Print Edition: October 9, 2013
Last season, the Abbotsford Heat managed to turn a stellar 17-12-3-4 start into a 12th place finish in the conference, concluding the season with a meagre record of 34-32-6-6. The second half of the season is always difficult no matter what the sport, but after the NHL lockout ended the Heat lost top scorers Sven Baertschi and Roman Horak from the lineup. The offense struggled, scoring only 171 goals during the season, which left them ranked 29 out of 30 AHL teams. Combine this inability to score consistently with instability in net, and the team began to slide in the standings.
This new season, however, will be much different for the Abbotsford franchise personnel-wise. Coach Troy Ward, who returns for a third season as Heat head coach, helped finalize the team’s roster, which includes a lot of fresh faces. Most of these additions were drafted or signed within the last three years by the Flames organization. Included among them are former college standouts John Ramage, Corban Knight, Josh Jooris, and Ben Hanowski, OHL draft picks Michael Ferland and Tyler Wotherspoon, as well as European-born forward Markus Granlund and goalie Reto Berra.
This is also an incredibly young lineup compared to last season, as veteran players like Quintin Laing, Krys Kolanos, and Ben Walter have all moved on from Abbotsford. With only seven of the Heat’s 27 roster players over the age of 25, fans of the team should be inclined to choose optimism over predictions on how well the team will do statistically. Heat fans will get to experience potential NHL talent, particularly with defenseman Mark Cundari and forward Ben Hanowski.
The Heat opened its season on the road Friday night in Cleveland, Ohio where they faced off against the Lake Erie Monsters. The Heat were down 1-0 in the first period, when Monsters forward Garrett Meurs was awarded a penalty shot, and although his shot beat Reto Berra, it rang off the post, keeping the game from getting out of hand early. The second period saw the Heat come storming back as their powerplay began to click. Chad Billins, Drew MacKenzie, and Ben Hanowski all potted goals in the second period, putting Abbotsford up 3-1. Monsters’ forward Brad Malone pulled his team within one only 58 seconds into the third period, giving his team momentum to start the final frame, but Heat forward Josh Jooris sealed the game at 14:15, ensuring the Heat a victory in their road opener.
Heat goalie Reto Berra, who made his professional debut in North America, turned aside 31 of the 34 shots he faced from the Lake Erie team who played in front of 12,123 excited fans Friday night. Berra fended off a late third-period push from the Monsters, keeping them at bay until Jooris added the insurance marker, and the game finished 5-2.
Abbotsford’s home opener is on Friday October 11 against the Milwaukee Admirals, and will feature an autograph session from Guy Lafleur as part of the Legends of Hockey series. Tune in to CIVL 101.7 FM at 7 p.m. to hear it live.