ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - Brett Carson's season debut may not have come in the league he wanted, but it was definitely a success.
The defenceman scored the winner in his first game of the 2012-13 campaign as the Abbotsford Heat defeated the Milwaukee Admirals 2-1 in American Hockey League action Saturday.
Carson was sent down to the AHL by the Calgary Flames this week, joining three other players returning from the NHL camp.
"It's been a while since I've been in game action," said Carson, who trained in Calgary during the lockout. "I was a little rusty early on but I think I found my legs later in the game."
Carson played 34 games last season in Abbotsford, scoring two goals and six assists.
"Anytime you play you want to make a contribution," he said. "It was good to get into a game, even it is down here. Obviously everyone's goal is to be in the NHL but this is where I am right now and I have to make the most of it."
Ben Street, the Heat's second-leading scorer, was another one of the players returned to the AHL. He was glad to see Carson have success in his debut.
"Impressive for him, that's his first game of the year," said Street. "He's going to help us a lot, however long he's here. If they keep that pairing of him and (Chris) Breen together, that's going to be pretty difficult to play against. He kept it simple for the most part, did a good job on the power play, he's going to be a great addition."
Krys Kolanos had the other goal for Abbotsford (20-12-7), which has now won three straight.
Danny Taylor made 24 saves in the victory. Taylor improved on his stellar January in which he has a goals-against average of 0.87 and a 0.959 save percentage while going 4-1-0. His best save may have been with seven minutes to go in the game when he robbed Taylor Van Guilder in close with a kick save to preserve the lead.
"I think he had to make more great saves for us tonight to find us a win than maybe he did earlier this week," said Abbotsford head coach Troy Ward. "You've got to give him good credit."
Kevin Henderson scored the lone goal for Milwaukee (17-15-6), while Jeremy Smith made 25 saves in the loss.
Kolanos opened the scoring for the Heat at 9:37 of the first period. Ben Walter sent Max Reinhart and Kolanos in on a 2-on-1 and after taking Reinhart's perfect saucer pass, the Calgary native deked to the backhand and slid the puck under Smith for his 10th of the season.
Carson then doubled Abbotsford's lead at 10:49 of the second. With one second remaining on a man advantage, Matczak set up a one-timer for Carson that Smith likely never saw through Quinton Laing's screen.
"He does that as well as anybody in this league," said Carson of the Heat captain, who will lead the AHL's Western Conference all-star team Jan. 28. "He was in front, I saw the lane, Matczak made a good pass to me and I just figured, 'Throw it on net and see what happens' and luckily it went in."
The Admirals got on the board at 16:13 of the period when Van Guilder's initial shot was blocked by a Heat defender but came right back to Henderson, who beat Taylor high to the blocker side for his 10th of the season.
Notes: Though Taylor has been stellar of late, it will be the Heat's other goalie, Barry Brust, that will join Laing at the AHL all-star game.