The Abbotsford Heat did everything but win on Tuesday night.
The Heat outshot the Toronto Marlies 36 to 17, dominated much of the 5 on 5 game and dialed up their physicality only to fall 3-1 in Game Four of the best-of-seven series.
Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals goes Wednesday night at the AESC.
It was all Heat from the first puck drop, keeping the Marlies in their own zone and working the puck well down low. When the puck was cleared back into Heat territory, even the break outs were crisp and effective. On more than one occasion a Heat D-man would make a laser cross-ice pass to the far side blue line for a waiting forward.
It seemed as though Troy Ward had figured out a system to solve the Marlies’ neutral zone pressure.
Despite outshooting their opponents 10 to 3 in the first period, the Heat weren’t able to register a goal until finally getting rewarded in the second. Moments after killing off an Adam Estoclet penalty, Ben Walter whipped the puck towards the net from the left half-wall. The goal was originally credited to Walter. However, it would turn out to be a Hugh Jessiman marker after what Marlies’ goaltender Ben Scrivens would call after the game, “an NHL level re-direction.”
After 40 minutes it was 1-0 Heat and the shots were 23-10 in their favour.
Unfortunately for Abbotsford however, Marlies’ winger Greg Scott must have re-tied his skates in the second intermission because he came out blazing in the third.
Scott ripped down the right wing a few minutes into the period and went top shelf over Danny Taylor’s left shoulder. Taylor looked unprepared on the goal, perhaps from a lack of work up to that point.
Troy Ward commented on the poor timing of his team’s goals against, “This has been a common problem at home for us, we’ve dominated 5 on 5 against some teams territorially, we don’t often times get rewarded at home for it and we give up a lot of first chance goals.”
The powerplay woes continued for the Heat, as they went 0-for-5 on the night and gave up a short-handed tally to go down 2-1. Greg Scott notched his second of the night after stealing the puck at the blue line and racing down ice. He deposited a five-hole deke at the 7:11 mark.
Scott then killed the game off later in the period by out-battling a Heat defender for the opportunity to score his third of the evening. He completed the natural hat trick with an empty net marker at 19:31.
“This year I wanted a shoot first mentality and I going into this game I was a little overdue,” Scott said of his offensive explosion. “I don’t think we played a great game overall, but you have to give credit to our guys, we came out with the victory.”
Troy Ward and the Heat will look ahead to Wednesday, when they will try to keep their Calder Cup Playoffs going.
“There’s not much to change, we did everything but score.”
According to Ward the Heat will have the talents of leading scorer Krys Kolanos back on the bench for Game 5.
Callum Ng covers the Calgary Flames and Abbotsford Heat for The Hockey Writers. Twitter @CallumNg