Matt Ustaski, pinball wizard
Matt Ustaski of the Wisconsin Badgers scored what is likely the strangest goal of his collegiate career on Friday, potting one from 190 feet. Sure, teams score empty netters all the time, but the Matt O’Connor was still on the ice for the Boston Terriers at the time. The BU keeper skated out to start a counter-attack as the Badgers made a defensive change, but his pass careened off of defenseman Brien Diffley and into his own net.
It was very nearly UW’s biggest win of the year — they’ve only won twice in fourteen games — as Ustaski’s goal gave the Badgers a 3-1 lead with less than three minutes to play against the #2 ranked Terriers. It wasn’t to be, however. BU would score twice with O’Connor on the bench, including the tying goal with 2.2 seconds left, and would eventually win via the dreaded shootout.
After a six-game road swing that saw the Abbotsford Heat play .500 hockey, they return to the AESC in the Valley to host the dirty rotten stinkin’ no-good Rockford Ice Hogs. The games mark the chance for local fans to get their first look at Calgary Flames first-round pick Morgan Klimchuk, who scored 74 points in 57 games with the Regina Pats in junior this year, and Collin Valcourt, an undrafted player who had 72 points as an overaged WHL player with Saskatoon and Prince Albert.
Abbotsford won both games in Rockford earlier in the season, winning 4-2 and 4-3 in OT; recently, however, the Ice Hogs have been on something of a tear, moving from non-playoff contention two months ago into seventh place in the West.
The Heat currently sit in fifth in the Western Conference; if the post-season started today they’d match up with the fourth-place Chicago Wolves, AHL affiliate of the St Louis Blues.
Abbotsford has back-to-back games against the Chicago Blackhawks farm team tonight and tomorrow, followed by a Friday/Sunday doubleheader against the baby Edmonton Oilers from Oklahoma City. They’ll finish the season with three games in three nights the following weekend before opening the 2014 AHL playoffs.
I’m totally stealing most of this information from the Abbotsford Heat website, but everything above is at least paraphrased. In honour of some of my writing students grappling with citation and plagiarism, the following sentence is word-for-word ripped from www.abbotsfordheat.com: Max Reinhart (2-5-7), Derek Smith (0-6-6), and Ben Street (4-4-8) are all riding five game point streaks into this weekend.
The Abbotsford Heat beat the Hamilton Bulldogs by a couple of field goals on Friday night, taking the first of back-to-back weekend games 6–0 in front of an appreciative crowd at the AESC. Blair Jones scored twice in his first game back from injury, while Corban Knight got off the schneid with a two-goal, three-point performance of his own after collecting just two assists in his previous nine games. The Heat went 2-for-5 with the man advantage, and obviously had a perfect night on the penalty kill.
The Utica Comets took consecutive overtime wins off the Abbotsford Heat this past weekend. Sadly I don’t have time to write anything pithy about the Heat’s current scoring woes (16 goals during three wins and seven losses in 2014), or Utica’s recent dominance in head-to-head matchups (six losses in a row and counting).
If there were time, it would be easy to point to Heat goaltender Joey MacDonald’s comical giveaway behind his own net on the tying goal late in the game, or to defenseman Chris Breen’s stick snapping in half at the opposition blueline, directly leading to Benn Ferriero’s game-winning goal.
But there isn’t. So after the jump, I’ll just share my Heat – Comets photo gallery.
The Abbotsford Heat spanked the Iowa Wild 6–2 on Wednesday. They skated, they hit, they looked like they wanted to win, and they scored a couple of lucky goals to boot. Joni Ortio made several impressive saves en route to his twelfth win of the season, and Ben Street scored a pair to bring his AHL season total to 16 goals in 22 games.
The following night, the home side played decidedly less inspired hockey, and Joey MacDonald fought the puck on two questionable goals and several iffy rebounds. The Heat deservedly hit the L column to end the homestand with a 4–2 loss.
At 17-6-1, the Abbotsford Heat sit atop the American Hockey League standings. Two of those losses came in back-to-back home defeats to the league-worst Utica Comets last weekend, so it’s fair to say the home team will turn up the heat on West Division rivals the San Antonio Rampage on December 6 & 7.
Friday is the annual Teddy Bear Toss, so here’s hoping a spirited bunch show up to rain stuffed animal goodness upon the ice. (Bring a new, unwrapped bear to the rink, and toss it over the boards when the Heat score their first goal of the night. All toys are gifted to the Abbotsford Christmas Bureau, an organization that helped more than 3,500 children during the holidays last year.)
