CALGARY, AB -- Three teams have leapfrogged the Abbotsford Heat, leaving the Calgary Flames' top affiliate on the outside looking into the American Hockey League's Western Conference playoff picture.
Abbotsford currently sits 11th in the West, passed by the Chicago Wolves, Oklahoma City Barons and Rockford IceHogs, who took three of a possible four points from the Heat in a back-to-back set on the weekend.
Rockford beat Abbotsford in the opening half 5-2 on Friday, chasing starting goaltender Barry Brust 2:11 into the second period after allowing three goals on 11 shots. In relief, Daniel Taylor stopped 13 of 15 shots. Former Calgary Flames goaltender Henrik Karlsson made 33 saves for the IceHogs.
The Heat rebounded with a 4-3 overtime victory on Saturday.
Though Rockford tied the game with 10 seconds remaining in the third, Roman Horak scored his team-leading 15th goal of the season at 2:17 of overtime while Taylor made 39 saves to lift Abbotsford to the victory. Sven Baertschi also scored in the game while assisting on Horak's overtime game-winner.
The win gives the Heat 69 points on the season, putting Abbotsford into a four-way tie for eighth place in the Western Conference but are slotted 11th based on games played. The team has played 67 games to date, three more than Rockford and five more than both the Barons and Wolves.
Defenseman Christopher Breen hasn't played since March 17th against the Texas Stars and Heat coach Troy G. Ward isn't sure when he'll get the six-foot-seven, 230-pound rearguard back, if at all.
"No I really don't," Ward said. "He's got to get looked at further by some specialists this week. It could be a while. It could be the rest of the year. I'm not really sure at this point. He's in tough shape and he's tired. The guy is six-seven. He's legit tired. Part of it is he's physically gassed."
The shutdown defenseman has three goals and seven points in 60 games for the Heat this season.
KULAK GETTING PRO TASTE
Signed by the Heat to an Amateur Try-Out (ATO) six days ago, Vancouver Giants defenseman Brett Kulak is getting a taste of professional hockey.
The 19-year-old blueliner, whose Giants didn't qualify for the Western Hockey League playoffs, said the opportunity with the Heat made for a superb backup plan.
"I was really excited," Kulak told the Heat's website. "I called my parents right away and they were really happy. I came down here yesterday, met the coaches and we went over some video and got all set up here, got set up in the hotel. There was just lots of excitement and I’m really happy to be here.”
Kulak has yet to suit up in a game for Abbotsford.
“I’m just taking it all in, getting as much experience as I can," he said. "I’m not sure if I’ll get in a game, but I’m going to come out and practice, learn and catch on to how fast they move the puck and take as much away from it as I can.”