Abbotsford, BC – The Abbotsford Heat kicked off a crucial stretch of games (13 versus the North Division) on the right foot last Friday squeezing out a 3-2 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Abbotsford overcame two deficits before Matt Keith jammed home a loose puck with just 45-seconds remaining in the third to seal the come from behind victory.
John Armstrong and Chris Breen had the other goals for the Heat.
The following night was a much tighter affair and it wasn’t until Jim Playfair shuffled his lines that Greg Nemisz broke the scoreless deadlock early in the second. It remained 1-0 for Abbotsford until Jon Rheault put the puck into an empty net helping the Heat blank the Bulldogs 2-0.
"It’s huge - both wins on the weekend.” admitted Nemisz, who was recalled by Calgary on Tuesday afternoon. “Right now we’re keeping pace, we got to keep this thing rolling and not get too high.”
Added Breen, “These last 13 games that we have to play here are gigantic – it’s going to be the difference in making the playoffs and not making the playoffs. Friday and Saturday were big wins for our team.”
The four points gained against Hamilton came at a cost as goaltender Leland Irving left last Friday’s game early with what the team is calling a groin tweak. Additionally, defenceman Joe Piskula left, the same game, with a concussion.
With roughly 370 man games lost to injury already this season the list at sickbay grew last weekend. Following practice this week Playfair updated the injury situation – here’s how it looks:
Joe Piskula (concussion) “Joe won’t be ready for the weekend, he’s on a protocol where we hope he’ll be ready by Hamilton.”
Leland Irving (groin) “He’s day-to-day. He won’t play Friday, but he could potentially be a player for us Sunday morning.”
Stefan Meyer (lower body) “He’s for sure another week away maybe 10 days. I don’t expect him to be back until the playoffs start.”
Matt Keetley (knee) “He’s day-to-day and we think he’s really close. Obviously he’s had three days of practice now. We think he’s really close.”
Carter Bancks (concussion) “He’s been cleared to play so he’ll be a player for us on Friday for sure.”
Additionally, Kris Chucko and Mitch Wahl are also sidelined suffering symptoms from earlier concussions. Forward Cam Cunning is done for the season with a partially torn MCL in his left knee.
The Heat will also be without veteran blue-liner Matt Pelech this weekend as the 23-year-old was suspended two games for his boarding major last Friday night.
The AHL announced the suspension on Tuesday morning.
Pelech was assessed a major for boarding and a game misconduct for his hit on Bulldogs forward Hunter Bishop.
With Pelech suspended and Piskula concussed the Heat will add a defenceman to their roster Prior to Friday’s game in Manitoba.
Marvin in the Mix
Last Saturday the Heat announced that 2006 third-round pick, Aaron Marvin had been signed to an Amateur Try-out contract (ATO).
The six-foot-two, 192-pound centre wrapped up his fourth year of eligibility with St. Cloud State where he had nine goals and 15 points in 37 games.
“He’s a third-round draft pick, he’s finished up his schooling and we compare him to (Ryan) MacMurchy,” said Playfair. “We’ll see where his compete level is, where the style of game he has.
“I think he’s a big kid that hopefully he’s a better pro than he is when he finished up at school.”
The native of Warroad, MN was a business management major and a real estate minor in university – something he hopes to complete by the summer. His goal now is making an impact in the Flames organization.
“I like to be physical, I like to get into the corners and grind it out a little bit,” he said. “Just that type of high-energy type player.”
Last Friday morning the Heat announced they had signed centre Tyler Ruegsegger to a PTO. Originally a sixth-round selection of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2006, the Lakewood, CO native was playing with the ECHL’s Alaska Aces when he signed with the Heat.
Complicating matters was the fact Ruegsegger was on a road trip in Las Vegas with the Aces.
“That was a long day,” said Ruegsegger of last Friday. “I got up at 4 AM, two plane rides, a long taxi, got (to Abbotsford) by about 3 PM.
“It was a long day, but it worked out well and I was thankful to have the opportunity to play.”
In two games against Hamilton last weekend Ruegsegger had a pair of assists, including setting up Nemisz’s game-winner Saturday. Prior to joining the Heat, the 23-year-old centre had nine goals and 15 points in 23 games.
“Now I have a couple practices under my belt too – I got in here and started playing quickly,” Ruegsegger continued. “I’m just continuing to learn about how the coaches want us to play. The main thing is to come in and work hard for these guys.
“Any time you get an opportunity to play you just got to come in and work as hard as you can for the team and I believe hard work is rewarded.”
Abbotsford continues its’ North Division tour this weekend in Manitoba versus the Moose.
The two teams play Friday and Sunday at the MTS Centre.
“This time of the year any team you match-up against, it’s going to be a playoff atmosphere,” said captain Quintin Laing. “We think we match-up (with Manitoba) really well.
“It’s just two teams that really want to win. The points are big for both teams.”
Abbotsford continues its’ four-game, six-night trip in Hamilton on Tuesday and Wednesday. Playing frequently is something the Heat have excelled at this season.
“It’s odd,” admitted Laing. “We seem to play better when we’re more mentally tired and physically tired. Maybe we bring more focus to our game – hopefully that continues.”
For regular updates on the Abbotsford Heat follow Dhiren on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dcmahiban