The Abbotsford Heat got off to a rip-roaring start as they swept the Rivermen of Peoria 4-1 for their season opener Friday night and followed that with an impressive 6-2 win on Saturday before an enthusiastic hometown crowd.
And with the ongoing NHL lockout, 3,840 fans in need of a real hockey fix got their money's worth at the opener at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre Friday.
Ben Walter led the scoring for the Heat, followed by Roman Horak, Ben Street of Coquitlam and Sven Baertschi (the highly touted 20-year-old Flames prospect) in the second period to put Abbotsford up 4-0.
Netminder Danny Taylor continued his stellar form from 2012, stopping 14 shots on goal in the first period alone.
"Danny picked up where he left off last spring, which is how he was all camp, and that's why he got the start," said head coach Troy Ward.
The Heat were outshot 25-16 in the win, but for the second consecutive season, have won their home opener.
In Saturday's contest, the Heat had six different goal scorers as Lance Bouma, Walter and Baertschi all scored in the first period as the Heat outshot the Rivermen 17-7.
In the second period Horak picked up his second goal of the season, followed by Dustin Sylvester and Krys Kolanos each adding their first.
In the end the Heat outshot Peoria 33-19 and Taylor earned his second win in as many games.
Walter, 28, played his 500th AHL regular season game and scored for the second straight night.
"He ends up on the score-sheet and doesn't hurt you defensively," said Ward. "He trained really hard this year and is a model for young professionals."
Heat president Ryan Walter, a former assistant coach and player with the Vancouver Canucks, is hoping the minor league franchise can benefit in terms of attendance from the NHL lockout.
"We're all hockey fans. We all want the NHL back. I mean, it's the best league in the world," said Walter on Friday, before puck drop between the Heat and Rivermen.
"But if they're going to be out, it's a time when we really need to make hay. The [Vancouver] Giants were really able to lift their franchise in the last lockout. And if you think about it, it's an opportunity for us. In a small way, we're seeing a nice movement."
Walter added that a small number of Canucks' season ticket holders have recently purchased Heat season tickets.
"It hasn't really hit home yet that there isn't [NHL] hockey. I think it's going to take a little time," he said.
The Heat could be the beneficiary of a generous schedule to begin the season. Ten of Abbotsford's first 13 games are on home ice, and the Heat will host the Chicago Wolves, farm team of the Canucks, this weekend.
With a packed house expected, this may be one of the only chances to see the Canucks players this fall.
The puck drops on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. at the AESC.
- with files from Cam Tucker