In an attempt to not sound overly and unintentionally epic, I’ll curb my enthusiasm for the stellar performance by most of the Barons last night in Abbotsford. But if I wanted to, I could’ve called last nights OT winner a “monumental victory” or “a do or die, must win scenario”. I could gush about the gut-check the team upheld that was a man-sized demonstration of posturing. I could ramble on about the impact of the semi-forecheck from OKC that gave the Heat a taste of their own medicine. I could lament about Yann Danis who saved the keester of every man, woman, and child present in the arena. I might also mention Justin Schultz, God bless him and his clutchiness. Or perhaps Taylor Hall who went from dreadfully boring to high octane in 24 hours. Yes, I could say all of these things, but I won’t because it’s one game. One victory. And there are nearly 60 more games forthcoming, and to prematurely trump a Barons emergence would be stupid. Instead I’ll bask in the glow of a “good” win, against a “good” team, and leave it at that.
Indeed, the Barons marched towards victory against the never-lost-in-regulation Heat with goals from Taylor Hall, and another (in OT) from Justin Schultz.
The first period was the best first 20 minutes this team has played this season. Tons of shots, quick puck movement, solid goaltending, push-back forechecking, and just good old fashioned “greasy” hard work. Unwavering shots on net, thwarted beautifully by legit Heat tender Danny Taylor, the Barons eventually reached the 15 shots on goal mark. It was a dominate Barons period, but also quietly a good one by the Heat. It made for exciting, better-than-AHL hockey. Yee-haw. No penalties by either club in the first curbed the grind so to speak, and both teams were able to run and run and run. And for all the offensive entertainment in the first (despite zero goals), both goaltenders played well. Yann made a big save, but napped his way through 5 shots by the Heat. On the other end, Danny Taylor kept the Barons off the scoreboard 15 times, and that’s huge. Taylor is starting to pace towards the top guy in the league, and that’s good for the Heat, great for the Flames, and terrible for everyone else. Also highlighted in the first period was the rebirth of Hall-Nuge-Eberle line on the top. This had a trickle down effect, as all subsequent lines played better as well. And Mark Arcobello on the third line balanced the offensive threat throughout the lineup. The period ends in double zeros, and smiles on a few fan’s faces.
The second period was equally as quick, but also as defensively burly. The big highlight of the second period was a dandy of a quick step by Taylor Hall around a Heat defender. He then hit Eberle on the opposite wing for what was a sure thing goal. Danny Taylor, fully extended, blocks the puck in front of a wide open net. Yann Danis had some glorious moments and some lucky breaks as well. The Heat moved the puck out of the offensive zone with regularity and high efficiency. In the end, the shots tapered for OKC, and the Heat seemed to even things out in that particular department. The period ended with back-to-back Barons penalties, and back-to-back kills by the same team. After two, the score was still 0 all.
At the 7:46 mark of the third period, Taylor Hall scored on the one and only power play chance of the evening for the Barons. After tripping Hall, Joe Piskula gets tagged with the infraction. Hall to Schultz to Nugent-Hopkins to Hartikainen to Eberle who whistled a shot in. Hall whammyed in the rebound, and the Barons figure out the Heat PK, and take a 1-0 lead. In an under 2 minute situation for Abbotsford, the Heat scored after winning an offensive zone draw, cycling the puck to the left, and dropping the puck on net. A Ben Street shot from Danis’ right rebounded in front of him, and Dustin Sylvester caromed the puck into the goal. Period three ended, and the game was deadlocked at 1. OT was on the horizon.
It felt pertinent for the Barons to end this one before they could get to the shoot out, and that’s exactly what they did. Taylor Fedun worked the puck up the boards towards Jordan Eberle who streaked down the right side. He committed deep enough into the Heat zone that it pulled defenders away from Justin Schultz knifing down the center. Eberle hit him mid stride, and Schultz unreeled a laser that went around Danny Taylor. The Barons beat the Heat in OT to win 2-1. Greasy!