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The Abbotsford Heat are two years in the making after they took over as AHL affiliate to the National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames from Quad City (Illinois) in 2009.
The move to the left coast meant the Heat are now the furthest AHL organization geographically situated west and the only team located in the Pacific Time Zone.
The Heat play at the 7,018-seat Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
In their inaugural 2009-10 season Abbotsford finished a respectable third place with a 39-29-5-7 record and made it to the second round of playoffs, losing to the Hamilton Bulldogs in six games.
In 2010-11 the Heat finished with a similar record, 38-32-4-6, but narrowly missed out on a playoff birth finishing fourth in the North Division.
This year’s squad features highly touted defenceman T.J. Brodie, who will likely see a bunch of time in Calgary with the Flames.
In net Leland Irving returns after a bounce-back 2010-11 campaign (30 wins, 2.34 GAA and a .913 save percentage), after the former first-round NHL pick lost his starting position in 2009-10. When on his game, Irving is one of the premier goaltenders in the AHL.
Veterans Matt Keith, 28; Ben Walter, 27 – son of retired Vancouver Canuck Ryan Walter; and Jon Rheult, 25 ; shoulder the load on offence, with blue-chip prospects Greg Nemisz, 21, and newcomer Ryan Howse, 20 – fresh of a 51-goal season in the WHL – are expected to contribute as well.
Troy Ward takes over as head coach in 2010-11 from Jim Playfair, who was bench boss for the Heat’s first two seasons.
Ward joins the Heat after three years with the Houston Aeros, the Minnisota Wild’s AHL affiliate where he served time as assistant coach and assistant general manager.