Like much of the second half of their season, the past two weeks have been up and down for the Abbotsford Heat. After back-to-back wins over the Utica Comets, the Heat fell to the Toronto Marlies in a game where they allowed six goals.
Upon returning home to the AESC on April 4th, however, the Heat were victorious again, defeating the Rockford Ice Hogs 6-3 and 5-3 in back-to-back games.
The Heat have gained and lost a few players over the course of the past two weeks or so. Flames 2013 first-round pick Morgan Klimchuk was assigned to Abbotsford after completing his season with the Regina Pats, who were booted out in the first round of the WHL playoffs. Klimchuk has not yet appeared in any games for the Heat, however.
013 third-round pick Keegan Kanzig joined the team a few days earlier, and the Heat also signed defencemen Zach Tolkinen who previously played with Quinnipiac University and forward Collin Valcourt, who appeared in four playoff games this spring with the Prince Albert Raiders (WHL).
Defencemen Chad Billins, Chris Breen and Mark Cundari were called up by the Flames, who continue to deal with injuries on the blueline as they head into their final two games of the season.
While it doesn't look like he'll be back up with the Flames this season, Sven Baertschi has been on fire lately, and unlike the Flames it appears he will see playoff action this spring. Baertschi tied a team record with five points in the Heat's 6-3 victory over the Ice Hogs last Friday, and has 18 points in his past 12 games.
Baertschi was named the CCM AHL Player of Week last week, and presented with a very official-sounding award.
Heat goalie Joni Ortio also received an honour this week, as he was named to the 2013-14 AHL All-Rookie Team yesterday. Ortio has played very well for the Heat recently and has again become the go-to-guy over the course of the past three weeks; the Finnish 'tender has appeared in several games for the Heat where he has made over 40 saves to steal the win for Abbotsford, and has obviously earned the trust of coach Troy G. Ward, who seems to be going with the hot hand in net.
Olivier Roy has really taken a back seat lately as Joni Ortio has again become the number one guy for Abbotsford since his return from the Flames.
Roy has not played since March 15th in a 3-1 loss to the Utica Comets at home, a game the Heat likely should have won fairly easily.
Forward Corban Knight went pointless for four games from March 23rd-30th, but now has four goals and five points in his past two games.
The Heat still lay claim to second place in the West Division with 39 wins and 85 points through 71 games so far. They won't catch the Texas Stars who lead the division and the conference with 99 points, but they're 10 points clear of Rockford, the team they beat in back-to-back games last week, and with five games remaining in the season, they should be able to clinch a playoff berth shortly.
The Milwaukee Admirals currently pose the biggest threat to the Heat in the standings, as they sit just two points back of Abbotsford. However, the Oklahoma City Barons, their next opponent, aren't that far behind either...
The Heat take on the Oklahoma City Barons tomorrow evening at the AESC and then again on Sunday afternoon. The Barons currently sit in seventh place in the Western Conference with 77 points in 71 games, and could make things slightly less comfortable for the Heat if they manage to come away with all four points.
Abbotsford will then close out the regular season with three consecutive games against the San Antonio Rampage and the Texas Stars next Thursday, Friday and Saturday.