ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – An NHL-calibre shot and an NHL veteran proved too much for the Abbotsford Heat.
Mark Mancari’s second-period goal turned out to be the winner as the Chicago Wolves defeated the Abbotsford Heat 3-2 in American Hockey League action.
Mancari scored on a hard wrist shot that whistled past the glove of goaltender Danny Taylor to give his team a 3-0 lead.
Mancari also assisted on two first-period goals by Steve Reinprecht, a veteran of 663 NHL games.
“You put certain guys like Mancari in a position like that, the league stats tell you and history tells you that he’s going to bury more than he’s going to miss,” Abbotsford head coach Troy Ward said of Chicago’s leading goal scorer. “That was an NHL shot. I don’t blame (Taylor) on that one.”
Ward felt that Chicago’s experience and skill was better than his club’s on this night.
“Our moments of truth were not as moments of truth as theirs were,” Ward said. “They’ve just got some more polished players than we do at this particular juncture.”
Anton Rodin also had two assists for Chicago (22-16-4).
Matt Climie made 33 saves in the win and also recorded his eighth career AHL assist.
Ben Walter and Carter Bancks replied for Abbotsford.
Danny Taylor stopped 29 pucks in the losing effort for the Heat (25-15-3).
“It was tough to take a 3-0 deficit, but a fourth goal would have killed us,” said Abbotsford forward Guillaume Desbiens. “He kept us in and that’s what good goalies do.”
Chicago, which snapped a four-game losing streak, was making its first trip to Abbotsford since becoming the Vancouver Canucks’ top affiliate.
Since Abbotsford is a mere hour’s drive from Vancouver it has supplanted the rivalry the Heat had last season with the Manitoba Moose.
Desbiens was both a former Chicago Wolf, as well as a member of the Moose last season.
“It’s disappointing losing to them,” said Desbiens. “But they played better than us.”
The game definitely had the feeling of an intense rivalry.
“There were more people in the building,” said Desbiens of the above-average crowd of 5,000. “It’s the Canucks’ farm team. There’s more emotion involved. It was the same when I was playing for Manitoba coming to play here. There were always a couple fights, big hits and nice plays.”
The Wolves improved to 2-1-1 in the season series, with the two teams squaring off again Wednesday night.
The Wolves drew first blood at 8:53. Mancari fed the puck to Rodin in the slot, but instead of trying to split the defence the Swede dropped the puck to Reinprecht who slid it under Taylor for his fifth of the year.
Though Chicago carried the play through the first period it was Abbotsford that had the best scoring chance when Robby Dee one-timed a centring feed but was stymied by Climie.
Just after killing a penalty the Wolves doubled their lead. Mancari took a pass from Rodin and slid the puck towards the crease where Reinprecht redirected it for his second of the period at 18:13.
“I was just happy to contribute, really,” Reinprecht said. “We’ve been on a bit of a skid lately so we wanted to get a good start and we did.”
At 4:06 of the second period Chicago carried on where they left off. Tim Miller crossed the blue-line and dropped to Mancari, who fired a laser to corner on Taylor, giving him a team-high 17 goals on the year.
“Some nights your line clicks and some nights other lines click,” said Mancari. “Tonight it was our turn and I’m glad we could contribute like we did.”
Walter broke Climie’s shutout bid at 13:23 of the third at the tail end of a power play. Krys Kolanos’ point shot missed wide but it ricocheted out to Walter who had an open cage to pot his seventh of the season.
The Heat had not had a power play goal in six games so the goal carried more weight than just sparking a comeback.
“We’ve been struggling on the power play a bit and maybe that goal that Walter scored got us going,” Desbiens said. “We had a lot of good chances on there. Their goalie played really well.”
Bancks made it a one-goal game when he intercepted a clearing attempt in the slot and wristed the puck over the shoulder of Climie at 15:23. Bancks now has goals in consecutive games after a 21-games drought.
Despite numerous scoring chances, including a power play in the final two minutes, the Heat could not get the tying goal past Climie.
“My mindset was, don’t let them get the third one,” Climie said.