AGD: Wrapping it up in Houston

Time: 4:00pm MST

Location: Houston Toyota Center

Broadbast: abbotsfordheat.com, teamradio.ca

The Heat can wrap up a three game sweep today in Houston after taking out the San Antonio Rampage in a S/O 3-2 last night. That victory marked the second extra time win for Abbotsford on this road trip and was also a record breaker for Barry Brust.

Houston represents the stiffest test for the Heat on this road trip, although that’s mainly because both the Rampage and Stars are bottom barrel clubs in the Western Conference. The Aeros are the AHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild and currently sit tied for sixth in the West (with five other teams) with 19 points. They have a number of recognizable names and with the Heat playing their third game in three days (two of which went into overtime), it’s a good bet Abbotsford’s going to struggle through some tired legs at some point today.

The Line-up

Nemisz didn’t make the roster yesterday, but his fresh energy sure would be a welcome addition today.

  • Baertschi – Walter – Nemisz
  • Olson – Street – Estoclet
  • Horak – Byron – Bancks
  • Ruesegger – Reinhart – Laing
  • Brodie – Piskula
  • Breen – McCarthy
  • McKelvie – Lamb
  • Taylor

Dustin Sylvester found himself and healthy scratch yesterday, as did Kolanos and Ferland. I would expect likely one or two of those guys to make their way back into the line-up today. It has to be a frustrating time for Kolanos, who was far and away the Heat’s best offensive player last year. He’s always been plagued by skating and effort issues throughout his career, but I doubt he expected to be so consistently squeezed out of the active roster this year given his output last season.

The only guys scoring right now seem to be Ben Street, Sven Baertschi and Brett Olson. They were together last night at the end of the game when Olson scored the game tying goal with 14 seconds left. They might actually emerge as a new unit today, particularly given how cold guys like Ben Walter and Roman Horak have gone.

 The Opposition

The Wild have a nice collection of youngsters on the Aeros. Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund are former first rounders (Granlund is injured), but Jason Zucker is another name to keep in mind. A second rounder in 2010, Zucker was a high scorer for the University of Denver in each of the last two seasons. He is currently second on the team in points with 14 points in 13 games.

  • Larsson – Coyle – Zucker
  • Broda – Phillips – Bulmer
  • McMillan – Fontaine – McIntyre
  • Focault – Rau – Palmieri
  • Kempfer – Cuma 
  • Bagnall – Connelly
  • Genoway – Baldwin
  • Hackett

Another name of interest if Justin Fontaine, a free agent 25 year old out of Minnesota Duluth. He’s small at 5’10", 170, but was a high scorer in college and currently leads the team with 15 points. On the back-end, Flames fans will recognize Brian Connelly, the undersized, offensive defenseman the team got from Chicago in exchange for Brendan Morrison last year. Also, Joel Broda is a former Calgary Hitman entering his third pro season with the Minnesota organization.

Matt Hackett has a few good pro seasons under his belt and is expected to challenge for an NHL spot sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, he’s struggling through a dry spell currently, sporting an untidy .898 save pcertange through 13 starts. There’s little chance he will continue to let pucks in at that rate over the long term though.

Sum It up

The Heat have pulled a couple of wins out of the fire on this road trip, but they’re facing the best team on the junket this afternoon at the tail end of three games in three days. A win and sweep would be quite the feat.