ABBOTSFORD, B.C. -- Mike Matczak was toiling in the ECHL last week, but on Tuesday he was an American Hockey League star.
Matczak had his first two AHL points with a goal and an assist as the Abbotsford Heat defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs 3-1.
The 24-year-old, who spent most of the season with the Kalamazoo Wings, signed a professional tryout offer and made his Heat debut last weekend when NHL training camps began, drawing several players from each AHL club.
The third-year pro only had one goal and five assists in 23 games with the Wings this season so was a bit surprised to get a chance to join the Heat.
"I wasn't expecting Abbotsford, that's for sure," said Matczak. "It kind of came out of the blue, but I'm excited to be here, and excited to have a chance."
Abbotsford have three defencemen attending Calgary's training camp, so the Flames' staff searched for some hidden gems in the lower leagues.
"John Weisbrod, director of player personnel, had some history knowing about Mike from his days at Yale and liked him," said Heat head coach Troy Ward. "We didn't know if we could get him because he wasn't with our affiliate and he was with Manchester's camp and played seven games there. But he was available and his agent felt it was a good fit."
Matcazk was grateful for the opportunity, especially after the chaos caused by the NHL's labour strife.
"Obviously, the lockout had a trickle-down effect throughout the league, but now it has a trickle-up effect," said Matczak. "I'm trying to just make the most of my opportunity here, doing the best I can to help the team while I'm here for however long I last, and go from there."
Ben Walter and Tyler Ruegsegger also scored for Abbotsford (18-12-7), which had won just once in its past six games. Danny Taylor made 14 saves for the Heat.
Mike Murovich was the lone scorer for the Bulldogs (13-20-4), while Cedrik Desjardins stopped 33 shots. The goalie is now on a personal nine-game losing streak.
Mark Isherwood, a native of Abbotsford, B.C., was another beneficiary of the end of the NHL lockout, getting to play his first AHL game Tuesday night with Hamilton.
"There were NHL players playing there (in the ECHL), and it's tough when you're the guy on the ECHL contract trying to get into the lineup," said Isherwood. "We wanted it to end, because a lot of guys wanted a shot to come play in the American League, too. It was nice that it ended, and guys are getting opportunities now. It's what you make out of it, and hopefully I do a good job."
While on a power play, Matczak drew an assist on the game's opening goal. Though his point shot was wide, Krys Kolanos collected the puck and centred it to Walter at 19:26 of the first period.
Murovich tied it for Hamilton with his first goal of the season, also on the power play, at 10:44 of the second period, walking out from the corner and beating Taylor with a backhand.
After the tying goal, Hamilton's Kyle Hagel and Abbotsford's Zack McKelvie fought, sparking Abbotsford's go ahead goal just 12 seconds later.
Quintin Laing threw the puck to the front of the net where Ruegsegger was in perfect position to pick up his third goal of the season.
"My linemates were big on that," said Ruegsegger. "We created a turnover and got a shot to the net. I happened to be going around the net and was in the right place at the right time. I just turned and tried to get a shot high on the tender. It was a good goal but it was a whole line effort."
Matczak gave the Heat a 3-1 lead with his first goal of the season with a wrist shot from the top of the circle at 5:54 of the third period.
"Obviously it's exciting to get on the score sheet like that," said Matczak. "I didn't really do nothing too special out there. My goal there, (Greg Nemisz) was putting a good screen out front, and I just had to put it on net there."
Notes: The teams entered the game as the lowest scoring teams in the AHL. To make matters worse, the players who scored 50 of Hamilton's 78 goals -- 64 per cent -- are at camp with the Montreal Canadiens. Abbotsford has lost the players responsible for 39 of its 81 goals to the Calgary Flames.