The National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames may be dead and buried for this season, but their American Hockey League affiliate in Stockton is in a battle for their playoff lives! Tonight the Stockton Heat leap into yet another do-or-die affair with one of their most bitter rivals, the Bakersfield Condors.
The puck drops just after 8 p.m. MT on AHL Live and streaming audio on the Heat’s site!
Stockton has been a team in flux over the past few weeks, losing a few key players to injuries and call-ups while getting a few new bodies in from the amateur circuit at the same time. But now that the NHL club is done for the year the Heat have Drew Shore and Hunter Shinkaruk back, joining fellow returnees Oliver Kylington, Patrick Sieloff and Turner Elson and recent additions Mark Jankowski, Keegan Kanzig, Brett Pollock and Nick Schneider. Rather than a thread-bare club held together by ECHL call-ups and AHL lifers, they have some interesting options available to them.
The 18-year-old Schneider (not to be confused with 19-Year-Old Sam Bennett) has been pressed into service with injuries to Kevin Poulin and Kent Simpson, and he’s actually been pretty damn good so far. He’s 3-3-0 with a 3.37 goals against average and .893 save percentage. Those numbers, by the way, are virtually identical to Joni Ortio’s in the AHL this season.
The Heat’s offensive leaders include Kenny Agostino (21 goals, 51 points), Shinkaruk (26 goals, 49 points) and Freddie Hamilton (17 goals, 41 points).
The Baby Oilers are officially eliminated from the playoffs and are playing out the string. They just got Laurent Brossoit, Darnell Nurse, Griffin Reinhart and Jordan Oesterle back from Edmonton, so their ranks are bolstered a bit.
Bakersfield doesn’t have a lot of high-impact offensive players: the leading scorers include Matthew Ford (26 goals, 47 points), Brad Hunt (12 goals, 39 points) and Ryan Hamilton (20 goals, 33 points). But if Brossoit starts, they may be a tough challenge for the Heat; he’s got an impressive .919 save percentage in the AHL this season.
WHEN LAST WE MET
This is the 12th and final meeting between these California foes this season. The Heat are 5-6-0 through the first 11 games. Their last match-up was a 6-5 overtime victory for the Heat in Bakersfield back on March 19. Stockton blew a third period lead, but Hunter Shinkaruk scored a minute into overtime to get them the win.
|Charlotte||5th / Central||74||80||.541||.552||.526|
|San Jose||4th / Pacific||66||71||.538||.551||.522|
|Stockton||5th / Pacific||65||66||.508||.529||.485|
The Heat are in must-win mode as they have to pass both San Jose and Charlotte in points percentage to make the playoffs.
Charlotte (36-30-3-5) plays Thursday and Friday against Lake Erie, who are excellent (40-22-6-5). San Jose (30-25-8-3) plays Stockton on Saturday and Sunday. The Heat are masters of their own destiny here, but they still need Charlotte to lose out to have a shot.
SUM IT UP
It’s a must-win game for the Heat and potentially the most important, playoff-like atmosphere a Flames-related pro team will play in this season.