– Prior to the start of the season, Abbotsford Heat head coach Jim Playfair, made it abundantly clear that one of his two goaltenders needed to step up and be a third option for Calgary this season.
Ten games into the young season and Leland Irving
has been given an early opportunity to take the ball and run with it.
The Swan Hills, Alberta native has started eight games posting a 5-3-0 record and a 2.74 G.A.A. to go along with his .895 save percentage.
“You want to be able to get a few starts in a row and get in a rhythm,” said Irving. “The game really starts to come together. I’ve felt good in there and the team’s really starting to come around.”
Both Irving and Matt Keetley received a visit from Calgary Flames goaltending consultant Jamie McLennan this week to get some early season pointers.
“There are little things that we’re working on – the main focus is just the puck play right now,” Irving said. “I’m moving laterally really well and positionally sound and tracking the puck well, so things seem to be pretty good.
“I just got to keep doing what I’ve been doing and get better at puck play. We can only get better from here.”
Watt in the Booth
Heat tough guy J.D. Watt was suspended for the first two games of the road trip for a questionable hit on Rockford IceHogs forward Kyle Hagel last weekend.
The time away from the game allowed for the Cremona, Alberta native to explore other career possibilities for life after hockey as Watt joined Heat Director of Communications & Broadcast, Dave Sheldon in the broadcast booth to do colour commentary.
“Hockey can be a short career so you always want to have something to fall back on,” said Watt. “Some guys weren’t as smart and went to the Western Hockey League instead of college so its’ nice to have those things to fall back on if you ever need it.”
The time in the booth also helped the 23-year-old get a different perspective on the game.
“Trying new things out, you see things you don’t see very often,” said the Flames fourth-round selection from 2005. “It’s a tough job to sit there and watch that whole game and talk on the spot. “Road Warriors
Through the first 10 games of the season, the Heat have played six away from the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre and picked up eight of a possible 12 points while going 4-2-0.
The road was a comfortable place for Abbotsford last season. The Heat went 21-15-1-3 including an impressive 8-1-0 record during their time away for the Olympics.
“Maybe we’re just used to the travel more than anyone else,” said Watt. “We try to approach every game like a home game. We might not have the crowd behind us (on the road), but we’re playing well on the road and we want to keep that up.”
According to Irving, it may be the added bonding time the team has on the road.
“We’ve just been able to come together as a team and on the road being in the hotel and always on the bus or the plane you’re always with the team and with the guys so in a way it just brings us closer together.”Week in Review
The past week saw the Heat go 3-1-1-0 while playing three games on the road and a two-game set at home against the Rochester Americans.
Abbotsford got the road trip started on the right foot with a 3-0 win in Chicago as Irving turned aside 13 shots for his first shutout of the season last Wednesday.
Last Friday the Heat got past the Rockford IceHogs 4-1 as Keith Seabrook, Cam Cunning and Gaelan Patterson
combined for seven points.
The Flames top farm club wrapped up the trip the following night with a 3-1 loss at the hands of the Milwaukee Admirals.
Abbotsford returned home for a pair of games with the Amerks earlier this week picking up a 4-3 overtime win on Monday night on Jon Rheault’s winner and then dropping a 2-1 decision the following night. Quotable
“It felt great. Coach challenged me to get back to the hard-working, get on pucks, use my speed and I just tried to focus on that today and it kind of paid off there in the end.”- Jon Rheault on picking up just his second goal in nine games in Monday’s victory.Injury Update
John Negrin – Knee
Kris Chucko – ConcussionRyley Grantham
Matt Pelech - ShoulderLook Ahead
The Heat continue their eight-game home stand this weekend as they entertain the Milwaukee Admirals (AHL affiliate of the Nashville Predators) this Friday and Saturday at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
Author: Dhiren Mahiban