In the midst of a seven-game road trip that could define their season, the Abbotsford Heat have rebounded to take three of four points after a rough start.
The opening pair of games weren’t kind to the Heat, shut out in back-to-back outings courtesy the Hamilton Bulldogs and Tri City Americans.
Leland Irving did his best to hold Hamilton shooters at bay, stopping 21 of 22 shots but with the net empty in favour of the extra attacker, Bulldogs forward Louis Leblanc took advantage and gave his club the 2-0 win.
Friday was a lot less favourable for Heat goaltenders. Making his first start since returning from the Calgary Flames, Daniel Taylor was touched for three goals on 22 shots. Irving fared no better in relief, allowing two goals on four shots en route to a 5-2 loss.
The Heat rebounded the next night against the Toronto Marlies, as four different scorers – including Blair Jones – found the back of the net in a 4-2 win. Taylor made 16 saves for his first AHL win since February 5th.
In their third game in as many nights, Abbotsford managed to steal a point against the Rochester Americans. Trailing 2-0, Akim Aliu scored in the second period while Drew MacKenzie tied it in the third but the Heat eventually fell in an incredible 10-round shootout.
With the extra point, the Americans managed to jump ahead of Abbotsford and into second place in the North Division. The Heat currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, though the Oklahoma City Barons – the top affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers – trails by one point with four games at hand.
Though not the news Flames rookie Sven Baertschi hoped for, the Heat will welcome the 20-year-old back to the fold after being sent down to join Abbotsford on their road trip on Saturday.
Baertschi, who has one assist in 10 games with the Flames this season, was reassigned with center Mikael Backlund coming off the injured reserved list.
"I want him to have fun again, I want him on top of his game and I want him in every situation," Flames general manager Jay Feaster said on Saturday. "He'll play a lot of minutes down there. They are starving for the kind of creativity and goal scoring ability he has right now. He's going to kill penalties and he's going to be on the first power play unit.
"As I told him today I want the game to be fun again and I want him to be able to do it away from the glare and the spotlight and the expectations of the National Hockey League."
Baertschi was held pointless and didn’t score on his shootout attempt in his return against Rochester.
Baertschi wasn’t the only contribution from Calgary last week.
With Miikka Kiprusoff healthy, the Flames returned goaltender Taylor to the Heat on Wednesday, going 1-0-1 with a 2.34 goals against average and .903 save percentage after starting back-to-back-to-back games on the road for Abbotsford.