With their playoff lives on the line, the Abbotsford Heat responded in emphatic fashion, trouncing the Grand Rapids Griffins 6-0 on the road Friday.
Ryan Stone led the offensive charge, racking up five points – two goals, three assists – while Leland Irving posted his AHL-leading eighth shutout of the season for the Heat.
Gord Baldwin, Jon Rheault and Ales Kotalik also scored for Abbotsford, which improved to 38-30-4-6 for 86 points.
The Heat entered Friday’s action trailing the Oklahoma City Barons (87 points), Chicago Wolves (86) and San Antonio Rampage (85) for the Western Conference’s final crossover playoff spot. The win temporarily pulled the Heat to within one point of Oklahoma City, but the Barons later defeated San Antonio 7-2 to restore their three-point cushion.
The Heat did get one positive result elsewhere, as the Peoria Rivermen beat Chicago 5-2 to enable Abbotsford to move into a tie with the Wolves.
The Heat, Barons and Wolves each have two games remaining in the regular season. Abbotsford continues its road trip on Saturday in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters, then wrap up the regular season on Sunday against the Toronto Marlies.
Against Grand Rapids on Friday, Stone found instant chemistry on a new forward unit with Rheault and Carter Bancks. The line combined for 11 points.
Abbotsford out-shot Grand Rapids 42-27, with Irving turning aside every puck the Griffins directed his way. It’s an understatement to say the Heat keeper is red-hot at the moment – he’s posted shutouts in three of the past four games.