Mercifully for the stumbling Heat, tonight’s tilt against the Rockford Ice Hogs is the last game before the Christmas break for the team. After yesterday’s 5-1 whipping at the hands of the Grand Rapids Griffins, I’m sure most of the guys are just looking forward to getting home and seeing their families.
The Ice Hogs are a middling club in the West, currently sitting tied for 7th with 30 points. That said, they have scored 25 more goals than the Heat (96 to 67) in one more game played. Rockford is the affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks (even though the city of Chicago has an AHL squad, oddly) and boast a few memorable names like Brandon Saad, Jeremy Morin, Marcus Kruger, Kyle Beach and Nick Leddy. Not a lot of A-1 stars, but depth form top-to-bottom of the roster.
Abbotsford, on the other hand, continue to struggle to score goals. Sven Baertschi may not return until the new year, so the team will have to find a way to put pucks by goalies without him.
- Horak – Street – Sylvester
- Kolanos – Byron – Walter
- Olson – Rienhart – Nemisz
- Bancks – Laing – Aliu
- Brodie – Piskula
- Breen – Callahan
- McKelvie – Tuzzolino
Looking at the gamesheet from yesterday, seems like the lines went through a bit of blender. Hard to blame Ward for that given how ineffectual the offense has been. Since both Taylor and Brust gave up a few goals last night it might be Irving’s turn back in net. That or Taylor will get another shot at it.
Fun fact – with the team down 4-1 in the third, Ward pulled the goalie with a few minutes left resulting in the Griffins fifth and final tally of the night. I don’t think the coach honestly thought a comeback was in order, but he may have just wanted to see his guys put more than one goal up on the board for a change. No such luck.
The Ice Hogs have four skaters with 20+ points (the Heat have none), one of which is rookie defender Adam Clendening. A former 2nd round pick by the organization, Clendening put up good but not great offense in college hockey, so this is quite the start to his pro career.
- Morin – St. Pierre – Smith
- Beach – Kruger – Hayes
- Saad – Pirri – Shaw
- Brookbank – Flick – Bollig
- Leddy – Clendening
- Ledba – Olsen
- Stanton – Lalonde
Other team leaders include AHL veteran Martin St. Pierre (26 points), part-time NHLer from last year Ben Smith (22 points) and 21-year old Brandon Pirri (21 points). Pirri is entering his third pro season and is a favorite to press for an NHL spot sooner rather than later. Kyle Beach was once a highly regarded junior player and a top-15 draft pick, but his pro career has been mediocre at best. He has just 12 points in 24 games so far.
Also remember Phillipe Paradis, the Hurricanes first round pick from 2009? Yeah he’s on this team too. And he’s terrible.
Sum it up
December has been a disaster for the Heat and at this point just escaping a game with more than 2 goals on the board would be considered a victory. Here’s hoping they can snap the cold spell before the holiday break.