The Stockton Heat had four games this past week, during which they went 3-1. They’re currently on a three-game winning streak, although some of what transpired was a little nuts to get there.
Despite their recent success, the Heat are still the only Pacific Division team to have a record below .500, so there’s still a lot of work to do.
December 29: Reign 2, Heat 1
From the looks of things, this wasn’t a boring, low-scoring affair. Okay, so it was low scoring, but the two teams combined for 84 shots – 40 for the Reign, and 44 for the Heat – so it was probably far from boring.
The Reign entered the third period with a 2-0 lead, and although Bryce Van Brabant was able to cut that to one with his fifth of the season, that was all the Heat were able to get. Joni Ortio stopped 42 of 44 shots for a much-improved .955 save percentage.
Van Brabant, along with Freddie Hamilton, Derek Grant, and Ryan Lomberg led the way with five shots on net each.
I can also tell you via my season ticket holder friend that when the Heat lost, Oliver Kylington yelled an expletive so loud in frustration it was heard from the stands, so at least you know he cares. The Heat had 17 shots in the third, so they were really trying to tie it up.
December 31: Heat 4, Reign 1
Most of this game’s scoring action came towards the end of the game. Kenny Agostino opened the scoring in the first period, and Emile Poirier made it 2-0 early in the third; both goals were assisted by Kylington. Van Brabant seemingly put the game away by making it 3-0 with just over three minutes to go with a power play goal, but Ontario scored just 22 seconds later to give them hope. Brett Kulak got his first of the season with an empty netter to seal the deal.
That Ontario goal spoiled Ortio’s shutout bid, as he stopped 26 of 27 shots he faced. He has yet to get a shutout this season.
The Heat only registered 19 shots on net, including the empty netter; Grant led the way with four.
Shots weren’t the story this game, though: fights were. Hunter Smith and Curt Gogol had a scrap before scoring even started, with both players getting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties; about half a minute later, Poirier and Kris Newbury fought, too.
The second period was clean, and then the third period happened. Following the empty netter, Lomberg and Joel Lowry fought, then Mitchell Heard and Ryan Horvat fought, and then, finally, with 18 seconds to go, Van Brabant fought Jordan Samuels-Thomas after Gogol was called for charging and took mutual roughing calls with Patrick Sieloff.
That wasn’t as crazy as things would get this week, though.
January 2: Heat 7, Stars 6 (SO)
Texas scored just 1:35 into the game. Bill Arnold scored 33 seconds later. Texas scored just over a minute after that, and just like that, Ortio was pulled. Apparently there’s no love for two good back-to-back goaltending performances when you’ve let in two goals in just over the first three minutes of the game.
With Kent Simpson then in net, Texas scored on him on the power play, and Grant scored to make it a 3-2 game after one.
The second opened with two quick Texas goals, suddenly making it a 5-2 game just three minutes into the second period. Arnold scored to make it 5-3, but another Texas goal late in the second restored the three-goal lead. Fortunately, with just 19 seconds left in the period, Hamilton scored a power play goal to cut it back down to two, ending the second with a 6-4 score.
Ortio was back in net to start the third, and the Heat didn’t give up any more goals. Rather, they scored two more to tie the game via Turner Elson, on the power play, just 22 seconds into the start of the third, and Van Brabant with his seventh of the season a few minutes later.
The game ended up requiring a shootout, in which Ortio only gave up one goal on five shooters, while Grant and Elson scored to win the game for Stockton. Agostino, Hamilton, and Arnold were the other shooters, but all were stopped.
Arnold and Nakladal led the way with points, with the former scoring two goals and an assist and the latter three assists. The Heat generated 44 shots on net, 13 (!!) of which were Grant’s. They needed them, as the Heat’s goaltending was subpar this game, although Ortio was able to shut the door in the third which helped get the win.
January 3: Heat 3, Condors 1
This was another game the Heat seemed to dominate. Putting up 47 shots on Laurent Brossoit, both Grant and Agostino beat him (Zack Kassian had the Condors’ lone goal on 30 shots on Ortio). An empty netter from Grant, scoring his 14th goal of the season, sealed the deal.
Grant led the way with 10 shots, while Agostino put up seven. That’s 32 shots on net for Grant over four games, which is kind of insane.
Ortio had a .967 to get back into the good save percentage books after the apparent chaos that was the game the day before. His AHL save percentage on the season is now .897.