TORONTO – Jon Rheault scored a pair of goals to lead the visiting Abbotsford Heat to a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Marlies on the final day of the American Hockey League’s regular season Sunday.
John Lammers, Shawn Weller and Tyler Spurgeon also scored for Abbotsford in front of 5,514 fans at Ricoh Coliseum. Lammers and Spurgeon added assists for two-point games, while defenceman Josh Meyers and winger Cam Cunning each collected a pair of helpers.
The win improved Abbotsford’s record to 39-29-12 on the season as the Heat finished in third place in the Western Conference’s North Division. Abbotsford will face the second-place Rochester Americans (44-33-3) in the first round of the AHL playoffs, which begin on Wednesday.
Centre Tim Brent provided both goals for Toronto as the Marlies concluded the season with a 33-35-12 record. The Marlies finished fifth in the North Division, nine points behind the Manitoba Moose (40-33-7), who earned the final playoff berth in the West.
“It was a pretty frustrating year for a lot of guys here,” Brent said. “We had a lot of injuries, a lot of call-ups, and we never had our team together for very long and that made it tough to get into a rhythm.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted, making the playoffs, but it wasn’t for lack of effort.”
Abbotsford goalie Leland Irving stopped 22-of-24 shots for the victory, including denying Toronto’s Ryan Hamilton on a short-handed breakaway midway through the first period and turning aside Alex Foster’s breakaway chance in the middle frame.
At the other end, Marlies goalie Andrew Engelage made 25 saves in a losing effort.
Abbotsford took a 1-0 lead after the first period – despite being outshot 15-6 – and was up 4-0 after 40 minutes.
“We took too many penalties,” Brent said, “and guys were pretty wound up before the game. We wanted to win to get to .500 . . . the last game of the year, it’s tough to get up for these kinds of games when you’re not really playing for a whole lot.”
Rheault opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 14:53 of the first period. The speedy winger wristed a rebound past Engelage during a scramble in front of the net after the Marlies goalie had stopped a point shot and the ensuing rebound.
Lammers made it 2-0 for the Heat when his shot on a 2-on-1 deflected off of Toronto defenceman Brennan Evans and past Engelage just 48 seconds into the second period.
It looked like it would remain 2-0 for Abbotsford through two periods until the Heat struck for a pair of quick goals 40 seconds apart late in the second period. Weller deflected a point shot past Engelage at 18:26 and then Rheault collected his second goal of the game when he slid a low shot from the slot past Engelage’s stick side at 19:06.
Brent snapped Irving’s shutout bid early in the third period when he deflected defenceman Phil Oreskovic’s point shot past the Heat goalie at 2:15 of the final frame.
The score remained 4-1 until the final minute, when Spurgeon scored at 19:36 and Brent capped it for the Marlies at 19:54.