Abbotsford, BC –For the first time in franchise history the Abbotsford Heat have qualified for the Calder Cup playoffs.
Local product David Van Der Gulik picked up the game-winner as the Heat edged the Grand Rapids Griffins 4-3 last Friday night earning a berth in the post-season.
“I’m happy for the ownership here, I’m happy for the community, I think its’ something we set out to do at the start of the season,” said head coach Jim Playfair. “Its’ a very difficult thing to do in a 29 team league - only 16 teams can make it so I’m proud of the ownership.”
Abbotsford opened up a 2-0 lead in the first thanks to goals from Cam Cunning and Keith Seabrook. The Heat appeared in the driver’s seat until the third where the Griffins made it interesting.
After Shawn Weller scored to make it 3-1, the Griffins quickly responded with two quick goals tying things at three.
With the game getting closer to over time Van Der Gulik stripped the puck from Griffins defenceman Doug Janik, broke loose and beat Grand Rapids netminder Daniel Larsson high glove-side for the winner.
“I was just trying to pressure the d-man he was kind of by himself back there and he just kind of shot it at me – made a nice bounce forward,” explained Van Der Gulik following the game. “I was able to get a partial break, I knew the guy was coming towards me so I just tried to get it off quick.
Fan Appreciation Night
The following night Abbotsford entertained the Griffins for their final regular season home game and fan appreciation night at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
Not only did fans get treated to a 2-1 win thanks to goals from Shawn Weller and Colin Stuart, but the Heat had numerous give-a-ways for those in attendance including $10,000 and the jerseys off player’s backs.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time here, the guys in the room have been great and you know what the community is really something,” said goaltender David Shantz. “I’ve run into a lot of different families around town and the support we get from the people here, the fans that come to the games – it really means a lot.
“It really makes for a great place to play all around.”
|Netminder David Shantz is now 14-10-4 |
Having started nine of the team’s past 11 games down the stretch it appears the coaching staff has handed the goaltending reigns to David Shantz who is now 14-10-4 on the season in 31 appearances.
The Burlington, ON native admits added work in recent games has helped him find a groove.
“The more ice time always helps getting in a groove and getting a feel for the puck,” said Shantz, who started the season in the ECHL with Victoria. “I’m feeling pretty good, I haven’t been doing anything different from the start of the year – it’s just the team’s playing well.
“It’s nice to get off that skid we’re on and start to move things in the right direction.”
Quote of the Week
Jim Playfair when asked about Shawn Weller’s performance during last Saturday’s 2-1 win:
“I think Shawn felt guilty for laughing on the bench,” said the Heat bench boss in reference to Weller laughing during his infamous tirade. “He was just trying to make it up to me – he’s doing a good job of it. I just want to see more of that in the playoffs.”
John Negrin (D) – Knee
Matt Pelech (D) – Upper Body
Andy Delmore (D) – Shoulder
Carsen Germyn (RW) – Concussion
John Armstrong (C) – Shoulder
Kris Chucko (RW) – Neck
Jason Jaffray (LW) – Knee
John Lammers (LW) – Shoulder
Last Saturday’s victory over Grand Rapids marked the pro debut of Flames prospect Mitch Wahl
. The Seal Beach, CA native wasted no time registering on the score sheet picking up a helper on Stuart’s game winner.
“I think Mitch Wahl
is a kid who has some offensive upside you can see when he gets the puck in the slot he’s a dangerous player,” Playfair said.
“He’s got some shift length management he’s got to work on, he’s got some details defensively to work on, but overall I think he sees the ice very well.”
The Heat (37-29-5-7) opened their final road trip of the season on Wednesday night in Lake Erie getting a pair of goals from Stuart while Cunning and Garth Murray rounded out the scoring in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Monsters.
Abbotsford plays its final game against Lake Erie Saturday night before traveling to Toronto to round out their regular season against the Marlies.
“We’ve really been trying to put in a consistent 60-minute effort in night in night out, said Shantz of the team’s 4-4-I-1 record in their last 10.
“I think our consistency has gotten a lot better and we’re focusing more on what happens in our room rather than what the other team is doing, and I think that makes a big difference.”
Abbotsford currently sits in third place in the North Division with 86 points, three up on fourth place Manitoba, with just three games remaining.
If the playoffs were to start today the Heat would begin on the road against second place Rochester a team they went 3-1-0 against during the regular season.