Hockey clubs will always have a few bad games over the course of a season. Good teams both limit these bad games in number, and in timing, so that they don’t happen at key times.
The Abbotsford Heat had a bad game on Saturday night.
They lost 7-2 to the Grand Rapids Griffins to go down 2-0 in their best-of-five Calder Cup opening round contest. Game 3 goes Wednesday in Grand Rapids. (Games 4 and 5 would also be in Grand Rapids, so they have quite the hill to climb.)
So what the heck happened?
Well, they had a decent first period. Emile Poirier and Max Reinhart scored, twice giving the Heat leads, but twice the Griffins came back and tied the game. They took the lead late in the first, on a short-handed breakaway goal by Cory Emmerton.
The second saw Grand Rapids go up 5-2, off a three-on-two rush finished by a nice snap-shot from just outside the slot by Jeff Hoggan. Goal five was well-played by Brett Kulak, using speed and positioning to keep Andrej Nestrasil to the outside. It didn’t matter, as his bad-angle shot eluded Joni Ortio, who was replaced in short order by back-up Jeff Carr.
The third period saw Carr give up two power-play goals – one on a screen from his own defender. Ortio gave up 5 goals on 31 shots and looked fairly decent; the second Nestrasil goal was not great, but he also had faced a lot of high-percentage chances due to Abbotsford’s defenders being not-great. Carr allowed 2 goals on 15 shots in his pro playoff debut.
In-general, the Heat played like a young team that lost a double-OT heartbreaker the night before. They did a lot of little things wrong; lapses in coverage, bad pinches leaving Markus Granlund back on a two-on-one, unintentional screens of the goaltender, dumb penalties. There legs weren’t entirely there all game. They got out-shot 46-17. Heck, they allowed a late goal in the first, basically nullifying a pretty good first 20 minutes in which they managed to (a) solve the puzzle that was Petr Mrazek and (b) contribute offensively on their power-play.
After that? Nothing. Nobody really stepped up, veteran or otherwise, to stop the skid or change momentum. Granted, Grand Rapids is a very strong team with great coaching that played a strong 60 minutes of hockey, but there wasn’t nearly the amount of push-back you’d expect from a young, desperate team playing at home.
Instead, they just seemed content to roll over and die.
Brett Kulak led the Heat with 3 shots on goal.
The Heat are back in action on Wednesday night with their season on the line in Grand Rapids. They need to win three straight, on the road, to advance to the next round.