ABBOTSFORD, B.C. -- Chicago Wolves goalie Matt Climie thinks his team is better without their best players.
With NHL training camps set to begin and several Chicago players called up to the Vancouver Canucks, Climie made 30 saves to edge the Heat 1-0 in American Hockey League action Saturday night.
"Honestly, I think we're playing a lot better without our top guys in the lineup," said Climie. "We're playing with desperation. We're finding ways to block shots and clear rebounds. I felt before we were kind of complacent at times. We relied on those guys too much and they weren't producing."
It was the second shutout of the year for Climie and the ninth of his AHL career. He also blanked the Heat 1-0 on Dec. 19.
Andrew Gordon provided the offence for Chicago (17-12-5), which is 4-1-1 in its last six games. Though they only scored once Saturday, Gordon was happy to get his goalie a win.
"Last night was the best we've seen him all season," said Gordon of Climie's recent success, including Friday's 3-1 win over the Heat. "We've had trouble scoring goals in front of him at times. To shut these guys down to one goal in two games makes us feel good to help him out for a change."
Gordon scored on a first-period power play and is relishing the opportunities provided by the end of the NHL lockout. He is even content with his switch to centre four games ago, a position he said he's never played before.
"Right now I'm getting an opportunity to play in all situations and that's all you can ask for," said Gordon. "The team needs everyone to step up to fill the holes that (Zack) Kassian's leaving, that (Jordan) Schroeder's leaving, and that (Andrew) Ebbett's leaving."
Both teams were filled with rookies and ECHL call-ups, which appeared to add energy to the game.
"We've got guys chomping at the bit to get in," said Gordon. "They want to be here, as opposed to some guys who might take a night off here and there if they're used to playing at this level and want to be at the next level. Everyone wants to be here right now and you can go a long way with that kind of desire."
Danny Taylor stopped 14 shots for Abbotsford (17-12-7), which has won just four times in its past 17 games and has had trouble scoring.
"It's frustrating, I'm not going to lie to you," said defenceman Joe Callahan. "Tonight the effort was there but we have to find a way to get pucks by."
Callahan was anchoring a patchwork blue-line with no less than three rookies. Save for a few untimely penalties in the first, the former Boston Bruin felt his teammates made a smooth transition into the lineup.
"All the guys that stepped up did a really good job," said Callahan. "I don't think we missed a beat there."
With about three minutes to go in the first Climie made his best stop of the opening period. Ryan Howse rushed down the left wing and unleashed a shot Climie couldn't corral, giving Brett Olson a great rebound opportunity, but he stretched out to snag the puck with his glove.
"(Climie) made a difference in the first," said Abbotsford head coach Troy Ward. "He made some really good saves and I thought those were our best chances to score. As the game wore on, you've got to give him credit, but we weren't exactly dynamic offensively."
The Wolves scored their lone goal in the final minute of the first while on the power play. Bill Sweatt threw the puck on net and it came out the other side to Gordon, who tucked the puck to his backhand before flipping it past Taylor for his ninth of the season.
"My job on the power play is to go to the net," said Gordon. "Off the rush ... I watched the puck go wide and I drove to the middle. It ended up bouncing off my feet and I lucked-out to have it come to my stick there."
Chicago's power play was ranked 30th a month ago but now is middle of the pack thanks to scoring in six straight games.
The second period saw the Heat outshoot the Wolves 11-1 without success.
The third period didn't feature a lot of grade-A scoring chances for either team. A giveaway behind his own net by Taylor almost led to a wrap-around goal for Sweatt, but the left-winger missed the far post.
Though the Heat are struggling to get goals and wins, Ward has always claimed to not be a results-based coach.
"We've got a new group of guys here," said Ward. "Their emotions are high because they're at a point in their careers where this is like the new night of the American League tonight. Guys should want to stay around."
NOTES: Chicago's Brett Sterling had nine points during his five-game point streak that was snapped Saturday.