In his second shutout of the season, Barry Brust helped his Heat triumph over the Lake Erie Monsters in a 3-0 win Tuesday night.
The game started off slow, with neither team truly dominating over the other. This could have been owing to the lacklustre crowd presence: the Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Centre looked like a ghost town compared to last weekend when the Barons were in town. This was likely an unfamiliar feeling to Lake Erie – the Monsters have sold an average of 7,038 tickets per game, slotting them at fifth in the league. The Heat, though they have sold out three times and nearly sold out a fourth, sit in the middle of the attendance pack with an average 5,109 seats sold per game.
The first period was a battle for possession, with both teams showing weakness in the neutral zone. Giveaways in the zone led to a few breakaways for each team. Lake Erie’s Mike Connolly had the biggest break of the period, ahead of the pack by at least two strides, but tripped up just past his own blue line.
At the 10:34 mark, Tyler Ruegsegger had a scoring opportunity when he carried the puck down low across the ice – but he mishandled it directly in front of the net, and ended up against the opposite boards still attempting to get a shot or pass off.
Two minutes later at 12:02, Barry Brust had a fantastic save where he batted the puck out of the air with his blocker then made a glove catch for the whistle. It was the type of move Heat fans are coming to expect from the 29 year-old, a former player for the Los Angeles Kings – fluid, instinctual, and screaming confidence.
Post-game, Brust spoke to his mentality that perhaps contributes to this style of play. When asked if he plays differently in a tight game, he said, “No, you can’t think like that … focus on the little things, like for me I focus on my head and hand position. You can’t be thinking – if you think, you stink – I try and be as carefree and kind of with no thoughts as I can be … as a goaltender, you don’t want to think at all.
The second period continued with slightly more intensity, with more physical play and battles in front of the net. With 5:44 gone, Abbotsford’s Krys Kolanos scrapped with Lake Erie’s Tyson Barrie. The fight, a rare occurrence for Kolanos, spurred action: seven minutes later, he sent the puck top corner and earned his fourth goal of the season when it sailed between Monsters goalie Sami Aittokallio’s glove and the post.
This goal made Kolanos the all-time leading goal scorer for the Abbotsford Heat. For first place, he overtook Cam Cunning, who scored 33 goals in 121 games. His goal tonight was Kolanos’ 34th, a feat he managed in just 54 games – 67 fewer than Cunning.
After the goal, both teams picked up their game fairly significantly. This culminated in an almost-highlight reel-worthy shot attempt by captain Quintin Laing: tangling in front of the net and trying to chip in a shot, he ended up falling on his back. When the puck slid free of the melee, he attempted to shoot it in while still on his back. Aittokallio managed to get a pad on the shot at the last second, maintaining the 1-0 deficit to the Heat for the remaining 1:44 of the period.
The third period saw the first two penalties of the game: Lake Erie winger David van der Gulik was called for slashing at the 4:42 mark, and Laing was assessed a tripping penalty with 6:30 gone. This penalty drew loud criticisms from the relatively small group of fans in attendance.
The rest of the period consisted of the Heat trying to hold onto their tenuous 1-0 lead. Though Brust was clearly integral in this, his defenders played a big part in maintaining his shutout. One instance of note was when Brust scrambled to get up after falling back during a save attempt, Abbotsford’s T.J. Brodie blocked two consecutive shots.
With 9:58 gone, Krys Kolanos took a roughing penalty. Coach Troy Ward, however, saw this as a positive aspect of his play: “the one thing that I’ll say about Krys tonight is that I thought he played extremely hard. That was one of the better skating games Krys has had for us this year … anytime you have passion and emotion in a game, usually that results – in hockey – in something positive for you. It’s an emotional sport, and I thought Krys was dialed in from the get-go.”
With two minutes left in the third period, the Monsters pulled their goalie. This resulted in two open net goals; Sven Baertschi scored with 1:08 left and Quintin Laing with 21.5 seconds. Baertschi’s goal was scored despite being tangled with a Lake Erie defenseman – he had the puck on his forehand and shot it around the defender’s skate. “I wanted to make it look better than – y’know – just go down and shoot it in, so I was trying to do something there and it worked out.”
The two open-netters resulted in a 3-0 game, but as Coach Ward reminded the press, the game was extremely tight. “It’s a 1-0 win – I know the score is different, but at the end but it’s a 1-0 win.”
The Heat meet the Monsters again Wednesday night, where they will attempt to earn a further two points from the Lake Erie team.