ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – Trailing 3-0 just 13 minutes into the game, the Abbotsford Heat called on Leland Irving to turn things around.
He didn’t disappoint.
Mikael Backlund had a goal and an assist and Irving made 14 saves in relief as the Heat scored six straight goals in the final forty minutes to double up the Lake Erie Monsters 6-3 in American Hockey League action Saturday night.
Backlund’s goal at the nine-minute mark of the third stood to be the winner as he redirected a feed from Staffan Kronwall past Monsters starter Billy Sauer.
“I just went straight to the net and I saw Kronwall on the right side there and it was a great pass by him,” said Backlund. “He was just looking for my stick and I was just trying to tip it on net.”
The Heat (21-18-6) trailed 3-0 after a disastrous opening 13 minutes in which starter Matt Keetley surrendered three goals on nine shots.
T.J. Hensick, Mike Bartlett and Matthew Ford all beat the Heat starter, chasing him from the net in favour of Irving.
“The first five minutes our goalie (Billy Sauer) did a fantastic job just trying to help us get our feet under ourselves,” said Monsters head coach David Quinn. “I thought we played well the last 15 minutes of the first, played real well the first 10 of the second.
“Then things started changing on us, they got two goals at the end of the second and we just didn’t have anything for the third.”
Abbotsford took over in the final two periods, outshooting Lake Erie 36-11.
“I thought we were positive the whole game,” said Heat forward J.D. Watt. “I thought there was a good feeling in the dressing room before the game and we all knew those three goals weren’t good goals.”
John Negrin got the comeback started in the second when he one-timed a Backlund feed past Sauer.
Watt cut the Lake Erie lead to one later in the period when he beat Sauer for his sixth of the season.
In the third it was all Abbotsford as Jason Jaffray, Backlund, Cam Cunning and Keith Seabrook all beat Sauer in a span of under four minutes.
“Jimmy (Playfair) just came in here and told us to stick to our game plan and finally it paid of for us,” said Cunning. “We’ve been in this situation a lot lately, we’ve been playing hard, but we’ve been down going into the third. It was great confidence boost for all of us to come back and get it done.”
Sauer made 44 saves for the Monsters (20-20-4).