The final edition of the Abbotsford Heat also happens to be the best.
The Heat responded to Tuesday’s announcement that they’ll be moving out of town at season’s end by going undefeated on a three-games-in-three-nights road trip to wrap up the regular season.
They capped the road swing with a 4-3 victory over the Texas Stars on Saturday, marking their team-record 43rd victory of the campaign. The previous record of 42 wins had been set in 2011-12.
The line of Emile Poirier, Markus Granlund and Max Reinhart led the way for the Heat (43-25-8, 94 points), combining for three goals in the first period. Granlund got the first two, with assists going to his linemates, and Poirier – in just his second game as a pro – notched the third.
But the Stars boast the AHL’s second-best offence, and they rallied to knot the score 3-3 on second-period strikes by Taylor Vause and Matej Stransky and AHL rookie of the year Curtis McKenzie’s goal at 5:44 of the third.
Just over four minutes after McKenzie’s equalizer, though, Heat centre Corey Locke restored the Abby lead, and the Heat hung on from there.
Texas out-shot Abbotsford 40-26, but goalie Joni Ortio came up with 37 saves for his 27th victory of the season. That total is good for fourth-most in the league, and the AHL all-rookie selection also finished second in save percentage (.926) and sixth in goals against average (2.33).
Poirier, a first-round pick by the Calgary Flames in last year’s NHL entry draft, earned first star honours in just his second game as a pro. He’d scored a goal in his debut the previous evening vs. the San Antonio Rampage, and for an encore, he notched three points (one goal, two assists) vs. the Stars (48-18-10, 106 points), who came into Saturday’s game having already locked up the best record in the entire AHL.
Reinhart, with two assists, moved past Krys Kolanos to set a new team record for most points in a single season. Reinhart finished with 21 goals and 42 assists for 63 points in 66 games. Kolanos, in 2011-12, had set the previous mark with 30 goals and 31 assists in just 47 games.
With the victory, the Heat clinched fifth place in the Western Conference, and they’ll face the defending Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins, the No. 4 seed, in the first round of the playoffs.
The schedule for the best-of-five series is as follows.
Game 1: Friday, April 25, Abbotsford Centre, 7 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday, April 26, Abbotsford Centre, 7 p.m.
Game 3: Wednesday, April 30, Van Andel Arena, 4 p.m.
*Game 4: Friday, May 2, Van Andel Arena, 4 p.m.
*Game 5: Saturday, May 3, Van Andel Arena, 4 p.m.
(All times Pacific, * = if necessary)