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Flames prospect Baertschi shines, Heat defeated Rivermen

The Canadian Press

10/13/2012 10:28:46 AM

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. -- After a slow start, top Calgary Flames' prospect Sven Baertschi showed flashes of brilliance in his American Hockey League debut.

Baertschi scored a goal and added an assist as the Abbotsford Heat defeated the Peoria Rivermen 4-1 in the season opener Friday night.

Baertshi, who scored three goals in five games during a brief callup to Calgary last season joined the Heat and made an immediate impact, setting up a second period power-play goal and scoring a pretty goal moments later.

"I was nervous in the start," said Baertshi. "I couldn't really make plays in the start. But I got used to it, got some time on the power play, got a feel for the puck and after that it went well."

Heat head coach Troy Ward agreed with the Swiss winger.

"Sven got better as the game wore on," said Ward. "I didn't think he managed the puck very well (in the first half of the game). He tried to do a lot, which a lot of young guys want to do right away."

Baertshi, who was hoping to stick with Calgary's camp had there been no NHL lockout, didn't stand out in his second pro camp. He recorded 94 points in 47 games in junior last season.

"He wasn't dominant at all," said Ward. "That's not a negative. He's just very unassuming."

But the Flames 2011 first-round draft pick will surely have an impact on a team that finished near the bottom of the league in goals scored last season.

"With the lockout every teams going to have a good young player," said goaltender Danny Taylor. "Today he was really good."

Taylor got the start in goal ahead of Leland Irving and Barry Brust, goaltenders with more NHL experience, and stopped 24 shots for the win.

"Danny just picked up where he left off last spring and he's been that way all camp," said Ward. "That's why he got the start. He was in good control again. It was a Danny Taylor performance we've seen in the past."

According to Taylor there's no added pressure because of the current logjam in the crease.

"If it was just me or if it was four other guys, when you go in the net you go in with a purpose," said Taylor. "I prepared all week like I was playing today and I was fortunate enough to get the start."

Abbotsford (1-0-0) also had a goal and an assist from Ben Walter. Walter was second on the club with 59 points last year.

Roman Horak and Ben Street also scored for the Heat, who returned to the North Division after a year in the West Division.

Jake Allen made 10 saves on 14 shots before Mike McKenna in the third period.

Peoria (0-1-0) had a chance to get on the board first when they had a five-on-three power play for 77 seconds midway through the first period but their best chance to score was Derek Nesbitt's wrist shot from the slot that went off the glove of Taylor and off the post.

"The fact that we had to kill a three-on-five, in the first 10 minutes, was a real indicator of how the way the game went after that," said Ward. "It gave us a lot of confidence."

Walter opened the scoring at 10:47 of the first. Max Reinhart threw the puck towards the net from behind the goal-line and Walter batted it in. Steve McCarthy also assisted.

Taylor made a number of key saves including one off the St. Louis Blues' first-rounder Jaden Schwartz in close on a power play. However, the Rivermen were never able to get to any rebounds because the Heat defenders were in midseason form.

"It's a different D corps than it was a year ago," said Ward. "They're more mature. They're not a flashy group by no means, kind of stay at home guys. They held their own -- they bent but didn't break. Danny might have seen 25 shots but they didn't get a lot of bang-on in tight things."

Horak corralled a bouncing puck and squeezed the puck between the legs of Allen jut over a minute into the second.

With Riverman forward Sergey Andrononv in the box for high-sticking Reinhart made it 3-0 at 14:05 of the second for the Heat. Street one-timed a great cross-ice feed from Baertschi giving him his first goal in an Abbotsford uniform. Laing picked up the second assist.

Two minutes later Baertschi was sent in on a partial breakaway by Walter, deked, and slid it around the pad of Allen, making it 4-0.

"(The Rivermen) fumbled the puck at the blue-line and I was already in front of the net," said Baertshi. "I saw (Dustin) Sylvester and Walter coming so I was pretty sure I was going to get the puck. I tried to fake out the goalie and it worked out."

Taylor made what was perhaps the most spectacular save of the night when he slid across the crease to rob Nesbitt's one-timer at the side of the net, keeping his shutout temporarily intact.

However, at 9:02 of the third Peluso skated just inside the face-off dot and beat Taylor low to the blocker side.

"There's (75) more games, so we've got a lot more to go here," said Taylor.

Notes: Due to a surplus of veterans, one of the healthy scratches was Krys Kolanos, the leading Abbotsford scorer last season.