Print Edition: February 19, 2014
It’s been a roller-coaster couple weeks for the Abbotsford Heat, after a second-period collapse in the last game of their eight-game homestand led to their biggest home loss of the season, and the first game of the road trip was rescheduled due to the extreme deep freeze in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Against the Charlotte Checkers at the AESC, the Heat defeated the Checkers 7-1 and 4-3 respectively. In their Tuesday night 7-1 victory, 14 of the Heat’s 18 skaters tallied at least a point, while seven of them had a multi-point game. Overshadowed by this offensive foray was the debut of goaltender Olivier Roy, who was acquired in the Ladislav Smid trade with the Edmonton Oilers back in November. After spending the past months with the team’s ECHL affiliate in Alaska, Roy joined the Heat for the tail end of their homestand after starter Joni Ortio was called up to the Calgary Flames. With Joey MacDonald out with a concussion, Roy got the opportunity to take the No. 1 spot and run with it. Roy quietly turned away 25 of 26 shots in this surprise start, letting in a single goal midway through the third period, and was named the game’s first star.
“He’s been real patient up in Alaska,” Heat coach Troy G. Ward said Tuesday night. “Now he comes down and gets his moment in the sun.”
“We did a nice job allowing him to see the puck, because they had a couple good pushes, Ward said of his team’s defense. “On the other end of that, we didn’t move people out at times and he made some critical saves at early junctures, and made it look fairly easy, by the way.”
The Checkers came prepared for the backend of the midweek set, but the Heat were still able to pull out a 4-3 victory after a late game push. The teams traded goals for most of the match, but with about three-and-a-half minutes left in the third period, Corbin Knight potted the game winner off a Ben Street rebound to give the Heat the sweep.
The next matchup was a much bigger challenge for the red-hot Heat, as the Texas Stars, a close division rival, rolled into Abbotsford and split the two game series. The Heat squeaked out a 3-2 shootout win on Saturday night, with Sven Baertschi notching the winner in the seventh round of the shootout. Sunday night’s game however, turned out to be the biggest home loss of the year for the Heat. Before suffering a 7-2 loss at the hands of the Texas Stars on Sunday night, the Heat were 16-5-4 at the AESC and hadn’t lost by more than two goals at home.
“It’s one you kind of want to erase,” Heat forward Carter Bancks said after the blowout loss.
Shane O’Brien added, “We let it snowball on us, and give them credit — they smelled some blood and they took advantage.”
The Heat travelled to Charlotte Friday looking to regroup after their big loss to Texas, but were forced to wait, as the game was postponed due to bad weather conditions.
When the puck finally dropped on Saturday afternoon, the Heat bounced back well, going two for four on the powerplay, downing the Checkers 4-1. Blair Jones had a goal and assist in the game, while Ortio made 29 saves for his first win back with the Heat after being returned for the NHL’s Olympic break. The Heat continue their roadtrip, and won’t return to the AESC until Friday, February 28 when they take on the Grand Rapids Griffins.