Time: 8:00 pm MST
Location: Abbotsford AESC
Broadcast: abbotsforheat.com, teamradio.ca
It’s time for another B2B series against the Lake Erie Monsters, this time in the warm confines of the AESC. Abbotsford split their series with the Barons last weekend and remain the only team in the Western Conference with just a single loss in regulation so far.
Roman Horak has gone two games without a goal for the first time this season, but is still averaging more than four shots on net per game. Sven Baertschi had himself a very up-and-down night in the 2-1 OTL to OKC, at times looking very much like a rookie still finding his legs at the pro level. He went pointless despite managing to generate some quality chances, but it was his play in the defensive zone that was really suspect. Every kid has his bumps in the road and Baertschi still seems to be testing to see what he can and can’t get away with at this level. As a guy who had his way with the WHL last year, Baertschi is probably used to being able to freestyle a bit all over the ice. Here’s hoping he learns how to reel things in, particularly south of center ice.
Interestingly, Danny Taylor continues to be the Heat’s go-to guy in net. He played both games vs the baby Oilers and was excellent both nights. Taylor now boasts a .938 save percentage which is good for 6th best in the league through the early going. At this rate, Leland Irving won’t be getting back in net any time soon.
If Taylor manages to hang on to the starters job all year, the Flames may have to consider signing him to a two-way deal next summer (assuming the NHL is actually playing by then).
On the Lake Erie side of the ledger, the Monsters are actually second in the Western Conference, one of the few teams with more points than the Heat. The Avalanche’s farm team is 7-3-0 in their last 10 and boast six 10+ point getters already (the Heat have three). There isn’t a lot of star power in their line-up, but they apparently have a pretty balanced attack.
As usual, we can’t really be sure what Ward’s lines are going to look like until the game starts. Here’s a guess:
- Baertschi – Walter – Horak
- Street – Byron – Sylvester
- Ferland – Reinhart – Estoclet
- Olson – Laing – Bancks
- Brodie – Piskula
- Breen – McCarthy
- Callahan – Lamb
A guy who really caught my eye Saturday night was Ben Street. He has good acceleration and makes smart decisions in the offensive zone. He deserved more than the one assist he managed in the game for sure.
In contrast, Brady Lamb continues to underwhelm me on the back-end. At 24 years old, I expected the free agent signing to leap more or less fully formed into the league, but his tools – particularly his skating which seems especially subpar – left me wanting. He scored 9 goals and 31 points in his final season for Minnesota-Duluth so there should be some offense there, but he’ll have to climb beyond the third pairing to show it off.
I assume Taylor will be back in again, but anything is possible. I expect at least one of Brust or Irving to see some time in the net during this two-fer.
Not sure how the Monsters are lining up these days, so I will re-post some lines from their previous games versus Abby.
- Van Der Gulik – Agozzino – Walker
- Malone – Olver – Thomas
- Lerg – Sgarbossa – Heard
- Bordeleau – Carey – Thomas
- Pock – Barrie
- Elliot – Stollery
- Gaunce – Goers
Undrafted, free agent signing Michael Sgarbossa actually leads the Monsters in scoring with 13 points in 13 games. That’s due in no small part to his six goals on just 19 shots (32% SH%), but it’s a nice story all the same. The other guys to worry about on the Monsters are Bryan Lerg (11 points), Andrew Aggozino (10 points) and defenders Thomas Pock (11 points) and Tyson Barrie (10 points).
Calvin Pickard has been by far the superior netminder so far with a .925 SV%, so expect him in net.
Sum It Up
The Heat are chasing the Monsters in the WC standings, but have two games in on hand on them. They can make it less of a race tonight and tomorrow by taking as many points in regulation as possible.