ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - Dustin Sylvester showed he is pretty talented with a hockey stick, though a broom may have been more appropriate.
Sylvester scored a highlight reel-goal in the third-period Wednesday as the Abbotsford Heat beat the Milwaukee Admirals 4-2 and completed a three-game sweep of their first-round American Hockey League series.
Sylvester scored on a power play, beating Milwaukee goalie Jeremy Smith to the blocker side just inside the post at 8:47 of the third to break a 2-2 tie.
"(Ben) Walter carried it over the line and for some reason the D backed up pretty far," Sylvester said. "I just cut to the middle, a little fake, and made sure I got it on net. I didn't even see it go in actually."
The five-foot-six Sylvester played his way onto the first line late in the year with Flames prospects Krys Kolanos and Paul Byron, but first he had to play his way onto the team in training camp. The former Swift Current Bronco was signed at the suggestion of Heat head coach Troy Ward prior to training camp.
"For a guy of that stature, to do what he does at this level, that gives a lot of players and people in life hope," Ward said. "He's a money player and very talented. For him to get a goal at a big time, I couldn't be happier for him and I echo the whole team. He's a big part of what we've had this year and has really had a good second half push."
After the Heat opened a 2-0 lead, the Admirals came back to tie the game and were pushing in the early going of the third.
“"hat goal was huge for us," said Abbotsford's Clay Wilson. "We were struggling a bit – they had a push at the start of the third. We were fortunate enough to get a power play and the power play was clicking tonight. Sylvester made a great shot to ice it off for us."
Wilson had two goals and an assist, including the empty net goal to seal the win for the Heat. Hugh Jessiman also scored. Kolanos had two assists.
Danny Taylor made 26 saves in the win. In the three games he stopped 76 of 80 shots. Perhaps his best save was with 44 seconds to play, stopping a Chris Mueller one-timer chance in close to preserve the one-goal lead.
"He's been playing unreal for us," Sylvester said. "He made a huge save at the end for us."
Smith stopped 28 shots for Milwaukee.
"At the beginning of the second it could have easily been 4-1 for them," said Milwaukee’s Jon Blum. "He made some great saves. We fed off that and pushed."
Special teams played a vital role in the outcome.
Milwaukee's Blum took two boarding penalties early in the game and Abbotsford scored just after one expired to open the scoring. The Heat ended the game 2-for-7 with the man advantage.
"It's frustrating – this is playoff hockey," Blum said. "It's a contact sport. Guys are playing hard. Some of the penalties out there were pretty bogus I think, especially those two boarding calls. It’s tough to put your team behind like that. It’s hard to get consistent refereeing in this league."
Milwaukee scored its two second-period goals with the man advantage.
"I took a tough penalty and Sylvester took a penalty and the capitalized," said Clay Wilson. "It's always tough when they score late like that. Our team did a great job bouncing back, coming ready to go in the third."
Abbotsford's next opponent will depend on the outcome of the last remaining series between Chicago and San Antonio, which is tied 2-2 but will start on the road versus the Toronto Marlies or the Oklahoma City Barons.
"We've felt very comfortable on the road all year," Ward said. "We'll probably have to manage into Toronto or Oklahoma City. We've had some success in OK City. In Toronto we haven't, though we did in Game 75 and 76 here at home. But we're a different team now."
The Heat opened the scoring 2:10 into the game, just one second after a power play expired. Clay Wilson's point shot missed the net but Jessiman's backhand squeaked through the pads of Smith at 2:10. Greg Nemisz also assisted on Jessiman's first of the post-season.
Clay Wilson gave Abbotsford a 2-0 lead on the Heat's first power-play of the second period, and fifth of the game. Wilson one-timed a pass from Kolanos, and his slapshot whistled past the glove of Smith at 6:18. Roman Horak also picked up an assist.
Kyle Wilson got the Admirals on the board at 16:24 on a power play. His wrist shot from the right face-off dot found its way through Taylor for his first of the playoffs. Teemu Laakso and Michael Latta assisted on the goal.
Just over two minutes later the Admirals tied the game on another power play. Bartley's slap shot from the point found its way through a set of sticks into the top of the net at 18:09. Jonathan Blum and Kyle Wilson assisted.
"We finally got some calls our way and our power play clicked," Blum said. "That's the difference. The whole series their power play scored for them. That’s the difference in playoff hockey."
The Heat regained the lead while Taylor Beck was serving a penalty for shooting the puck over the glass at 8:47 of the third period. Sylvester scored his winning goal, while Kolanos also assisted on the marker for his eighth point in the three-game series.