After a shaky first period, the Abbotsford Heat out-shot the Chicago Wolves 33-15 in the final forty minutes and never looked back once they took the lead in the third period before a sold-out crowd at the AESC.
The Canucks' affiliate took the lead just after the halfway mark of the first period when Zack Kassian slipped one by Barry Brust, appearing in his first game of the season for the Heat. The Wolves were indisputably the better team through twenty minutes Saturday night, maintaining a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Once the Heat started to find their legs and get some shots on goal, it looked as though Canucks goalie prospect Eddie Lack was going to steal the game for the Wolves, but the home team finally broke through with a goal from Carter Bancks, his first of the season, just over five minutes into the second period.
Abbotsford continued their strong play in the final frame when Dustin Sylvester scored to put his team ahead 2-1 and it wasn't long before Sven Baertschi doubled the Heat's advantage with his third of the season at 12:44.
Baertschi had another two-point game and was +2 last night, earning first star honours, but also surprised some people with the physicality of his game. He was awarded a charging penalty early on but the 5"11, 189 lb. forward also stood up to 6"3 Zack Kassian late in the game. It's always nice to see a little bit of edge from a skilled player and hopefully it's a sign of things to come for Baertschi at the NHL-level.
The Heat were short some man-power last night with Lance Bouma, Greg Nemisz, and Paul Byron out but Max Reinhart still did a nice job holding down the fort on the penalty kill, which remained perfect on all four Wolves powerplay attempts last night. Horak's PP goal late in the game also kept the Heat's special teams magic alive for one more game.
The Heat have yet to lose in regulation through four games, and if Danny Taylor and Barry Brust continue to play so well, it might be a while before Leland Irving gets a start. It could be that the Heat are "saving" Irving for later in the season in case one of their other goalies goes down so as not to eat into the 50-game limit on his professional try-out agreement, but I don't think it would be a bad idea to get him into some games early on so that he doesn't come in completely cold if there's an injury mid-season.
The Heat hit the road for their next three games when they take on the Lake Erie Monsters on Friday, October 26th (Miikka Kiprusoff's birthday!) in another back-to-back tilt before traveling to Hamilton to close out the month.