In the movie, Jeff Daniels utters the definitive criticism-morphing-into-praise line: “Just when I think you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this … and totally redeem yourself!”
So it was with the Heat, who blew a 2-0 third-period lead at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, only to quickly redeem themselves and salvage a 4-2 victory.
Goals by the Bens – Hanowski and Street – had put the hosts ahead, but they gave it all back in short order as San Antonio’s Bobby Butler (finishing off a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play) and Vincent Trocheck (with a shorthanded marker) tallied to knot the score.
But just 38 seconds later, on the same power play as Trocheck’s shorthanded goal, Street found Max Reinhart with a terrific cross-ice pass, and he took the puck from his skate to his stick and beat Rampage goalie Jacob Markstrom with a top-shelf shot.
Markus Granlund scored into an empty net to round out the scoring as the Heat (18-6-2) snapped a two-game losing streak, and goalie Joni Ortio turned in an outstanding 29-save performance to improve his record to 10-1.
Abbotsford’s first three goals came on the power play, which went 3-for-8 on the night and moved up from third to second in the AHL in that category with a 24.8 per cent overall success rate.
Head coach Troy Ward, though, felt the power-play proficiency papered over a multitude of other sins. Despite his team’s 38-31 edge in shots, he was perturbed with some of the penalties his team took in the second period, the sloppiness with which they handled the puck at times, and a general lack of emotional engagement.
“There wasn’t a lot of good in that game – we’ll just take the win and go,” Ward said. “That said, our team found a way to win, so I have to give them credit for that.
“We’re not real sharp mentally right now . . . a lot of empty seats on the bus. It’s unfortunate. We’ve had some bad, tough Decembers here. We hit these long road trips in November, get the benefit of playing a lot of games, but come home flat.”
Street said Ward gave the team a piece of his mind after Trocheck’s shorthanded goal, and his words had the desired effect.
“The thing that was freshest in my mind was the absolute tongue-lashing we had just taken from our coach about how bad our power play was being,” Street said with a wry grin, reflecting on Reinhart’s subsequent goal. “It was a one-way conversation.”
On Ortio’s performance, Street offered effusive praise.
“They came at us hard and we were having trouble breaking out – they were turning pucks over and putting them on net right away,” he said.
“The big thing is, it doesn’t look that outstanding, but (Ortio) just takes those pucks and deflects them away. It’s not like he’s flashing leather or anything like that, but it’s just so effective for us. He gives us more than a chance to win – he bails us out time and time again.”
Hanowski opened the scoring at 14:08 of the second period when his centering pass intended for Brett Olson deflected in off the skate of a Rampage defender. The goal prompted a cascade of stuffed animals onto the ice from the stands, as part of the Heat’s annual teddy bear toss night (pictured above). Three pickup truckloads of teddy bears were collected for donation to the Abbotsford Christmas Bureau.
“It’s definitely cool to be a part of that, and to be the one to put it in made it a little bit more special,” Hanowski said. “Cool experience, and great thing to do.”
The Heat and Rampage (10-11-2), who have lost three straight, clash again on Saturday (7 p.m., AESC).