As losses go, there were plenty of positive signs in the Abbotsford Heat’s 3-2 overtime defeat to the San Antonio Rampage on Tuesday evening.
After a slow start, the Heat’s dominance in the second and third periods was comprehensive. They out-shot the Rampage 25-5 over the final 40 minutes of regulation, and only the sparkling play of San Antonio goalie Jacob Markstrom denied them the win.
The game also represented a breakthrough for Heat rookie centre Max Reinhart – he snapped an extended scoring drought with his first goal of the campaign.
Reinhart’s tally at 10:37 of the middle frame knotted the score 2-2, but that was the last puck the Heat would slip past Markstrom. San Antonio defenceman Jason DeSantis ended matters 35 seconds into OT, tapping a cross-ice feed from Drew Shore past Abbotsford keeper Barry Brust.
“We were counterpunching in the first seven to 10 minutes, and the rest of the game, we took it to them,” Heat head coach Troy Ward noted. “That’s the type of game, whether in the National Hockey League or the American Hockey League, you’re just hoping as a coach they don’t get the one shot.
“I’m real happy with our play. We didn’t win, but I don’t coach the scoreboard, so it doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, you’ve got to be proud of your kids and how they behaved.”
Goals by San Antonio’s Casey Wellman and Greg Rallo sandwiched Roman Horak’s team-leading 12th of the season as the Rampage claimed a 2-1 lead after the first period.
Midway through the second, Reinhart made his presence felt, hammering a one-timed slap shot from the left faceoff dot, off a feed from Horak, past Markstrom.
“That’s the longest I’ve ever gone without a goal, and it’s the tightest I’ve ever hugged somebody after giving me an assist,” said Reinhart, who had mustered just two assists over his first 19 games this season. “I struggled with my confidence throughout the start of this year, and I’d say it’s a massive relief just to get one.”
Reinhart, considered one of the better forward prospects in the Calgary Flames system, made a memorable pro debut with the Heat last season. He scored twice against the Toronto Marlies in his first regular-season game after his WHL campaign with the Kootenay Ice wrapped up, and he went on to notch a goal and an assist in four playoff starts.
The Heat’s depth up front during the NHL lockout has limited his role this year, though – he’s spent much of the season centring the fourth line, though he has seen regular power-play duty.
“Half my battle is fighting to get ice this year,” he analyzed.
“I think it’s a lot to do with just having a lot of good players who have earned their opportunity in front of me. Being the young guy, you’ve got to be patient.
“Obviously I don’t like to see some teammates go down to injury to get my opportunity, but now that I’ve got an opportunity, I’ve got to keep going – just playing my hardest and creating that offence.”
Ward’s lone quibble with his team’s play on Tuesday was its power-play performance. Horak cashed in on the team’s first man-advantage opportunity of the night, but they went 0-for-4 after that.
“You have to create quality scoring chances and you have to get shots to the net, and we didn’t do that very well,” Ward said. “I thought that was the difference.”
• The Heat (13-3-5) and the Rampage (7-11-3) clash again on Wednesday night (7 p.m., Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre).
• Heat forwards Sven Baertschi (concussion/whiplash symptoms) and Ben Walter (undisclosed) sat out their second straight games on Tuesday. They were both injured late in Abbotsford’s 5-1 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs last Friday.