Abbotsford, BC – The Abbotsford Heat hit the half-way mark of the 2010-11 campaign with a 18-17-2-3 record good for fourth place in the North Division and 11th in the Western Conference.
The Heat started out strong going 11-7-0-2 through their first 20 games, but injuries and the team’s abundance of youth caught up to them.
“I think that we put ourselves in a position on enough occasions where we should’ve come away with wins and we didn’t,” said Heat head coach Jim Playfair. “I didn’t think that we’ve outplayed teams consistently enough to become a really good team ourselves.
“When you’re one win over .500 after 40 games, you’re not excited.”
Abbotsford averaged 2.7 goals for through the 20 and had a stretch of 6-3-0-1 through late October and into the middle of November.
“I just think we got away from what we were doing at the beginning of the season which was shooting the puck from everywhere, getting pucks on net and driving to the net – we kind of stopped doing that,” said defenceman Keith Seabrook, who finished the first half with 10 assists and 14 points in 33 games.
The Heat went 7-10-2-1 through the second 20 games of the first half and picked up just 17 of a possible 40 points while averaging 1.7 goals for.
“Our responsibility (as a coaching staff) is to figure out ways to score goals, I think that we know what we have and we know what we don’t have,” Playfair continued. “Everyone focuses on scoring goals, but how many goals is enough really?
“I don’t know if it’s four more goals or eight more goals, but I know it’s one more goal than the opposition each night.”
Abbotsford was 15-1-0-2 in 18 games when they scored three or more goals in the first half.
One of the bright spots through the first half has been the play of starting goaltender Leland Irving. The native of Swann Hills, AB led the league for much of the first 40 games in wins and has a 16-13-1 record at the half.
“Leland is at the perfect point in his career now where the development has to take another step and I think it’s starting to take that next step,” said Playfair. “Quite honestly the Christmas season is a tough part of the schedule for teams to handle and, when you’re as young as we are, it’s that much tougher for them to go through the distractions that come with Christmas and New Years break.”
Abbotsford finished the second half of their 2009-10 season 22-12-2-2 good for third spot in the North Division earning a berth in the playoffs as the seventh seed in the Western Conference.
“We obviously want to make the playoffs and we’re kind of right on that bubble right now – definitely every game in your division you want to win,” Seabrook said. “We know what we’re going up against in the next few weeks here so we’re definitely going to be ready for it.”
Sunday morning’s battle with the Toronto Marlies is Keith Seabrook bobblehead day in Abbotsford; however, there’s a slight design flaw in the collectible. Seabrook is a right-handed shot, but his wobbler comes with a left-handed shooter.
“I don’t know, we took the pictures and that’s how they came out, “explained Seabrook. “It’s really cool, it’s something I haven’t had before and it’s definitely an honour to be the guy on the bobblehead they’re giving away.
“I’m going to take some back and give them away to the family. They’re all asking for one so it’s pretty cool.”
The first 1,000 fans through the gates at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre will receive one of the Seabrook statuettes.
“That’s what happens,” joked Playfair. “Dave Sheldon (Director of Communications & Broadcast) designed it the wrong way and that’s what happens.”
BRODIE AN ALL-STAR
After finishing the first half of the season tied for third in points with a goal and 14 helpers, rookie defenceman T.J. Brodie, will be Abbotsford’s lone representative at the 2011 AHL All-Star Classic in Hershey, PA Jan 30-31.
“I talked to the coaches the other day and they let me know,” said Brodie of the achievement. “It’s pretty exciting, I’ve never been in an all-star game before so it should be a good experience.”
The 20-year-old, Dresden, ON native, was a fourth-round selection of the Calgary Flames in 2008 (114th overall) and made the team’s opening day roster. Brodie played in three games before being sent to Abbotsford registering no points and two penalty minutes in the NHL.
“T.J.’s certainly earned the right to be there,” Playfair said. “I think that it’s good for T.J. and hopefully he can get to the all-star game and recognize how other good professionals prepare and how they handle themselves.”
Brodie becomes the second player to represent the Heat at an AHL all-star game. Jason Jaffray had the honour last season.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Abbotsford had just a pair of games over the course of the last week as the Adirondack Phantoms (AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers) were the Heat’s opponent last Friday and Saturday.
The Heat ended a seven-game winless streak on the Friday night with a 3-2 shootout win.
Lance Bouma and Cam Cunning helped Abbotsford take a 2-0 lead, but the Phantoms scored two third period goals to force overtime. Rookie Mitch Wahl picked up the eventual shootout winner.
Saturday’s final produced a similar 3-2 shootout win for the Heat, but it was Adirondack with the 2-0 lead forcing Abbotsford to play catch-up. Ryan Stone got the Heat on the board and Matt Keith took care of the rest scoring the game-tying goal late in the third and added the shootout winner in J.P. Lamoureux’s first win since being re-called from Victoria.
“Somebody put one on my desk by the name of D.S. (Dave Sheldon) - and it’s good cause when I’m mad at him I just slap the side of his head instead of actually having to go talk to him.
“It’s really good, I need 19 more of them, I need 20 of them – that’s what I’d really like.”
Jim Playfair on Keith Seabrook’s bobblehead.
Matt Keetley – Knee
John Negrin – Knee
Carter Bancks – Concussion
Kris Chucko – Concussion
Mitch Wahl - Neck
The Heat get their second half of the 2010-11 season going Friday night when they play host to the Toronto Marlies (AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs). The teams will enjoy a rare day off between games at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre before an 11 AM/PT puck drop Sunday morning. Abbotsford closes out their 10-game home stand Tuesday and Wednesday when the Peoria Rivermen (AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues) visit.
Sunday’s tilt with Toronto marks the second time the two teams have battled it out nationally on the CBC. Last March the Marlies edged the Heat 2-1 in overtime at Ricoh Coliseum.
“I think it’s good for the whole organization to deal with - to let the people know that there is a team in Abbotsford which plays professional hockey,” said Playfair. “The CBC game is going to help indentify us as being a team that prides itself on being a good team in a good environment, a great city and a great building that can provide great entertainment value.”
Seabrook, who was a part of last year’s game, says it’s a great opportunity for out of town relatives to catch a game when they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
“It’s cool, doing it last year was definitely fun too,” the blue line said. “We’ve got a lot of friends and family that don’t see us play much. They get to watch it on TV.
“It’s definitely a cool thing to have and both teams are going to be prepared for it.”