking and Laing followed him 19 seconds later, busted for interference.
Abbotsford’s top-ranked penalty kill managed to snuff the entire two-man disadvantage, but just eight seconds after Laing’s penalty expired, Flynn whipped a shot under the right pad of Heat goalie Barry Brust to open the scoring.
Ben Street levelled the score on a Heat power play later in the frame, taking a feed from Joe Callahan, walking into the slot and wiring a blocker-side wrist shot off the post and in past Amerks keeper David Leggio.
Luke Adam restored the Rochester advantage 39 seconds into the second period, carrying the puck out from behind the Heat net, whirling and firing a low shot by Brust.
Brady Lamb’s second goal of the year tied it up once again – the rookie blueliner hammered home a rising point shot through a screen at 7:23 of the middle frame.
But Flynn and the Amerks would finally break through on the power play, and they were off to the races from there, running up the score behind goals from Kevin Porter, Frederick Roy and Mark Mancari.
“We just did a better job of getting pucks in the zone,” Flynn said, contrasting his team’s effort to Tuesday’s defeat. “We were a little more patient and threw a lot more pucks to the net. With guys crashing the net we scored a lot of goals, with tips right around the net there.”
Brust, obscenely hot earlier in the season en route to setting an AHL record for longest shutout streak, has hit a rough patch of late. He’s lost seven of his last eight starts, seeing sporadic playing time over the past month after Danny Taylor wrested away the No. 1 job.
With Taylor signing with the Calgary Flames earlier in the day and being recalled, Brust has control of the crease for the immediate future, but he struggled on Wednesday.
“It’s just a rep factor for me – he just hasn’t gotten back into rhythm,” Heat coach Troy Ward said of Brust, who saw his goals against average swell from an AHL-leading 1.69 to 1.92, still third-best in the league.
“He’ll get back into rhythm – Barry’s a very good goalie at this level, and he’s obviously provided us with excellent goaltending the majority the year. For me, it’s just minutes played. He’s just got to get his minutes up, and things will fall back into place.”
Laing was disconsolate about a defensive-zone miscue he made that led to the first goal.
“I’ll take the heat for that, and for our overall play,” he said. “My game wasn’t good enough, and it trickled down to guys. There were guys out there that busted their butts, but there were a lot of us that just didn’t have it tonight.”
• With Taylor departing to join the Flames, the Heat inked Tyson Sexsmith to back up Brust.
The former Vancouver Giant is the WHL club’s all-time leader in wins (120) and shutouts (26), and he backstopped the team to a Memorial Cup title in 2007. After three years in the San Jose Sharks system, Sexsmith played four games with Novokuznetsk Metallurg of the Kontinental Hockey League this season, posting a 1-1-0 record and a 3.28 goals against average.
• The Heat host the Lake Erie Monsters for two games this weekend, Saturday (7 p.m.) and Sunday (4 p.m.) at the AESC.