Abbotsford, BC – The Abbotsford Heat completed their only road trip for the month of March over the weekend picking up just one of a possible four points during games in Lake Erie and Toronto.
On Saturday night the Heat had to play catch up as the Monsters (AHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche) opened a 2-0 lead in the opening 20 minutes. Olivier Latendresse and Radek Smolenak responded for Abbotsford in the middle frame. However, with just over three minutes remaining Brian Willsie picked up the game winner helping Lake Erie to a 3-2 win.
“I thought we had a chance to win both games,” said Heat bench boss, Jim Playfair. “I think the game in Erie we put ourselves in a position to come back when we were down on the road, which is not an easy thing to do.”
Abbotsford endured a tough travel schedule and didn’t get into Toronto until 4 A.M. local time for 1 P.M./ET game against the Marlies Sunday, which was broadcasted nationally on the CBC.
Gord Baldwin opened the scorning nearly six minutes into the second when he beat Marlies (AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs) James Reimer with a harmless looking shot from well out. It remained 1-0 in Abbotsford’s favor till the dying seconds of the third when Ryan Hamilton managed to get the puck past Heat starter David Shantz to force over time.
In the extra session, while the Heat were enjoying a power play, a mix up at the Toronto blue line allowed Hamilton to break in all alone and he made no mistake picking up his second of the night, and more importantly, sealed the deal on a 2-1 win.
“Certainy the game (in Toronto) when they scored with under a minute left is discouraging because it was a 1-0 game, a playoff style game,” continued Playfair. “I thought our players put themselves in a position for 59 minutes to win a hockey game.
“It got away from us in the very end.”
Sunday’s broadcast on the CBC, which was carried by the national broadcaster as part of Salute the Troops Day, had 190,000 viewers.
At 34-26-5-6, the Heat currently occupy second place in the North Division one point up on the Rochester Americans (AHL Affiliate of the Florida Panthers).
Sutter Gets the Call
Brett Sutter got some good news on Tuesday morning as he learned he had been re-called by the Calgary Flames.
Sutter, a native of Viking, Alberta has 15 assists and 26 points in 66 games with Abbotsford this season.
“(Calgary) though Brett has the ability to kill penalties and be a regular player – they felt that he could go in there and play,” Playfair said.
This week’s call-up is the second time in his career Sutter has enjoyed some time with the big club. Last season the 2005 sixth-round pick dressed in four games with the Flames picking up his first career NHL goal.
As a result of Sutter’s call-up, newly signed forward Carter Bancks
will suit up for his first professional hockey game on Friday night when the Heat entertain the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Bancks, who recently finished up his WHL eligibility with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, signed an Amateur Try-Out contract last Thursday with the Heat.
“Everyone’s big, strong and it’s intense,” Bancks said after his first full practice on Tuesday. “Its’ just really exciting to be a part of right now and I’m just going to try and take it all in and see how these guys do things.
“The main goal is to learn and see what it takes to be a professional.”
The Marysville, BC native had 19 goals and 55 points in 70 games with the Hurricanes this season.
“I’m really excited, its’ a dream come true,” said Bancks of the possibility of playing Friday. “You always want to take the step to the next level and unfortunately my junior career ended, but now I’ve got another opportunity to open another door and I’m just going to do everything I can to take advantage of it.”
Brett Palin (D) – Concussion
John Negrin (D) – Knee
Matt Pelech (D) – Upper Body
Carsen Germyn (RW) – Concussion
John Armstrong (C) – Shoulder
Kris Chucko (RW) - Neck
The Heat continue their stretch of North Division games to close out the season Friday and Saturday when they entertain the Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens).
Hamilton, the only team to clinch their division in the Western Conference, currently sits at 46-16-3-6 with 101 points.
Three of the Bulldogs 16 losses have come at the hands of Abbotsford, as the Heat are 3-3-0-0 in six meetings between the two teams this season.
“Obviously with Hamilton they’re one of the top two or three teams in the entire league right now,” said Jason Jaffray. “I think we’ve played them hard every time we’ve played them.
“We haven’t seen them in a while so it will be a good measuring stick for us.”
On Monday and Tuesday of next week Abbotsford will host the Manitoba Moose (AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks) in their final two meetings of the season.
In six games thus far, the Heat are 1-3-1-2.
“The two games against Manitoba are going to be huge in the standings,” admitted Jaffray. “I think these next four games, we’re lucky enough to be playing them at home, and they’re probably going to be the difference in whether we’re going to finish second, third or fourth in our division.”