VANCOUVER - With seven points in eight games, the Abbotsford Heat are hot but they've done it all at home.
Now head coach Troy Ward is intrigued to see whether he has a bunch of American Hockey League road warriors, too. He is going to find out soon enough as the Heat (3-0-1) play three away games in three nights, beginning Friday in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters. They meet the Monsters again Saturday before busing overnight to Hamilton for a 5 p.m. date Sunday with the Bulldogs.
How's that for an initiation?
“I'm anxious to see how we do certain things within our system and I'm anxious to see individuals and how they handle themselves on the road versus at home,” Ward said Wednesday as the Heat were en route to Cleveland. “There is a telling difference with a lot of players. We want to get the same player on the road as we do at home.
“So I will be looking at just how some guys perform in the road environment, how we can control the tempo of the game and manage the puck versus the way we did at home.”
Like any coach in any league, Ward doesn't particularly relish three road games in three nights, especially since all three in this case are against North Division opponents. The Heat, AHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames, have five three-in-threes during the course of their 76-game season.
“Obviously it's a heck of a trip for us,” Ward continued. “But that's why we're here. I mean, it's what a lot of these young players have to go through to make sure they're ready at the next level. These are kind of must things you have to do as a young pro. We're going to get into this all winter and this is our first crack at it.”
Ward still has three goalies on his roster – Danny Taylor, Barry Brust and Leland Irving – and has the option of using one in each game. Taylor has started three games while Brust appeared in the other. Irving, the Flames' first-round pick in 2006, will likely get one of the weekend outings. He split last season between the Heat and Flames.
“We've got to get Leland going,” Ward said. “He's most deserving to get in there. On a weekend like this, you'd like to see him get a game for sure.”
Ben Walter, son of team president Ryan, leads the Heat in scoring with seven points in four games, followed by elite prospect and linemate Sven Baertschi, who has six points.
A-NOTES: Former Vancouver Giants captain Lance Bouma (sprained right knee) did not make the trip after he was banged up Friday against the Chicago Wolves... Rookie centre Max Reinhart, son of Paul, has one assist in four games... Hamilton right winger Brendan Gallagher, also a former Giant captain, has one assist in four games.
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