ABBOTSFORD, BC -- The Abbotsford Heat are looking to tie up their AHL Western Conference semi-final series with the Toronto Marlies at two games apiece tonight at the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre.
After taking Game 1 by a score of 3-1, the Heat dropped their next two outings. They managed just two goals in their last two games while the Marlies have found the back of the net nine times in that span.
"We've put our backs in a bad spot right now," assistant coach Luke Strand told Heat TV. "But at the same time, I think we've done some good things. So we're just going to keep moving forward and go through ... the process of what got us here."
This is the first real bout of adversity the Heat have faced in the postseason. In the opening round, they swept the Milwaukee Admirals and outscored them by a 14-6 margin. Greg Nemisz, who went on lengthy playoff runs with the Windsor Spitfires and won back-to-back Memorial Cups, knows his team can't start looking at the series as a whole and needs focus in on the game at hand.
"The playoffs, they're always tough. You're not going to cruise through everything. You've got to take it one period at a time."
One of the biggest issues in this series has been the Heat's inability to convert with the man advantage. They have gone 0-for-16 on the power play through the first three games.
"I think it was just a little bit of a puck pace issue," Strand said. "At the same time, hats off to Toronto. They're a good (penalty) killing group. They've got a lot of pressure.
"But we have to find different ways around it ... Just stay on task. Don't get off on the individual side of things. Have a team plan in process and go right through it."
Netminder Leland Irving appeared in his first postseason game on Saturday, making 22 saves in the 4-1 loss. Head coach Troy Ward has not announced whether he or Danny Taylor will start Game 4 but Strand firmly believes both goaltenders give the team the same amount of confidence going forward.
"Both goalies have had good success here. I think our team has showed confidence in both of them."
The winner of this series will advance to the Calder Cup Western Conference Finals and face either the Oklahoma City Barons or the San Antonio Rampage. Last night, the Barons picked up a 2-1 OT victory in Game three and have now taken a 2-1 series lead.
The game will be broadcast on Country 107.1, beginning at 7:30 MT with the pre-game show. The puck drops at 8:00 PM MT. The game is also being broadcast on TheAHL.com.