Abbotsford, B.C. – The Abbotsford Heat are fresh off a successful road trip, which saw the team go 3-1-1 while playing five games in six nights on the road.
During the trip the Heat managed to pick up seven of a possible 10 points while being led by the veteran trio of Stefan Meyer, Ales Kotalik and Quintin Laing.
The three forwards finished the trip with nine goals and six assists.
“I think Kotalik has a lot to do with that, he’s the main catalyst on our line. I think anyone that plays with him is usually going to do well,” said captain Quintin Laing.
“He shoots the puck hard and he’s a really smart hockey player – he really thinks the game.”
Kotalik’s four goals and four assists in the five games had him as a nominee for the AHL Player of the Week. Head coach Jim Playfair knew Kotalik had the talent, but is more impressed with the way the veteran adjusted off the ice since being assigned to Abbotsford by the Flames.
“Ales has come in to his own with his work ethic, consistency in play and I’m more impressed with Ales’ overall commitment to the group,” Playfair said. “I think he’s done an unbelievable job of coming in here and just being a real solid, good person.”
Week in Review
Abbotsford split a pair of games with the Oklahoma City Barons last weekend – picking up three of a possible four points against the Edmonton Oilers top affiliate.
On Friday night the Heat were led by the tri of Meyer, Kotalik and Laing in a 5-3 win. Meyer had two goals and an assist, Laing had a goal and two helpers while Kotalik had three assists in the victory.
The following night Abbotsford dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to the Barons – T.J. Brodie had the lone goal in the loss.
The Heat wrapped up their road trip on Sunday with a 5-4 win over the Houston Aeros (AHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild).
Abbotsford got goals from Gaelan Patterson, Brodie, Laing, Cam Cunning, and Kotalik picked up the game-winner with 45.5 seconds remaining in regulation.
Carter Bancks participated in his first team practice on Wednesday since suffering setbacks from a November concussion on Dec. 7.
The 21-year-old suffered the concussion during a Nov. 12 game in Providence and after missing over three weeks felt he was healthy enough for a 3-2 win over the Lake Erie Monsters on Dec. 7.
“It’s my first concussion and I might’ve made a mistake in coming back and playing that game in early December,” Bancks admitted Wednesday. “I think it was about two-and-a-half weeks after the original injury.
“It might’ve set me back a bit looking back.”
Bancks had four goals and 12 points in 18 games before shutting it down for over three months.
“The thing is no one can really tell you anything – its’ just how you’re feeling,” Bancks continued. “You can walk around and look like you’re normal and completely fine, but you can be so far from it. “For a lot of months it was a lot of head aches, pressure in my head and there’s nothing you can really do.”
Sharp fitting in
Last Thursday the Heat managed to acquire something Playfair desperately wanted – a natural centre in MacGregor Sharp from the Manitoba Moose.
Sharp dressed in the final three games of the road trip and has been everything Playfair had hoped.
“He’s a solid player for us, a responsible player at both ends of the rink, does a good job on the penalty kill,” Playfair acknowledged. “He’s won face-offs, he’s a solid player that we were looking for.”
Kris Chucko – Concussion Carter Bancks – Concussion Mitch Wahl – Concussion Matt Keetley – Knee Stefan Meyer – Back/hip (day-to-day)
The Heat will entertain the league’s hottest team this weekend as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins visit Friday and Saturday.
The two teams last met in mid-December with the Penguins (45-18-0) taking both games.
“We had a chance to see them and when we played them, we found out why they were in first place,” Laing recalled. “They play a really well disciplined game, they’re high-energy, skate well.
“Every game now is important – the position we’re in, especially at home, it’s an exciting time of the year and every game from now on in is going to be exciting.”
This weekend’s set is the last two games the Heat will play outside their division this season. The final 13 will come against the North Division and will go a long way to determining whether Abbotsford sees post-season action for the second consecutive season.
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