Perhaps that goal will be scored by Ben Street, this week named the AHL Player of the Month for November 2013. Street scored 11 goals and added 8 assists in 15 games, a big reason the Heat rattled off a franchise record 12 wins in the month.
As for the opposition this weekend, local hockey fans will likely recognize Ryan Whitney, a 10-year veteran of NHL action with the Penguins, Oilers, and Ducks. Also of note: Steve Pinizzotto, who had a cup of coffee with the Vancouver Canucks after the lockout.
The Abbotsford Heat find themselves worrying about the Vancouver Canucks affiliate Utica Comets.
They don’t need to concern themselves with a 3–2 decision to the lowly Comets on Friday night. Even after the loss, the Heat have won eight of their last ten games and sit in first overall in the AHL standings. The Comets, for their part, picked up just their fifth win of the year, and would not have done so without some serious heroics on the part of their goaltender. Under siege most of the night — including a third period that saw the Heat outshoot the Comets 13–2 — Joe Cannata made 35 saves for unanimous first star honours.
No, the Heat this season haven’t had to wring hands as they’ve done in the past about the number of pucks hitting the backs of the net. What they have worried about, though, is the ever-dwindling number of bums in seats at the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre.
Props to rookie goaltender Reto Berra, who picked up a win in his very first NHL start, in overtime over the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks no less. He made 42 saves on 44 shots — that’s a .955 save percentage, earned against the likes of Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews.
Not too shabby, Mr Berra. Keep that up, and something tells me this Abbotsford Heat paint job might need a flaming C or two thereupon.
The Abbotsford Heat took three of a possible four points in their home opening weekend, splitting extra time results with the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday and Saturday nights.
Six-foot four goaltender Reto Berra backed the Heat to a 3–2 decision on Friday, thanking Corban Knight for ending things 1:58 into overtime. In turn, the Admirals rode 6’5″ netminder Magnus Hellberg to a 2–1 shootout win on Saturday.
It was a familiar refrain of sorts of the Heat, who spent much of last season splitting double headers they probably should have taken outright. The Heat came out of the second intermission on a mission, breaking the zero-zero tie just 41 seconds into the third on Roman Horak’s first of the season. They carried the play for most of the period, but squandered consecutive power plays before giving up a late tying goal against the flow of play. It marked the second game in a row the Heat led going into the final six minutes of play but were unable to hold on for a regulation win.
Hockey Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur was in attendance Friday, shaking hands and signing hundreds of autographs; he is the latest in the Heat’s lineup of Hockey Legends to visit the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre. The Man Who Scored The Goal That Sank Don Cherry’s Coaching Career looked great, and was great with the adoring fans who lined the stairwells for a moment with monsieur Lafleur and his blue Sharpie.
Unfortunately the Flower wasn’t enough to bring more people through the turnstyles. More than half the rink was empty for opening night, and game #2? Well, you can see for yourself:
Hockey fans in Abbotsford were treated to another Hall of Famer at centre ice as the hometown Heat beat the Toronto Marlies 3-1 on Sunday afternoon. Two days after legendary forward Darryl Sittler opened the curtain on a 3-0 Heat win, goaltender Johnny Bower was in attendance to shake hands with Abbotsford goaltender Barry Brust, who earlier this season broke Bower’s AHL record for consecutive shutout minutes. Brust went 268:17 without allowing a goal, eclipsing Bower’s mark of 249:51, set with the 1957 Cleveland Barons.
Brust was called upon to relieve the injured Danny Taylor in the second period, and stopped all but one shot to record the win for Abbotsford.
Mark Cundari was again impressive for the Heat. He earned three assists, two minor penalties and a fight in his second game since being traded to the Calgary Flames organization in the Jay Bouwmeester deal. Cundari has quickly become a fan favourite in Abbotsford, leading many to lament the fact that he was not in the lineup earlier in the season when the team floundered through a series of “must-win” games.
In addition to the Bower / Brust tête-a-tête, fans witnessed the Heat’s franchise-best 23rd home victory in the final game at the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre this season. Sadly, those 46 points gained at home did not add up to a playoff spot for the Heat, whose road record leaves much to be desired. The team sits in 12th spot in the Western Conference and were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs despite the back-to-back wins this weekend.