ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - The Abbotsford Heat learned a healthy power play can solve all of a team's problems.
After struggling to produce offence during a recent five-game road trip the Abbotsford power play came alive, scoring four times in a 5-1 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs in American Hockey League action Friday.
The Heat scored twice in 32 seconds in the first period with the man advantage and finished 4 for 9.
"On our road trip we were (1 for 25),” said Ben Street, who opened the scoring. "(Our coaches) let us know that. This week we worked on it a lot.
"We weren't getting pucks to the net. We were trying to be too cute. Tonight it was just get them there, try and bang in rebounds, get bodies there as well. It’s good for the confidence when those guys are getting goals."
The Heat have the league's second-best home-ice power play but their road power play ranks second last.
"For sure we've struggled more on the road than at home," said head coach Troy Ward. "We spent the last couple days working real hard on it and I think it paid dividends."
Walter's first-period goal makes him Abbotsford's career points leader with 74 in 93 games, surpassing the record Jon Rheault set last season. Walter left the game late in the third with an undisclosed injury and his status is uncertain.
"He's a great guy, a great player," said Heat defenceman T.J. Brodie, who had two assists on the night. "It's always nice to see someone do well and set a record."
Walter, playing on his fifth AHL team in his eight-year career, is in his second year with Abbotsford. The Heat franchise is in its fourth season.
"Whenever you talk about Ben Walter you talk about consistency," said Ward. "That's one of the biggest things (you) can do in any walk of life. He's a classy man and does a real good job off the ice with our team as well."
Gabriel Dumont had the lone goal, shorthanded, for the Bulldogs.
Heat goaltender Barry Brust, who earlier this month set an AHL record for longest shutout streak, made stop 15 shots to improve to 6-0-0 on the year.
Robert Mayer meanwhile made 23 saves in the loss.
Abbotsford (13-2-4) now has a four-point advantage atop the league standings. Hamilton (6-9-2) meanwhile is just one point out of the AHL's basement, having won just twice in their past nine games.
The Heat drew first blood, capitalizing on an early five-on-three power play with NHL veterans Zack Stortini and Mike Commodore in the box. First, Street converted Paul Byron's perfect back door pass at 6:50 before Walter beat Mayer five-hole at 7:22.
Laing made it 3-0 four minutes into the second. Street sent Brett Olson in on a partial breakaway and after getting the netminder to commit he slid it over to Laing at the side of the net where the Heat captain only had to slide the puck into an open net.
The onslaught continued with another power play goal at 8:12 of the second. Walter took the initial shot on goal but it was Horak that pounced on the rebound, recording his team-leading 11th goal of the year.
After scoring 10 times in his first nine games, the Czech Republic native went nine games without a goal until Friday.
The Heat held the Bulldogs to just eight shots through 40 minutes and 16 on the night.
"We played good defensively," said Brodie. "We tried to keep them to the outside, shut them down as quick as we could and not give them the line."
Hamilton did get one past Brust in the third while killing a 4-on-3 power play. Dumont stole the puck in the neutral zone, went around Byron and converted his own rebound.
"We gave up the one short-handed goal, I'm sure we'll hear about that," said Street. "We didn't come out very good in the third and you could feel the momentum go a little bit. We need to make sure we keep our foot on the gas pedal."
However, on that same power play the Heat re-established the four-goal cushion at 6:34 after Dustin Sylvester set up McCarthy for a one-timer slapshot.
The Abbotsford penalty kill is still number one in the league at 91.9 per cent efficiency.
The North Division rivals will face off again Saturday at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre and the Heat know that the Bulldogs aren't just going to roll over.
"We have to understand they're going to come back even strong," said Ward. "They've got a team that can play physical and a lot of speed. Sometimes (we) were a little careless with pucks so we need to play a full 60 (minutes)."
NOTES: Abbotsford's Sven Baertschi left the game late in the third with an undisclosed injury. His status is unclear. ... Greg Nemisz made his season debut for Abbotsford after recovering from an off-season injury.
|Back to top|