ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - David Van Der Gulik's clutch goal propelled the Abbotsford Heat into the playoffs and ensured that the Grand Rapids Griffins will be missing out.
Van Der Gulik scored the game-winner with a minute left in regulation as the Heat clinched their first-ever playoff spot with a 4-3 win over the Griffins in American Hockey League action Friday.
After Griffins winger Tomas Tartar scored twice in the third to tie things 3-3, Van Der Gulik stripped Grand Rapids defenceman Doug Janik before beating Daniel Larsson high glove side late in the third.
"I was just trying to pressure the D-man. He was kind of by himself back there and he just kind of shot it at me - made a nice bounce forward," said Van Der Gulik. "I was able to get a partial break, I knew the guy was coming towards me so I just tried to get it off quick.
"It was a great feeling and I'm happy to contribute offensively."
Van Der Gulik's goal put a dagger in not only Grand Rapids' comeback, but also its playoff hopes, as the Griffins were officially eliminated.
Abbotsford (36-29-11) led much of the game, opening up a 2-0 lead in the first.
Cam Cunning got things going for the Heat with a spin around slapshot that beat Larsson.
Less than four minutes later, Keith Seabrook's blast from the point doubled the Abbotsford lead.
"We need to be a bit better prepared for games," said Tatar of the Griffins' slow start. "I think we weren't ready tonight - Abbotsford needed a win to clinch the playoffs and they played that way."
Grand Rapids (31-37-7) got to within one early in the third when veteran Brad May picked up his third goal of the season. May corralled a puck off the end boards and snuck it past Heat starter David Shantz, who was out of position on the play.
But Shawn Weller made it 3-1 for the Heat when he buried a rebound off Staffan Kronwall's point shot.
"I'm happy for the ownership here, I'm happy for the community, I think it's something we set out to do at the start of the season," Heat head coach Jim Playfair said of clinching a playoff spot. "It's a very difficult thing to do in a 29 team league. Only 16 teams can make it so I'm proud of the ownership."
Heat newcomer John Lammers picked up two assists in his first game with Abbotsford.
The Heat finished 1-for-4 on the power play while holding the Griffins off the score sheet with the man advantage.
Shantz made 32 saves for his 13th win of the season while Larsson made 30 saves in the loss.