ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - Ben Walter set a single-season scoring mark for Abbotsford on Tuesday, just as the Heat need his leadership.
Walter had a goal and an assist for the Abbotsford Heat in their 4-0 win over the Rochester Americans Tuesday, giving him 55 points.
That surpasses Jason Jaffray's '09-'10 previous record of 54 points in 71 games.
"He's definitely a quiet leader — he's a man of few words," said goalie Danny Taylor. "A lot of the young guys look up to him and he's been, hands down, one of our best players all year. And he's been here all year, so he's really been our anchor for the season.
"He's playing well at the right time of the year."
Walter is the only Heat player to play in every game this season when the team has been ravaged by injuries and NHL call-ups. The seven-year veteran now has 406 career AHL regular season points.
"Down the stretch he's the guy that wants the puck all the time," said Heat head coach Troy Ward. "There were other times in the year when maybe we didn't see or notice him as much but this is the time when it's his time as a veteran. In general, Benny's been great all year, a mark of consistency."
Walter added an assist for the Heat (37-26-8). Akim Aliu, Krys Kolanos and Guillaume Desbiens also scored for Abbotsford, who increased their lead over Charlotte to three points for fourth-place in the Western Conference.
Taylor had to stop just 17 shots for his fourth shutout of the season and the eighth of his AHL career. The Americans didn't record their first shot on net until past the game's 11-minute mark and had only four in the third period.
"He stepped it up," said Walter. "We needed a big game out of him and he made some big saves at key times, where maybe if they put one in it would change the game. He kept it out and we were able to get a few more."
Taylor got the start since No. 1 goaltender Leland Irving's wife is expecting their first child any day now.
"The puck gets smaller and smaller as the game goes on when you don't see a lot of shots," said Ward. "I liked how Danny managed the whole last 48 hours. He made a big statement to this group of people that he was ready to go."
Rochester (32-26-12) is 1-3-2 in the past six games and winless in their past four and remains two points out of a playoff spot. They have not scored in the past 125 minutes and 59 seconds of play.
"I think for the first time all year we've seen a reflection of what it's like to come home, just in somebody else," said Ward. "They've got change three time zones and come in here and play. Their body clocks are somewhere else. If that was their reason why, I understand that and so does our team. They'll settle in and have a much bigger push and we'll need to match that."
David Leggio started his 16th-straight game Tuesday, making 29 saves in the loss.
The Heat opened the scoring just 77 seconds into the game. After Brian Connelly's point shot was directed into the corner, Walter backhanded the puck towards the goal from behind the red line and banked it off the netminder and in for his 17th of the season.
"That really sparked our team," said Taylor. "When we score the first goal, we're a lot different."
That goal extended Walter's point streak to six consecutive games, in which he's recorded four goals and five assists.
The lead was doubled at 16:05. Walter fed Aliu in the slot, who scored for his 10th of the season.
At the nine-minute mark, Kolanos made it 3-0 on a broken play. After a failed Rochester clearing attempt, Kolanos put the puck top shelf for his 25th of the season.
Kolanos now has a four-game point streak.
Desbiens scored on a slapshot from the point after taking a drop pass from Paul Byron at 6:18. It was just the third of the year in 56 games for the veteran winger.
"I thought it was one of our most complete games of the year," said Walter. "We scored four goals and gave them nothing. From the start of the game we dominated and did what we wanted, which is something we've struggled with at times."
Both teams finished 0-for-6 on the power play.
"They didn't get much five-on-five," said Taylor. "They had a few chances in the first on their power play and then they had a few on the penalty kill as well, but other than that I thought, it was just the way we draw it up on the board and we executed tonight."
The Heat have five games remaining, including Wednesday when the two teams face-off again. Though Abbotsford holds the fourth-seed, they are just six points up on the 12th-place team, so nothing is guaranteed yet.
"Every game's a playoff game now," said Walter. "We need the points. We're battling not only to get into the playoffs but to get home ice, which would be big for us."