ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – Hoping to avoid falling into a 3-1 hole for the second straight series, the Abbotsford Heat turned to their rookie line of Mitch Wahl, Carter Bancks and Lance Bouma on Thursday.
The move paid off as Wahl scored twice and the trio led the way in a 4-1 American Hockey League victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs Thursday that evened their best-of-seven North Division final at two games apiece.
“It’s a good feeling, I think Bancks, Bouma and I have played really well together the last two games and given the coaches confidence,” Wahl said. “The more we can play well and play hard like that I think the more confidence they’ll have in us.
“That’s what we want in the end.”
Game 5 is Saturday evening in Abbotsford.
Wahl, who finished up his CHL eligibility with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs in April, picked up the eventual game-winner near the five-minute mark of the second as he put a backhand shot through the pads of Bulldogs starter Cedrick Desjardins for his first of the post-season.
“It was a good look by (Brett) Sutter, he just put it right on my tape and I just kind of took it to my backhand and slid it in,” Wahl said. “I don’t know how it went in, I think it went five-hole, but it was in the back of the net so I was happy.”
The Calgary Flames’ second-round selection from 2008 picked up his second of the night early in the third.
Bouma, Calgary’s third-round selection from 2008, opened the scoring for his first professional goal as he put home a bouncing puck in the crease.
Bancks, who signed with the Heat last month, finished up his CHL eligibility with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and picked up his first professional point with an assist on Bouma’s tally.
“I hadn’t planned on putting them all together,” said Abbotsford coach Jim Playfair of his youngsters. “As the game played out (Tuesday) night they worked well together and I thought they responded well tonight.
“It’s good for the organization right? Everyone talks about how (Calgary’s) cupboards are empty, nothing on the shelves, there’s no future in Calgary – well watch these kids play and I think you’ll change your tune.”
David Van Der Gulik also scored for Abbotsford.
Ryan Russell picked up the lone goal for the Bulldogs as he one-timed a feed from Aaron Palushaj past Heat goalie David Shantz.
“We knew they were going to come out real strong, when you’re up against the reality of maybe a 3-1 series or having it 2-2 obviously you’re going to come out strong,” said Hamilton head coach Guy Boucher. “We have five guys that are sick, who weren’t in the line-up cause we have the virus going.
“We knew we were going to be in tough tonight.”
Both teams combined for ten chances with the man advantage. The Heat got the lone power-play goal going 1-for-5 with the man advantage while holding the Bulldogs scoreless on five opportunities.
Desjardins made 25 saves in his fourth loss of the playoffs while Shantz picked up his sixth win turning aside 26 Bulldog shots.