WINNIPEG – Cam Cunning insists he doesn’t have a go-to breakaway move.
But Cunning certainly showed a deft touch, scoring on a penalty shot as the Abbotsford Heat earned a 3-2 shootout win over the Manitoba Moose in American Hockey League action Friday night.
“I don’t really have one of those, I don’t know where that move came from,”he said.“I think it looked pretty good, though.”
Greg Nemisz and Jon Rheault scored in the shootout while goalie Leland Irving was solid in leading Abbotsford (21-18-6) to the win before 8,153 spectators at MTS Centre.
Cunning, 25, of Powell River, B.C., scored twice in regulation, including on the penalty shot in the second.
“The Moose goaltender came out pretty far so I just faked the shot and went to the backhand,”Cunning said of his ninth goal of the year.“I had some speed so all I had to do was just lift it over his pad as he slid back into the net.”
Cunning’s second goal was stellar, a nifty backhand that found a spot under the cross bar. But it was his first of the game that indicated it was going to be Abbotsford’s night.
He was credited with the goal thanks to a huge mistake by Moose netminder Eddie Lack with five minutes to go in the first period.
After going down to stop a weak shoot-in from Cunning in his crease, Lack paused with the puck briefly before looking up to see what was coming his way. Stickhandling from his knees, the Swedish goaltender lost control of the puck and could only watch as it slid into the net.
Irving said the faux pas gave his team some jump against a Manitoba squad that had Abbotsford’s number this season. Before Friday’s game, the Moose had won three straight against their North Division rival.
“That was a big goal for us,”said Irving, who stopped 24 shots in regulation and four more in the shootout.“For some reason Manitoba has had our number this season so to get a goal like that gave us some confidence.
“You saw that in the way we played out there.”
Lack stopped 28 shots for Manitoba, which struggled to generate any consistent attack without leading scorer Sergei Shirokov. The talented Russian, who had 16 goals, is currently with the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks.
Forwards Jordan Schroeder and Ryan Cruthers had the goals for Manitoba (24-12-6).
The Moose were 1-for-6 on the power play while the Heat went 0-for-2.
Manitoba and Abbotsford conclude this two-game series Sunday.
NOTES—Schroeder missed 16 games with an ankle injury before returning the lineup Friday. … The win moves the Heat (48 points) into sole possession of fourth in the North Division, a point up on idle Toronto.…Manitoba (54 points) drops a point behind the Hamilton Bulldogs in the race for first place. The Bulldogs beat the Connecticut Whale 7-3 on Friday. … The loss ends a three-game win streak for Moose against the Heat. Dating back to last season, Manitoba holds a 9-2-2 versus Abbotsford. … Friday’s contest marked the start of a season-long 10-game road trip for the Heat.