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Gaunce's OT goal lifts Stars past shorthanded Heat
The vast majority of the Abbotsford Heat's elite offensive components were in Calgary on Wednesday evening, the AHL club's roster having been picked clean by recalls on NHL trade deadline day.
The Heat, though, managed to grind out a point against the Western Conference-leading Texas Stars, falling 4-3 in overtime at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
Travis Morin of the Stars and Sven Baertschi of the Heat exchanged power-play goals in the first period, but the Heat suffered a letdown over the last 10 minutes of the second period which yielded late goals from Jamie Oleksiak and Scott Glennie to stake the visitors to a 3-1 lead through 40 minutes.
Abbotsford managed to rally, though, as Blair Jones and Brett Olson found the net in the final frame to force OT.
Stars defenceman Cameron Gaunce notched the game-winner – he jumped into the rush and pounced on a rebound off ex-Heat forward Justin Dowling's initial shot.
Heat goalie Olivier Roy took the loss after stopping 27 of 31 shots, while his Texas counterpart Cristopher Nilstorp made 33 saves on 36 shots.
The Stars (35-16-8, 78 points) maintained their grip on first place in the Western Conference, while the Heat (33-19-7, 73 points) sit fourth.
It was Abbotsford's sixth consecutive loss, but given the events of the day, it was an admirable effort. With key contributors like centre Markus Granlund and goalie Joni Ortio already up with the NHL parent Calgary Flames, forwards Max Reinhart, Corban Knight and Ben Hanowski and goalie Joey MacDonald were summoned on Wednesday. Those moves were prompted by the Flames trading away winger Lee Stempniak and goalie Reta Berra on deadline day.
The Heat did get defenceman Derek Smith back from Calgary, but the mass exodus of forwards meant blueliner Brady Lamb was asked to play out of position up front.
"We have a different group it seems like every game, so we have to learn to win with this particular group," Heat head coach Troy Ward noted. "As it changes, that takes a lot of patience.
"We had guys all over the rink that normally don't normally play in those spots, and what a wonderful opportunity," he added, noting that playing well in expanded roles can go a long way towards advancing careers, either with the Flames/Heat or in another organization.
"In life, I told them that it only takes one person to like you. That's all it is. Some of them are still searching for that person off the ice, and some are still searching for that person in the rink. That's the reality of the business, buddy. You're trying to find one person to like you."
It was a big night for the erstwhile Heat players in Calgary – Knight made his NHL debut, Granlund notched his first career NHL goal (assisted by Reinhart) and Ortio earned his first big-league victory in a 4-1 triumph over the Ottawa Senators.
Abbotsford hosts the fifth-place Chicago Wolves (33,18-6, 72 points) on Saturday (7 p.m. start) and Sunday (4 p.m.) at the AESC.