ABBOTSFORD, BC -- The Abbotsford Heat are going through a bit of adversity right now, having a different lineup every few games and trying to find ways to win.
The Heat had just regained their top goaltender Leland Irving, reassigned to Abbotsford, in time for a three-game road trip to the east. After a pair of starts and a seat on the bench Sunday, Irving is heading back to the NHL while Calgary`s Henrik Karlsson has been assigned to Abbotsford on a conditioning stint. Karlsson hasn`t play since early December when he injured his knee versus the Vancouver Canucks. Irving went 1-1-2 in his first NHL stint.
On Thursday Abbotsford visited the Rochester Americans, losing 3-0 in Irving`s first game back at the AHL level.
Just 95 seconds into the game, a seeing-eye shot from the right wall found its way through a crowd and into the Heat net.
The last 20 minutes saw the Heat sent to a power play just 1:49 after the intermission had ended, with a chance to tie the game on a man-advantage. Rather than a game-tying goal, the Heat surrendered a two-on-one after losing the puck at the Rochester blue-line and the Americans got a huge goal to extend their lead to a pair of strikes. With just 3:59 remaining, the Americans would add a third tally to close out the scoring.
Thursday's loss was the first game the Heat have played since their home loss to Chicago last Wednesday, and the roster was vastly different from the group that broke for the All-Star break at that point in time. Irving made his return to the club, forward Jon Rheault returned from injury, Brian Connelly made his Heat debut since being acquired in the Brendan Morrison trade, and leading scorer Krys Kolanos was absent after his Wednesday signing and subsequent call-up to the Calgary Flames. On Friday the other “new addition” scored the opening goal in a 3-2 overtime win.
Akim Aliu was acquired by the Calgary Flames in exchange for John Negrin. Aliu had been playing for the Heat already on loan from the Winnipeg Jets, so he just remained with Abbotsford, while Negrin was assigned the the Jets’ affiliate the St. John’s Icecaps.
The Heat opened the scoring on the power play at 7:49 of the first period when Clay Wilson took a pass at the point from Ben Walter, and blasted a shot on net that was tipped in by Aliu. The goal was Aliu's fifth of the season in his fifteenth game played with Abbotsford this year.
The Heat's second goal came at 7:22 of the second period, and was eerily similar to their first as a Wilson point shot was re-directed into the Rochester net. Dustin Sylvester was stripped of the puck in the left corner on the play, but Wilson ripped the loose puck on net from the high slot, where Sylvester managed to deflect it in to earn his ninth goal of the season.
After erasing a 23 second five-on-three, and the ensuing one-man advantage late in the second period, the Heat couldn't get a whistle and were beaten at even strength. The strike came on a goalmouth scramble with just 53 seconds remaining in the period and set up a dramatic final frame with the Heat leading 2-1. At 7:35 of the third the Americans would tie the game.
With the game tied, both teams saw great chances to get a third goal in regulation, but Leland Irving made multiple big saves and Justin Dowling hit the crossbar at the other end. With just 1:41 remaining a penalty was assessed to the Americans, but the Heat couldn't score in regulation.
With a four-on-three advantage in the extra period for the opening 19 seconds, the Heat set-up in the Americans zone, and just three seconds after the power play expired Wilson ended the game with a slap-shot that found the net from the right point.
The winner came just 22 seconds into overtime and stands as Wilson's eighth goal of the season - his second overtime winner against a former club. Ben Walter and Connelly drew assists on the strike. The assist was Connelly's first point as a member of the team, and Walter's helper gave him two on the night.
They closed out their three games in 48 hours with a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Marlies, that saw the home team break a tie after 40 minutes with a trio of third period goals.
After a scoreless opening period, the second stanza saw four goals from the former divisional rivals. First, the Marlies scored on the opening shot of the period just 46 seconds in; they struck again at 8:05 on the power play.
The Heat would rally late in the period as Roman Horak, who was reassigned to Abbotsford by the Flames last week, scored his first goal, in his sixth game, at 18:49 to get the Heat within one. Horak finished off a nice passing play on the man-advantage that saw Connelly move the puck from the right point to Paul Byron at the left circle, who quickly spotted Horak the puck on the right side; the rookie didn't miss a yawning net.
In the dying moments of the period, Wilson was dumped in the slot but managed to tap the puck into the Marlies net as he fell to ice with just 3.8 seconds remaining. Connelly drew an assist. In the third period Abbotsford would falter, allowing a trio of Marlies tallies, a partial break at 10:14 to make it 3-2, another on a rebound just 1:31 later, and the final a power play marker that iced the game for the home team.
Danny Taylor made 27 saves on 32 shots in the loss, his first start since the second Chicago game where he was pulled in favour of the now departed Joni Ortio (reassigned to Finnish team).
Next home action for the Heat comes Thursday from the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary where the Heat host the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers affiliate). The two clubs meet again at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre two nights later on Feb. 11.