ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - Even in a six-goal offensive performance by the Abbotsford Heat, Sven Baertschi's goal stood out.
Baertschi scored on a highlight-reel play late in the first period that proved to be the winner as Abbotsford defeated the Peoria Rivermen 6-2 on Saturday night in American Hockey League action.
"Those types of goals, you kind of just go, 'wow,' all of us do," said Heat head coach Troy Ward. "It's the gift of the American Hockey League right now. You pay however much you paid to come to this game and say 'can I see NHL-type goals?' Well, that's an NHL-type goal from an NHL-type player.
"It's a real pleasure to have that type of talent here in the American League."
The Swiss left-winger now has four points in the first two games of the AHL season, following Abbotsford's 4-1 victory Friday.
"We have a lot of young guys in there that wanted to show what they can do," said Heat centre Ben Walter. "Look at a guy like Sven. He's dynamic and fun to play with. Guys feed of those younger guys and their energy."
Walter scored Saturday in what was his 500th AHL game. The 28-year-old has amassed 413 points with four clubs and this weekend found himself on a line with the Calgary Flames' 2011 first-round draft pick.
"He's found a niche with Baertschi and (Dustin Sylvester) right now and they seem to have a little bit of magic," said Ward.
Sylvester had a goal and an assist, while Lance Bouma, Roman Horak, and Krys Kolanos had singles for the Heat (2-0-0).
"We were practising the last couple weeks, trying to figure each other out, where the other guys are going to be on the ice and it paid off," said Heat defenceman T.J. Brodie.
Brodie definitely knew where his teammates were Saturday, picking up three assists. Brodie started last season with the Heat but was called up to the Flames in November and never looked back, playing top-four minutes at times. He is clearly the best defenceman on a team that includes one-time NHLers Steve McCarthy, Joe Callahan, and Joe Piskula.
"He gives us the only player back there that has that type of mojo," said Ward. "The rest are ham-and-eggers, a late-night meal of ham and eggs. But T.J. has to grow. He has to become a little more dynamic. And this is a wonderful time for his development.
"He played a lot of minutes last year for the Flames and now he gets to come down here and hone-in on some skills that maybe he wouldn't have been afforded to if the NHL started."
Danny Taylor made his second-straight start, stopping 17 of 19 shots for the victory.
Once again, top-prospect Leland Irving was a scratch while ex-NHLer Barry Brust was Taylor's backup.
"It's Danny's net right now," said Ward, suggesting that he may also get the not next Friday when the Chicago Wolves — the Vancouver Canucks' affiliate — comes to Abbotsford.
Anthony Peluso and Sergey Andronov had goals for Peoria (0-2-0), the St. Louis Blues' top affiliate. Jake Allen, who was pulled Friday night, stopped 27 shots Saturday, having allowed 10 goals in his first five periods of play.
"It's the first two games of the season, and obviously we've got some work to do," said Peoria's Jaden Schwartz. "Give them credit, they have a good team over there. They got some bounces and capitalized on them. We've got to play a full 60 minutes."
The Rivermen opened the scoring just shy of the game's two-minute mark.
Peluso rushed down the left wing and released a hard wristshot that handcuffed Taylor, giving him two goals already this year. He had just four all of last season.
Abbotsford scored soon after on a tic-tac-toe passing play. Brodie carried the puck across the blue-line, fed it to Street across the ice before the Coquitlam, B.C. native dropped it to Bouma for a one-timer that went to corner.
It was the first of the season for Bouma, who played 27 games for the Flames last season.
Peoria regained the lead at 9:10. Andronov's shot from a bad angle deflected off the glove of Taylor and in. David Shields and Schwartz picked up the assists on Andronov's first AHL goal.
Walter tied the game again at 14:16, lifting a rebound of a Baertschi wristshot over Allen's pads for his second of the young season.
The Heat took the lead on the power play at 18:37. Baertschi one-timed a pass from Brodie just under the bar.
Abbotsford increased the lead at 3:13 of the second. Horak pushed over the goaltender in his attempt to get out of the crease and while Allen scrambled to his feet Horak buried a centring feed from Brett Olson.
Eleven minutes into the second Peoria's Mark Cundari drew an interference penalty for his hit on Bouma that would prove costly as Abbotsford scored on the power play to increase the lead to three. Street fed a cross-ice pass to Sylvester, who one-timed it past a sprawling Allen for his first of the campaign.
A little more than a minute later Kolanos made it 6-2, dangling his way in tight before scoring his first of the season.