Taking Stockton: Rittich, Please

The Flames will never win again. I, for one, have made peace with it. I embrace it. I don’t even want them to. All I care about is: Kayle Doetzel, the dulcet tones of Brandon Kisker, and the zapruder-esque quality of AHL live. As such, here is a recap of how things went on the weekend for the call-up-depleted Stockton Heat.

Is this enough un-jinxing? Sweet Gord, I hope so. I love Stockton, the Sparks, and all of it but… Flames, feel free to win please. The winter is long.

WHAT WENT DOWN?

FRIDAY: San Antonio 4 – Stockton 1

Here’s a Janko slideshow dedicated to you, our faithful FN readers.

Friday night was surely a frustrating night for the Heat, who couldn’t really seem to take advantage of their offensive opportunities. San Antonino Rampage goaltender Spencer Martin played quite well, especially in the first 10 minutes of the first period when the Heat had a number of great chances.

In my last viewings of the Heat, one of the main struggles was defending in transition. On the first goal of the night the struggles continued. Rocco Grimaldi, who happens to be far too good for the AHL in my opinion, waltzed around Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington and put the Rampage up by one following a number of near misses from the Heat. David Rittich, minding the net for the Heat while Jon Gillies recovers from a mild finger injury, didn’t exactly have much of a chance.

In the first period, a theme emerged that would carry on throughout the course of the weekend’s action: Mark Jankowski was Stockton’s most productive forward by a significant margin. I understand that there are those of you out there who have doubted the assertion made by J. Harry Feaster Esq. that Mr. Jankowski would one day lead the NHL in scoring with 42,000 goals, but I am here to say that he has been rather swell this entire season and was a treat to watch on Friday and Saturday.

It is safe to say that the Heat’s struggles with allowing goals off the rush continued. In the second, a rather wacky sequence that included a Daniel Pribyl centring pass to no one in particular, a strangely timed open ice hit by Matt Frattin that sealed off Kylington, and a three-on-one finished off by Duncan Siemens led to the Rampage taking a two-goal lead. Again, it would have been pretty cruel to blame Rittich, who was completely hung out to dry on the play. 

However, in what seemed like their 10th good scoring chance (this time on the powerplay), Jankowski was able to generate a goal by making a smooth play from below the goal line to the slot and the tape of Andrew Mangiapane who made no mistake, bringing the Heat back within one. 

However that was as close as the Heat would come. It was a bit of a frustrating game for the Heat who definitely had some good looks but were unable to break through at even strength. Despite the fact that the Rampage sit at the bottom of the Pacific division, there are a lot of good players on that team and they held the Heat in check after the second period, finishing the game with two late goals, one of them into an empty net. 

SATURDAY: Stockton 3 – San Antonio 0

Following Garnet Hathaway’s call-up to the big club, the Heat recalled prospect camp darling and perennial top of the attendance sheet kid Mikkel Aagaard, who has gotten off to a great start with the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL (10 points in 11 games played). It’s worth noting that Aagaard’s call-up comes over some higher profile names such as Brett Pollock, who has four points in nine games played with Adirondack.

The first period was frankly pretty ugly, and the Heat looked every bit like a team that has three forward call-ups currently missing from their lineup. The Heat managed to score a blue-collar goal when Jamie Devane (pronounced de-van and not de-vain by Brandon Kisker, a source we should trust) tucked a puck past Spencer Martin with six minutes to play in the first. 

The goal was largely created by Hunter “oh right, he’s there too!” Smith, who laid a punishing body check on the Rampage defender that allowed the puck to squirt loose to Devane. Cruelly, Smith was not credited with an assist and was unable to double his season points total. Later, Smith got into a fight which nullified what would have been a Heat powerplay. However, Smith is very tall and extremely spooky so I will end this discussion with a plea to not be maimed/eaten if he is reading this.

The Heat scored again in the second off of a dynamic play from your friend and mine, Mark Jankowski, who bulldozed through the Rampage defense and slid a puck to Tyler Wotherspoon for the easiest goal of his life. Another example of great vision from Jankowski, Stockton’s most dangerous player on both nights, though he never put the puck in the net himself.

