Taking Stockton: The Chronicles of Rittich

Taylor McKee
November 21 2016 02:00PM


The Flames' AHL affiliate scraped out a couple of gritty victories over the weekend: Friday night against the Kings' affiliate insanely named the Ontario Reign and the Edmonton Oilers' affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors, of Condor escape fame. What do ya know, those plucky little Sparks won both games.

Recent Chad Johnson heroics notwithstanding, it's been a fairly miserable year goalie-wise for the Flames. Perhaps that is one of the most frustrating parts of the Flames season so far, as it seemed as though the organization had done such a good job of bolstering the goaltending depth only to have it start this year like so many Jonas Hiller first periods. However, there was another goalie added to the system this summer and he's starting to go on a bit of a run in Stockton. Let's read about it after the jump!

WHAT WENT DOWN?

FRIDAY: Stockton 2 - Ontario 1 (OT)

Still depleted from call-ups, the Heat played a tough back-to-back stretch at home, then traveled to Bakersfield on Saturday night; both teams are divisional opponents and within striking distance of each other in the AHL's Pacific Division.

The first period on Friday against the Ontario Reign was largely a poor one for Stockton, with the Reign having four or five quality scoring chances that David Rittich stopped cold, a theme that would continue throughout the entire weekend. It is worth noting that Ontario's roster is a solid collection of AHL veteran talents that make for some pretty stiff opposition.

The Reign opened the scoring on a bit of a weird play. Following a period of sustained pressure from Stockton, the Reign scored following a faceoff in Stockton's zone. On the play, Kayle Doetzel and Morgan Klimchuk were unable to tie up their man after Stockton lost the draw and there wasn't much Rittich could have done.

However, with under five seconds to go in the first, Brandon Bollig (yes, that Brandon Bollig) unleashed an absolutely lethal wrister from beyond the faceoff circle that beat Reign goalie Jack Campbell to the high blocker side. It was a shockingly good shot and the product of some solid work from the Heat's third line of Matt Bailey, Ryan Lomberg, and the aforementioned goal scoring god himself, Bollig. 

The game was evenly played during the second, though neither team managed to score. The Heat would show flashes of looking dangerous but were unable to generate high-danger scoring chances, instead settling for perimeter looks. Alternatively, Ontario had some very good looks but Rittich was equal to the task.

The third was all Stockton, but again, they weren't able to translate their territorial advantage into goals. Concerningly, the Heat powerplay was anemic again this weekend, having two golden opportunities in the third that yielded only marginal chances. It may be due to the fact that the Heat are missing some of their most reliable point producers, but the powerplay was sure not a source of strength in either game this weekend. 

The game went to overtime, where Klimchuk found himself in alone following a nice saucer pass from Bailey (who was especially good on Friday night). Klimchuk was absolutely robbed by Campbell but Bailey was there to bang home the loose puck and get the extra point for Stockton.

SATURDAY: Stockton 2 - Bakersfield 0

The first period of Saturday's game was essentially a nightmare for Stockton. The Heat were bleeding chances left and right and leaned heavily on Rittich to get them through the first unscathed, which he did. Bakersfield was clearly looking to take advantage of the fact that Stockton had played the night earlier, while the Condors were rested. This fact was mentioned a few times by the Bakersfield broadcast crew. 

Rittich was calm, poised, and displayed a quick glove hand in both games this weekend, a trait I had noticed from last week's viewing as well. The Heat opened the scoring in this game in a similar fashion to the way that Ontario had done in the previous game. Following a fair amount of pressure from the Condors, Stockton had an offensive zone draw which they won and scored on immediately. Scoring the goal was Oliver Kylington, who used a pretty nice wrist shot from the point through traffic. 

That was the only goal of the second and Stockton showed an impressive amount of resilience when it looked like they were hanging on for dear life in the first. In fact, Stockton carried the play quite well for the remainder of the game, never really allowing the Condors clean looks, unlike the Ontario game and the first period of Saturday's game. 

The Heat were able to seal the victory midway through the third when Daniel Pribyl swatted home a loose puck past Condor goalie, and reminder of the Ladislav Smid grenade lobbed south down the QEII, Laurent Brossoit. The Heat went up 2-0 and that was enough for Rittich to hang on for his second shutout in his last three starts. 

WHO PLAYED WHERE?

The lines were the same in both games, with Mikkel Aagaard, Austin Carroll, Ryan Culkin and Jon Gillies (still recovering from a finger injury, but, I'm not so sure they're in a big hurry at the moment) sitting on the bench. 

  • Mangiapane-Jankowski-Frattin
  • Klimchuk-Pribyl-Poirier
  • Bollig-Bailey-Lomberg
  • Devane-Angelidis-Smith
  • Aulie-Morrison
  • Kylington-Doetzel
  • Wotherspoon-Andersson

I tried keeping track of the powerplay units, but they were a little more inconsistent in the two games. The Heat like to use an extra forward on the powerplay, and this was often Matt Frattin and Emile Poirier. This is what I saw at times:

  • Mangiapane - Jankowski - Pribyl
  • Kylington - Frattin
  • Klimchuk - Lomberg - Smith
  • Poirier - Andersson

WHO LOOKED GOOD?


Honorable mentions go out to Bailey, who was particularly impressive on a line with satanic energizer bunny Lomberg and Bollig. Bailey scored the overtime winner on Friday, being rewarded for sending Klimchuk in on a breakaway with a feathery pass that belies his AHL career-high 19 points. 

In this week's edition of: Where is Emile Poirier? He now sees himself with the exact same stat line (2-4-6) as Lomberg. That is not great. Constantly reduced to a perimeter shooter, Poirier needs to find a way to engage his speed and become a dangerous player or risk (if it has not already happened) being completely lapped by others, including Andrew Mangiapane.

  1. David Rittich - Perhaps it's time that we start having a serious talk about the season that Rittich is putting together. Though it's only been five games, Rittich is sporting a very respectable .939 SV% and has two shutouts in his last three starts. It's also worth mentioning that his last four starts have been made as consecutive back-to-backs, surely something that isn't great for goalies, and both times Rittich has managed a shutout in the night he was playing on no rest. Impressive. Rittich is only 24 years old and wasn't exactly expected to be that much of a story this year for the Flames. However, he has certainly made things a little more interesting between the pipes in Stockton. 
  2. Mark Jankowski - Though he didn't register a point this weekend, Jankowski was, again, the most routinely captivating forward to watch on the Heat during two games where the Heat were starved for offence. Facilitating play to his wingers, Jankowski was again impressive below the faceoff circles, often winning puck battles while outnumbered. Certainly not a dominant performance by Jankowski this weekend, he was the most notable among a fairly bland forward group.
  3. Kenney Morrison - Routinely overlooked, Kenney Morrison's chances of seeing NHL time this year are slim with Tyler Wotherspoon and Kylington lining up in front of him. However, Morrison plays a really solid game and has a nasty slap shot, on full display during his six(!) shot performance versus Ontario. Morrison is also a major part of the Heat's penalty killing minutes and was praised for his abilities during Friday's broadcast. A solid couple of games from Morrison, a defender that is desperately trying to not be overtaken by other, more heralded Flames defenders.

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Taylor splits time between Western University and Calgary studying history. Taylor likes the Flames, the Cannons, Buckshot, and the Oxford comma. Taylor scored on his own net on dome ice when he was 8. Twitter: @TaylorMcKee_
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#1 SportGoblin
November 22 2016, 05:33PM
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Great article as always, Taylor! It's nice to see there might be some hope in the AHL for us after such a tire fire of a loss last night.Save us, janko!

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