ABBOTSFORD, BC -- The Abbotsford Heat have returned home from a six-game road trip, recording three wins and three losses. After a rough start on the road, the Heat were able to settle in and finish strong with two of their three wins coming in the last half of the trip. Abbotsford’s most complete game of 2014 came in their last road outing on Saturday night in Grand Rapids, where they knocked off the first place Griffins 3-2. The Heat were led by Max Reinhart’s three points (1-2-3) and got a strong goaltending performance from Joni Ortio, who earned his 17th win of the year. Ortio is now in a three way tie for second place in wins amongst AHL goaltenders.
The Heat have struggled with consistency thus far in the New Year, with a January record of 3-5-0-0. This puts them in fourth place in the Western Conference. The team has seen numerous players move in and out of the line-up due to injury and call-ups, but they continue to lead the AHL in road wins with 15. However, it will be a while before they can add to their road win total as the Heat are set to begin an eight-game home stand. The Heat have an impressive 11-5-1-1 record at home, but their last two home games were back to back losses in early January at the hands of the Hamilton Bulldogs. They have yet to lose three straight games on home ice this season, and will look to keep it that way when Utica strolls into town on Friday.
The Heat sit in second place in the West Division at 26-14-1-1 with 54 points, trailing the Texas Stars by three points.
THE RIVALRY CONTINUES
After the Heat started off the season series winning the first two games, the Comets have given the Heat all they can handle having won the last four meetings and have outscored the Heat 14-7 in the last four games.
The Comets broke a six game losing streak on January 18th and are coming off consecutive wins, including one earlier this week on Tuesday against the Chicago Wolves. Utica is no longer last in the league, and are currently in fifth place in the North Division with 31 points and a 13-20-2-3 record. Regardless of their recent success at home, the Comets have struggled on the road posting a 6-9-1-1 record. The Heat will need to keep an eye on NHL assignee Jordan Schroeder and veteran forward Benn Ferriero, who is currently riding a six game point streak (3-5-8) and has been the top scorer for the Comets against the Heat this season with six points (4-2-6).
With six games played between the teams thus far, the season series is at the halfway point. The Comets enjoyed their first ever regular season visit to the Fraser Valley back in late November when they knocked off the Heat in back to back games.
2013-14 Heat head to head stats vs. Utica Comets:
10/30/13—ABB 5 UTI 4 @ Utica Memorial Auditorium OT
11/01/13—ABB 4 UTI 3 @ Utica Memorial Auditorium
11/29/13—ABB 2 UTI 3 @ Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre
11/30/13—ABB 3 UTI 4 @ Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre OT
12/18/13—ABB 2 UTI 4 @ Utica Memorial Auditorium
12/20/13—ABB 0 UTI 3 @ Utica Memorial Auditorium
Individual leaders in season series (among active skaters):
ABB: Reinhart: 4 points in 4 GP (2-2-4), Billins: 4 points in 5 GP (1-3-4), Knight: 4 points in 6 GP (1-3-4), Ortio: 5 GP (2-2-0-0, 85/96 saves)
UTI: Ferriero: 6 points in 6 GP (4-2-6), Pelletier: 6 points in 6 GP (2-4-6), Stuart: 4 points in 4 GP (1-3-4), Cannata: 3 GP (2-1-0-0, 98/107 saves)
NEWS & NOTES
The Calgary Flames announced on January 19th, that they have assigned defenceman Derek Smith to the Abbotsford Heat. Smith, a native of Belleville, ON, has played in 14 games with the Flames this season, recording one point (0-1-1) and two penalty minutes. Smith has appeared in five games with Abbotsford this season recording one point (1-0-1).
Max Reinhart has been pacing the Heat offense of late. The Vancouver native has 12 points (3-9-12) in his last 10 games and has recorded a three point game twice in that span. He already has set new career highs in goals (8), assists (22), and points (30).
Rookie centre Markus Granlund is tied for the league lead in goal scoring among rookies in the AHL with 16. Overall, Granlund is fifth in rookie points scoring with 28 points (16-12-28) and has both game winning goals in the Heat’s last two wins.
Steve Begin announced his retirement on January 16th. Bégin’s career concludes after playing 524 career NHL games, 159 of those games with the Calgary Flames. Over the course of 15 NHL seasons, Begin also played with Montreal, Dallas, Boston and Nashville recording 56 goals, 52 assists for 108 points while accumulating 561 penalty minutes. Begin was originally drafted by the Calgary in the 2nd round with the 40th overall pick in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. He was a member of the Flames AHL team in Saint John, NB who captured the 2001 Calder Cup. Begin was named the playoffs MVP, receiving the Jack Butterfield Trophy.
The Abbotsford Heat, in partnership with Coast Capital Savings, announced that Hockey Hall of Famer Frank Mahovlich will be appearing at the Friday January 31st Abbotsford Heat game against the Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens). This game will also be the second “$3 $2 $1 Brew Dog and Pop” night of the season, featuring value priced food and beverages.
To catch the Canucks future stars in action, including Jordan Schroeder, fans are encouraged to head to ticketmaster.com for tickets and info.
Brandon Astle will bring all live Heat action this week on 101.7 CIVL FM and on www.teamradio.ca. The pre-game show begins 15 minutes before puck drop