It was a pretty strange couple of games for Stockton this weekend, with the Heat blowing two-goal leads in both games, losing Friday 6-5 and Sunday 4-3. Stockton’s special teams took turns costing their team the game, with the Heat powerplay going 0-6 on Friday and Stockton’s penalty kill allowing costly goals on Sunday. All in all, it was a pretty ugly pair of losses.
Come read about what happened and who looked good after the jump!
WHAT WENT DOWN
Friday night’s game was a strange one to be sure. It looked as though the Heat were going to walk away with it early, scoring three times in the first period. However, they surrendered two in quick succession thanks to some spotty defensive zone play and the period ended 3-2 for the Heat. Neither goal was explicitly ugly, the first through a screen and the second a point-blank wrist shot on a two-on-one, though the night was about to get uglier for Jon Gillies.
After Morgan Klimchuk, who looked as though he may never score again in some viewings last season, scored his fourth of the season to put the Heat up 4-2, some absolutely horrific zone coverage from the Heat penalty kill (specifically from Emile Poirier and the absolutely-really-truly-named Kayle Doetzel) allowed the Roadrunners back within one.
In what was a theme of the night, the Heat were absolutely dreadful on the powerplay. It actively hurt them, in fact. Following an offensive zone turnover, the Roadrunners scored shorthanded on an odd man rush to tie the game at four.
While the Heat were unable to generate anything offensively Tucson made them pay repeatedly. The Roadrunners pulled ahead after an unattended pass to the slot led to a fifth goal past Gillies. Again, not really Gillies’ fault, though it wasn’t exactly a banner night for him either.
Though Garnet Hathaway tied the game at five following a nice play from Linden Vey, the Roadrunners scored a sixth goal with fewer than five to play in the third, and this was one that Gillies would surely like back. A defensive miscommunication between Tyler Wotherspoon and Kenney Morrison led to a partial breakaway for Eric Selleck, who squeaked one through Gillies and put Tucson in front for good.
Significantly, and familiarly for Flames fans, Stockton was anemic on the powerplay. Unable to score on six attempts, the Heat need to find a way to convert with the man advantage, or at least not surrender goals while a man up.
After a pretty weird outing for Gillies, David (pronounced DAH-vid by the Heat broadcast crew) Rittich got his first pro start on Sunday night and played reasonably well, but was tagged with the loss. He stopped 31 of 35 shots and was under siege in the opening minutes of the game.
Tucson scored first when noted Flames great Brandon Bollig took a mysterious double minor (two minutes of which were hooking to be sure), leading to a one-timer from the left point that Rittich didn’t have a great look at. This goal was a near carbon copy of Tucson’s first goal from Friday which beat Gillies, though that shot was a wrister and at even strength.
In the late stages of the first period, Rasmus Andersson was levelled by Jarred Tinordi (just returning to hockey after a suspension for PEDs) and went immediately to the room. That was not great. Luckily for Stockton, Andersson was back to start the second.
Bollig fought Tinordi in the second so I suppose all is well in Codeland. However, in actual hockey, Bollig was charged with an instigator and received a 10 minute misconduct. Thankfully, the Heat killed off the powerplay.
Following the kill, things started to go Stockton’s way. With just over two minutes left in the second, Oliver Kylington made a real nice pass to Hunter Shinkaruk who made absolutely no mistake going top-shelf and tying the game. Less than a minute later, a bit of a strange call against Tucson left Stockton up a man and Poirier finally scored his first of the season, a quick wrister off a smooth pass from Daniel Pribyl. Poirier has been the victim of some pretty hard luck to start this season so it was great to see him finally score a goal.
But wait! After Austin Carroll took a late penalty, Vey scooped up a puck off a turnover and scored with half a second left in the second period. Not a bad way to end the frame, with three goals in the final five minutes.
However, if the Heat powerplay was what failed them on Friday, the penalty kill sunk them on Sunday. After the Roadrunners brought themselves back within one immediately following a powerplay, Tucson took advantage of some Stockton PK puck-watching and scored on a cross-seam feed to move past the Heat. Tucson’s ability to play the puck through the slot with ease was apparent during both games, something that shouldn’t happen at any stage, even when killing penalties.
The Heat dropped Sunday’s game 4-3, a stinging defeat given the 3-1 lead that Stockton had heading into the third period. It certainly wasn’t a great pair of games for Stockton, who seem to be able to score a lot more than last season but are having a very difficult time keeping pucks out of their net.
WHO PLAYED WHERE?
Here’s how the lines looked for the most part in the two games, though Andrew Mangiapane played in Friday’s game and Carroll replaced him on Sunday. Also, two lengthy misconducts on Sunday night meant that the lines were fairly scrambled at times.
- Hathaway – Jankowski – Shinkaruk
- Lomberg – Pribyl – Poirier
- Bollig – Angelidis – Carroll
- Morrison – Robak
- Kylington – Doetzel
- Wotherspoon – Andersson
WHO LOOKED GOOD?
One of the most impressive aspects about the Heat’s play in the two games was their ability to possess the puck in the offensive zone. This is a dramatic improvement from last year’s Heat team. The Heat were able to move the puck well below the circles and often created a great deal of space in dangerous areas of the ice. Specifically, the line of Klimchuk, Vey, and Frattin looked very good in both games with the puck in the offensive zone.
However, one of the most concerning aspects of both games was the Heat’s inability to defend in transition. Tucson had a staggering number of odd man rushes on Friday (decidedly less on Sunday) and scored on a great deal of them. The strength of last year’s team was defence and it looked as though it would be again heading into this season.
However, it has been a bit of a fire drill at times this year and Gillies was kinda left out to dry on Friday night. Tyler Wotherspoon, Kylington, and Morrison didn’t have a great game on Friday night but all three looked a lot more composed on Sunday in their own zone and Kylington made a great play to set up Shinkaruk for Stockton’s first goal on Sunday.
- Linden Vey – Firmly within the NHL tweener mould, I thought Vey had a great pair of games. Really confident with the puck, Vey had six or seven really solid shifts between Friday and Sunday and was able to create a lot of offense for his linemates. Additionally, Vey played in all situations for the Heat, and even netted a shorthanded goal on Sunday.
- Morgan Klimchuk – Another member of a very effective line with Vey and Frattin, Klimchuk looked as though he was on the fringes of the organization’s plans heading into this season but has started off his year extremely well.
- Garnet Hathaway – An exceptionally predictable player, Hathaway was very solid in both games. I thought that Hathaway and Jankowski looked good together and honestly, both players played quite well, but I thought Hathaway was more noticeable on Sunday.