Under normal circumstances, Steve McCarthy’s first professional shorthanded goal would have been highlight material. Especially after the rushing Abbotsford Heat defenceman went wide, then cut smartly to the net to finish a timely play last weekend against the Toronto Marlies.
However, the shorthanded effort by teammate Ben Street on the ensuing faceoff — just three seconds later — was far from a normal circumstance. His record-setting goal during the 3-0 victory had the Hockey Hall of Fame calling to request the centre’s stick. The goals eclipsed the pro hockey mark for the quickest two shorthanded efforts: Jody Gage of the Rochester Americans scored twice in an eight-second span on March 25, 1989.
With the AHL’s best penalty kill on a 39-for-40 run, it sets the stage for a monumental challenge for the Heat Friday and Saturday against the visiting Oklahoma City Barons. The Edmonton Oilers’ farm club (5-4-0-1) can ice an NHL power-play alignment that includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Justin Schultz. Eberle and Schultz have six goals apiece in 10 games and Schultz — the college free agent who chose the Oilers over the Vancouver Canucks — was AHL’s October player of the month with 12 points (6-6) in seven games.
No wonder the games are sold out.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” Street said Thursday. “This is a huge test for us and a great measuring stick. The biggest thing is those guys are all very good with the puck and have excellent one-on-one skills, and you can’t just key on one guy.
“We can’t get caught watching or let them make plays through us. We’ve got to make sure we don’t beat ourselves.”
In compiling a 6-1-0-2 record to sit atop the North Division, the Heat’s best start in franchise history has been buoyed by a league-leading 10 goals from Roman Horak, 11 points from Sven Baertschi and steady goaltending from Barry Brust, Danny Taylor and Leland Irving.
“We think we’re a pretty deep team and roll four lines,” Street added of the Calgary Flames’ affiliate. “We don’t get too caught up in matchups and trust whoever they [coaches] throw out there.”
Street also trusted the coaching staff when told the Marlies like to go forward after giving up a shorthanded goal. So Street went the other way with his historic goal, and surprised goalie Ben Scrivens.
“I got real lucky and just hit it basically perfect,” said Street. “It went out of the goalie’s vision and right through his legs. Somebody said after the game it was a record and I thought he was joking. It was just such a weird play and more hilarious than anything.
“But when the trainer came over and said they [Hockey Hall of Fame] wanted my stick, it kind of sunk in.”
For McCarthy, his first goal of the season was significant because the former Canucks blueliner is on a pro tryout with the parent Flames and played for new Calgary bench boss Bob Hartley last season with Swiss league champion Zurich.
“It was a reaction play and just a good time to jump up and I just wanted to make sure it was the right decision,” said McCarthy. “The record is pretty cool and is going to be pretty hard to beat. We’re playing as a team and the attention to detail that was laid out at training camp is being followed.
“We’re going to have our tough stretches, but we’re doing the little things right.”