Despite almost three packed houses during this home stretch, one that didn’t include the Manitoba Moose (the third game being the Sunday afternoon game broadcasted on CBC), the Abbotsford Heat ended their 10 game home stand with barely a .500 record, taking only 10 of a possible 20 points. After the last home game against the Peoria Rivermen, coach Jim Playfair had this to say about his team’s play during their home stand: “Obviously I think we should have garnered more points, but I think when I break it down, I do it a little differently than you guys and I do it in segments, and right now, in the fifth segment of our season and we are 3-0-1.” Coach Playfair went on to stress about the importance of the upcoming 10 game road trip and the upcoming series with divisional rivals, the Manitoba Moose. “I think the biggest thing right now is focusing on Manitoba this Friday.” The Manitoba Moose were in town just a few weeks ago with half the barn packed with Vancouver Canucks fans cheering on their prospects, a series in which the Moose swept the Abbotsford Heat.
With a weekend series slated to go in Winnipeg, Manitoba last weekend, coach Playfair had this to say about returning the favor. “We have to win divisions. We expect to win our division, and to win the division you have to win within the division. The whole thing for us right now is going out and finding a way to get this first win.”
For this series Leland Irving was back in net for the Heat after backup goalie J.P. Lamoureux gave him a night off in the win against Peoria, the last night of their home stand. In game one of the series with the Moose, the Heat battled hard throughout the game, exchanging goals with the Moose which led to a shootout. Jon Rheault scored the shootout winner for the Heat.
The second game of this series was CBC’s AHL game of the week on Sunday, something the Heat have been featured in many times. Despite the familiarity of a nationally televised hockey game to some of these players, it is still a high pressure situation for any hockey player. The Heat got an early lead in the second period, but the Moose fought right back and regained the lead before the second was over and never looked back. The Manitoba Moose won this nationally televised contest 5-3. This game was a lot closer than the score would indicate; the Heat had a late goal to pull within one and were pressing for the tie, but the Moose eventually added an empty netter.
The Heat still have eight more road games before they return home to the AESC on February 11 for a series with the Toronto Marlies. At weeks end, the Heat are 21-19-2-4 and have 48 points, good enough to sit in fifth place in the North division and just three points out of the third playoff spot. For more insider info on the Abbotsford Heat and the NHL follow me on twitter @JustinOrly.