It was supposed to be Max Reinhart’s night.
The 20-year-old Abbotsford Heat forward from West Vancouver, now in his first full American Hockey League season, finally snapped a 19-game scoring drought Tuesday against the San Antonio Rampage.
His moment was overshadowed by Rampage defenceman Jason DeSantis and his first goal of the season, which just so happened to come 35 seconds into overtime to lift San Antonio past the Heat by a score of 3-2 before a crowd of 1,719 fans at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
The Heat’s record on home ice now moves to 9-1-2-1.
Abbotsford spent the first 10 minutes of the game immersed in trying to contain the Rampage, who had seven shots to the Heat’s zero before the midway mark of the opening period.
San Antonio took a 2-1 lead into the second period, thanks to goals from Casey Wellman and Greg Rallo. Roman Horak countered with Abbotsford’s first goal.
The Heat then took over, allowing only six shots for the final 40 minutes and 35 seconds. The sixth shot proved to be the last.
“I thought the game overall…obviously our posture was a little back at first but sometimes your posture is based on other people, so you’ve got to give them credit,” said head coach Troy Ward.
“And then we kind of got our legs a little bit, got going. Probably after the second and third period and most parts of the first, it might’ve been one of our best home games all year.”
With the Heat trailing, the staged seemed set for Reinhart.
And, appropriately, he came through. His one-time slap shot from the right faceoff circle on a tough angle snuck through Rampage goalie Jacob Markstrom.
“Talking to (Horak), it’s the longest I’ve gone without a goal and the tightest I’ve ever hugged somebody for giving me an assist,” said Reinhart.
“I struggled with my confidence throughout the start of this year and I would say it’s just a massive relief to get one.”
Reinhart jumped right from the Western Hockey League to the Heat in April, and scored two goals in his first and only regular season appearance for Abbotsford. He then added two points in four post-season games.
But the momentum he gathered last spring just hasn’t carried over into autumn like he’d hoped.
“He has went through a lot of different roles. He’d be the first to say…he’s very frustrated because he’s young and he’s immature – that’s part of the process, that’s not a slam against him,” said Ward.
“When you get to a new league at this level with the type of talent that’s in the American Hockey League right now, the one thing that these guys don’t have at that age is patience.
“They have to go through the process, they have to go through this on a daily basis and he’s been through it. He’s very frustrated. I’ve used him in a lot of different roles, I’ve benched him, I’ve taken him out of a game because of some things. That’s the ebb and flow of the American Hockey League and your growth.
“But…it’s a process that’s necessary to become the best.”
For his part, Reinhart seems to understand the coach’s philosophy.
“Right now, we’ve got such a good lineup with a lot of guys playing well,” said Reinhart.
“Half my battle is fighting to get ice this year.”