In the third, Stockton managed to lock things down neatly, sticking to simple plays and managing San Antonio’s entries nicely. In the final four minutes, Daniel Pribyl scored a weird goal from below the goal line, and that sealed a 3-0 victory for Stockton. 

Throughout the night Rittich, who was in no way to blame for Friday’s loss, was exceptionally solid, displaying a quick glove hand and smooth lateral movement. I came away from both nights quite impressed with him, though the starting job remains Jon Gillies’.

WHO PLAYED WHERE?

Given the most recent call-ups, here is how things looked for Saturday’s game. 

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

WHO LOOKED GOOD?

Before we get to who was impressive, let’s talk a bit about Emile Poirier. Let there be no doubt, Poirier gets his chances (five shots and a -1 this weekend). However, at some point he is going to have to start producing, lest he be completely passed over by the likes of Andrew Mangiapane, a winger with far less pedigree and fanfare coming out of his draft class.

Poirier has six points in 10 games, which isn’t awful, but he isn’t driving the bus in the way that many would have expected looking at this Stockton roster heading into the season. There’s still plenty of time though, so here’s hoping for some better luck moving forward. 

  1. Mark Jankowski – Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Jankowski’s game this season has been how solid he has been below the dots. He’s a tall kid with good hands, but I wasn’t really expecting him to be so strong down low. Really impressive start to this AHL year for Jankowski and was hands down Stockton’s best player Friday and Saturday.
  2. Oliver Kylington – I promise that I’m not just giving you readers these names because we all so desperately want this to be true, but it was impossible to take my eyes off Kylington in both nights’ viewings. During one shift at 4-on-4 in Saturday night’s game, Kylington essentially was pulling off And1 mixtape level stuff on hapless San Antonio defenders. It was a delight. He doesn’t quite have the points to show it yet, but he gets four or five quality offensive chances a night. In his own zone? It’s not exactly picturesque (he finished a -3 on Friday but is a +7 overall this season), but give it time. Kylington is still the youngest player on the Heat. This kid is flat out fun.
  3. David Rittich – Really strong playing in back-to-back games, Rittich looked calm, smooth, and relatively effortless on Saturday night, stopping all 20 shots that San Antonio fired at him. Right now, Flames fans have to be pretty desperate for good news on the goaltending front, so drink in a solid couple games from Rittich. It’s what passes for good news these days, I suppose. 

SOME STATS

Let’s have a look at how some of Stockton’s forwards are faring among their AHL peer group in terms of basic shot generation and point production. These stats are taken from the amazing prospect-stats.com, a fantastic site that is too much fun to play around with. Among AHL forwards 26 years old and under with 10 games played or more, here’s where some notable Heat players are stacking up. Feel free to draw your own conclusions in the comments.

Forwards:

Mark Jankowski

  • Points per game: 5th (1.1)
  • Primary points per game: 8th (0.8)
  • Shots per game: 43rd (2.3)
Emile Poirier 

  • Points per game: 60th – tied (0.6). 
  • Primary points per game: 29th – tied (0.6)
  • Shots per game: 19th (2.7)
Andrew Mangiapane (parameters changed to minimum 9 games played)
  • Points per game: 13th – tied (1) – 3rd among forwards 21 or younger 
  • Primary points per game: 7th – tied (0.89) – 2nd among forwards 21 or younger
  • Shots per game: 25th – tied (2.67) – 4th among forwards 21 or younger
Morgan Klimchuk (parameters changed to minimum 9 gp)
  • Points per game: 6th (1.11). 
  • Primary points per game: 5th – tied (0.89)
  • Shots per game: 67th – tied (2.11)

Defencemen

Oliver Kylington

  • Points per game: 14th (0.7) – 6th among defencemen 21 or younger
  • Primary points per game: 11th – tied (0.5) 5th among defencemen 21 or younger
  • Shots per game: 49th (1.8) – 12th among defencemen 21 or younger

Rasmus Andersson

  • Points per game: 20th tied (0.6) – 9th among defencemen 21 or younger
  • Primary points per game: 61st – tied (0.2) 14th among defencemen 21 or younger
  • Shots per game: 71st (1.5) – 17th among defencemen 21 or younger