Many say every cloud has a silver lining – and in a time when the black cloud of the 3rd NHL labor dispute in 18 years hangs over the heads of every hockey fan the silver lining seems to be young, talented AHL players finally getting the recognition they deserve.
In Abbotsford, British Columbia a band of young gun players certainly stole the show during the Heat’s opening weekend home and home series with the St. Louis Blues AHL affiliate the Peoria Rivermen; the most notable efforts were made by the rookie and the vet.

Friday night’s home opener belonged to Swiss rookie, Sven Baertschi, who bounced back from an interference penalty mid way through the first to rack up an assist, a goal and the second star of the night. Baertschi played 47 games with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks (33 G, 61A) and played 5 games with the Calgary Flames (3 G) where Heat goalie, Danny Taylor believes Baertschi would be now if it wasn’t for the NHL lockout, “It’s easy for a young player to say ‘Oh, I should be in the National League’, but I thought today [Baertschi] was pretty good.”

Ben Walter

As for game two AHL veteran, Ben Walter, celebrated his 500th AHL game in style Saturday night scoring his second goal of the season (his first being the opening goal of game 1) late in the first period.
“I’m fortunate to have been able to play that many games and play with some good teams and for some good coaches. It makes you sit back and kind of look at your career so far when you don’t get to do that so often. It’s been a pleasure.”

Walter spent most of his AHL career on the East coast, playing for the Providence Bruins, Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Lowell Devils, and the Lake Erie Monsters before joining the Heat last season, “[Playing in the West] has been an adjustment, I grew up out here and it was great coming home.”

Though the road trips are much longer now playing for the western most team in the AHL where unlike in the east coast you’re not home every night, Walter enjoys playing close to home, “at the end of the day, I get to play at home in front of friends and family every day. It’s a blessing.”

The Abbotsford Heat face off against the Chicago Wolves, the Vancouver Canucks’ AHL affiliate, in another home and home series this Friday and Saturday at 7PM (PST) at the Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Centre.

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