ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - Shots were at a premium for the Abbotsford Heat on Friday night, but Corban Knight made no mistake in making the most of his.
The 23-year-old rookie notched a hat trick in Abbotsford's 6-3 victory over the visiting Rockford IceHogs, despite being outshot 48-18 in the American Hockey League matchup.
Although Knight admitted his goals weren't the most highlight-reel type of goals, he made them count when he got the chance.
"It was definitely a relief to get that first one," Knight said. "Then after that it was just kind of one of those nights where things were kind of going well for me offensively … You look at my goals and none of them were really that flashy, so it was just nice to get that off my back and contribute offensively for my team."
Knight said his first professional hat trick couldn't have happened without the help of his linemates Sven Baertschi and Tim Miller.
"Baertschi's been putting up a lot of points and producing offensively," said Knight. "(Miller's) the kind of guy where he just brings his lunch pail and just works hard and gets a lot of pucks back. Tonight it was just kind of clicking for us."
Miller said there's no mistaking the dynamic between Knight and Baertschi on the ice.
"I got the notice in the pre-game skate that I was going to play with those guys," Miller said. "You can tell the talent those two have out there. It's my job to still play physical, try to create room for them in the offensive zone and get to the net."
Knight scored back-to-back goals in the first period. The High River, Alta., native tipped a shot from Max Reinhart over Jason LaBarbera's left shoulder to give his team a 2-1 edge on the power play at 16:40 of the first period.
His second goal came just over a minute later at 18:04 as Miller took advantage on a Rockford turnover in the IceHogs zone, feeding the puck across the crease to Knight, who buried it short side.
Baertschi had two goals and three assists for Abbotsford (38-25-7), while Miller picked up a goal and two helpers.
"That line had an opportunistic night — they did a good job finishing," said Abbotsford head coach Troy Ward. "We thought Miller was our best player … I thought he had his best game by far for the Heat. He just opens up space for those other guys. He played honest, he played hard, and he gives Corban and Sven some space."
Joni Ortio stopped 45 of the 48 shots he faced in the victory.
"He made some big time saves at really important times, so he was huge for us tonight," Knight said. "I don't think we would've won that game without him playing the way he did."
Mark McNeill and Alex Broadhurst each had a goal and an assist for Rockford (33-27-9).
LaBarbera allowed four goals on 12 shots in the loss, while Kent Simpson stopped five shots in a relief effort.
"It was a tough night and kind of weird game out there," said Knight. "The feel of the game was just weird, but fortunately we got the win, so we'll put it behind us and get ready for tomorrow."
McNeill opened the scoring at 3:05 of the first as he powered around Abbotsford's Zach Davies, cut to the crease and roofed it over Ortio's glove. Broadhurst and Klas Dahlbeck picked up assists.
At 11:25 of the first, Miller picked up Heat captain Dean Arsene's point shot and buried the rebound into an open net to tie the game.
Less than a minute into the second period, Alex Broadhurst received a Terry Broadhurst pass from behind the net and quickly put it past the outstretched left pad of Ortio.
Knight scored his hat trick goal at 7:28 of the second, flipping the puck on net from behind the goal-line, and squeaking it just between the goal post and LaBarbera's left shoulder.
Baertschi added to Abbotsford's lead by feeding an intended pass through the crease that deflected off of a Rockford defender at 13:49 of the second.
The IceHogs responded on the power play at 16:21 as Brian Connelly fed Adam Clendening at the point, who then fired it through traffic to cut Abbotsford's lead to 5-3.
Baertschi added an empty-net goal from centre ice with 0:41 remaining in the game.