TORONTO – Abbotsford Heat head coach Jim Playfair expects a lot out of Colin Stuart and the left-winger delivered on Tuesday night.
Stuart scored twice to lead the way for the Heat as Abbotsford shut out the Toronto Marlies 3-0 in American Hockey League action. “Being a veteran player, he’s got a responsibility to bring points, power play responsibility and penalty killing responsibility,” said Playfair of Stuart. “He’s played in the NHL and knows what it takes to have a team function properly and win.”
Stuart, 27, scored on the game’s first shot, 5:35 into the first period and added another on a second-period power play. Garth Murray also scored for Abbotsford in front of 1,686 fans at Ricoh Coliseum.
Abbotsford goaltender Matt Keetley stopped 26 shots for his first win of the season as the Heat improved to 13-12-4 and 5-4-1 in their past 10 games.
“I’m proud of him,” Playfair said of Keetley, who was sent to Victoria of the ECHL earlier in the season to recoup from an injury. “He came back up here and I thought he struggled a little bit, but he found his game tonight and that’s the important thing for kids to believe they can win.”
Marlies rookie Adam Engelage made 17 saves in the loss, which snapped Toronto’s four-game point streak and dropped their record to 10-8-4.
The game began to unravel for the Marlies after Murray made it 2-0 of a rebound for his sixth of the season.
Toronto defenceman Josh Engel took a penalty less than a minute after Murray’s goal. On the ensuing power play, defenceman Keith Seabrook’s point shot ricocheted off bodies in front of the Marlies goal, leaving Stuart with an open net for his seventh of the season.
“We’ve been on the other side of that so often this year,” Playfair said of the penalties. “Too many have been poor decisions and lacklustre play, but by us playing hard we were able to push them in that area and it was a big part of we wore them down in the second period.”
Abbotsford began the second period on its heels as Toronto came out strong, outshooting the Heat before taking three straight penalties, a trend that continued into the third period.
Abbotsford was 1-for-7 with the man advantage, while Toronto was 0-for-4.
The Marlies finished a six-game homestand at 3-2-1 and fell to 7-3-2 at Ricoh Centre this season.
Abbotsford improved to 3-1 on their Eastern road trip and 8-6-1 away from home on the season.
“We tried to get on the forecheck,” said Playfair. “We wanted to come in here and work this team in the first period, because we know they’re a hard-working team and have success here on a long home stand.
The Heat’s next action is Saturday and Sunday at home versus Rochester. The Marlies begin a home-and-home series with Hamilton Friday at Copps Coliseum.
Notes: Robert Slaney and Greg Scott were called up to the Marlies from ECHL affiliate Reading Royals Tuesday morning. … The Heat scored on its first shot of the game. … The Marlies have now been outscored 36-11 this season in second periods this season.