CLEVELAND, OH -- The Abbotsford Heat will begin their fifth American Hockey League season when the puck drops on Friday night in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters (AHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche). After missing the playoffs last season with a record of 34-32-4-6, this year’s Heat team promises to be quite different from what fans have seen in seasons past.
Head Coach Troy G. Ward returns for a third season behind the Heat bench and will have a new face beside him in Robbie Ftorek. Ftorek is the new Assistant Coach, bringing a lot of experience behind the bench with 334 career NHL games played and as a three time NHL Head Coach. Goaltending Coach Jordan Sigalet returns for his third season with the club.
This year’s edition of the Abbotsford Heat will be very young, as 21 of the 26 players on the roster are 25 years of age or younger. Blair Jones, Dean Arsene, and Steve Begin will serve as the veteran core, in charge of helping out the young players on the roster. Begin was a nice pick up during the offseason, as he signed an AHL contract but will be out for at least a few more weeks with an injury. Arsene is doubtful for tonight after, going down in the pre-season game against Utica,but could return tomorrow or next week. Jones was one of the last cuts in Calgary and is expected to play this weekend.
With significant player turnover there are still going to be some familiar names for Heat fans this season. Carter Bancks, Paul Byron, Roman Horak, Blair Jones, Greg Nemisz, Max Reinhart, Brady Lamb, Drew MacKenzie, and Zach McKelvie are all back with team, hoping a solid regular season turns into a post-season berth. Players that did not play a full season with the Heat last season, but did appear last season at some point, are Michael Ferland, David Eddy, Turner Elson, and Mark Cundari.
Reto Berra, Corban Knight, Ben Hanowski, Josh Jooris, Brett Lyon, John Ramage, and Tyler Wotherspoon are the new faces making their AHL debut this weekend. With the exception of Berra, all of these players were born in the 1990’s.
The biggest turnover for this team is be in goal, as Danny Taylor, Barry Brust, and Leland Irving have all moved to new teams in Europe this year. Reto Berra (Switzerland) and Joni Ortio (Finland) are the new goaltenders in town, with both bringing plenty of upside. Berra will get the start in goal on Friday, and at 6’4” he takes up a lot of the net with tremendous athleticism. Berra was the last goaltender released from the Calgary Flames during training camp. Ortio is slightly younger at age 22, but does have some experience with the Heat, appearing in one game during the 2010-11 season and nine games during the 2011-12 campaign. From all accounts, Ortiohas come a long way in his development since his last appearance with the Heat.
Carter Bancks, Greg Nemisz, and Paul Byron will serve as the leadership group this season, all wearing an “A” on their sweater this weekend. Coach Ward said that they will vote on Captains in the next few weeks as the season progresses.
The Heat owned the season series last year against Lake Erie, with a record of 6-1-0-1 in the eight games between the clubs. The Monsters finished two points ahead of the Heat in the Western Conference standings last season. By all accounts, the Monsters will have a good team this season with a lot of youth in their line-up.
Both games will be available at www.teamradio.ca and on 101.7 CIVL FM, with Brandon Astle calling the action.
The Heat home opener weekend is October 11th and 12th against the Milwaukee Admirals at 7:00PM, featuring an autograph session with NHL legend Guy Lafleur. The 2013 Heat Home Opener is presented by Rossdown Farms & Natural Foods, and if you purchase a group of 10 or more tickets before October 7th, you will be entered to win a Thanksgiving turkey dinner for 10 people during the October 11th Heat game. To purchase tickets call 1-877-452-HEAT or visit www.AbbotsfordHeat.com.