Decimated by injuries and call ups to the affiliate Calgary Flames, Abbotsford lost its seventh straight contest on Saturday, falling to the Chicago Wolves 7-2 in American Hockey League action.
"It's mid-March and we don't have our regular team, but every team goes through it," said Heat head coach Troy Ward. "Every family goes through difficult times. You just be patient, you continue to teach, you stick with the process. Right now, we're really trying to survive and fight."
Seven players who were with the Heat within the past two weeks dressed for the Flames Saturday in Vancouver.
"It's been tough," said Heat alternate captain Carter Bancks. "We've had guys going in and out of our lineup. But we can't make excuses. We've got a lot of good guys here, a lot of really good hockey players."
Chicago Wolves centre Pat Cannone made up for lost time Saturday night, scoring his first career hat trick in his second game back from injury. Cannone suffered a broken hand on Jan. 21.
"It was pretty cool," said Cannone. "I've been out for six weeks now so it was just nice to contribute and help out offensively. Getting some goals is always nice."
After Abbotsford scored to make it a three-goal game, Cannone scored twice in 72 seconds late in the third period to complete the hat trick, which he said was his first "probably since squirts."
The third-year pro now has 12 goals this season.
Joe Corvo and Eric Selleck each scored their first goals as a member of the Wolves. Corvo was playing his first game since being waived by the Ottawa Senators and Selleck was acquired by the Wolves' affiliate St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline.
"He brings a lot of veteran leadership," said Cannone of the 36-year-old Corvo. "He's been in the game for a while and is obviously a great player. It really helps out on the power play on the back end. It was a big goal for us."
Adam Cracknell and Michael Davies also scored for Chicago (34-18-6).
The Wolves are now on an 11-2-1 run, catapulting them past Abbotsford into fourth in the Western Conference.
"We know we have a lot of skill so we if we add the element of hard work we're pretty tough to beat," said Cannone.
Jake Allen made 28 saves for the Wolves and has allowed two goals or less for eight of his last 11 starts.
"We know we have a great goalie back there," said Cannone. "He keeps us in games every night."
Ben Street and Brett Olson replied for Abbotsford (33-20-7).
Olivier Roy stopped 28 of 33 shots before being replaced by Aaron Dell, who allowed two goals on eight shots in 11 minutes of relief.
The Wolves jumped to a 2-0 lead with goals two minutes and 35 seconds apart in the first period.
First Cracknell deflected Taylor Chorney's point shot for his ninth of the season at 11:14. Then, after a Heat defender was caught too deep in the Chicago zone, Shane Harper fed Davies, who split the scrambling defencemen and beat Roy glove side for his sixth of the campaign.
The momentum switched the other way just 29 seconds into the second period. Olson was sent in alone by Kane Lafranchise's long stretch pass and he beat Allen for his 11th.
"They had a good push in the beginning of the second," said Cannone. "They got that quick goal to make it 2-1. We did a good job of responding. When we got it right back it was pretty big and important for us."
The Wolves, however, re-established the two-goal lead when Corvo scored on the power play at 13:40. His wrist shot from the top of the circle beat Roy with Cracknell screening in front.
Cannone's made it 4-1 at 16:08. Just after killing off a penalty, Cannone and Tyler Shattock worked a give-and-go on a 3-on-2 rush, with the Bayport, N.Y., native firing the puck into the open side of the net.
Allen made a few big stops to keep his club in the lead. In the second period he stopped Blair Jones' power move and stacked the pads to turn away Evan Trupp's rebound attempt. Then early in the third he made a glove save off Corey Locke in close.
Selleck added to the onslaught at 8:34 of the third, driving hard to the net from the corner and lifting it over the sprawling netminder.
Street temporarily stopped the bleeding, one-timing Derek Smith's pass past Allen at 10:45 for his 22nd of the year.
At 13:28 Cannone scored the first of his two third-period goals and at 14:40 he completed the hat-trick.
"It was a good game for us," said Cannone. "We knew they were a pretty tenacious team, so getting that first one was huge. We have a lot of guys with a lot of skill that can score, so we wanted to keep the pressure on them."