The American Hockey League affiliate of the Calgary Flames, the Stockton Heat, continued their first round playoff series with the San Jose Barracuda on Sunday evening. While Game 1 of the series was defined by some strong goaltending from San Jose’s Troy Grosenick and Stockton’s Jon Gillies, Game 2 was the exact opposite kind of game.
Both starting goaltenders looked suspect at times but the Heat managed to spot themselves a four goal lead and then cling on for dear life to win Game 2 by a 6-4 score.
The Heat opened the scoring with a nice individual effort from Mark Jankowski. He collected a loose puck outside his own blueline and calmly wandered into San Jose’s zone, stick-handling between defenders, and beat Groesnick five-hole to make it 1-0. Austin Carroll made it 2-0 midway through the first, finishing off a nice give-and-go play with linemate Mikkel Aagaard. After Jankowski drew a penalty with some forechecking, Linden Vey beat a screened Grosenick (on his second try after a blocked initial shot) to make it 3-0. Finally, Brett Kulak sprung Garnet Hathaway for a partial breakaway and Hathaway went backhand and beat Grosenick to make it 4-0. Shots were 15-9 Barracuda in the first.
Man, a four goal lead after one period? The Heat must have coasted to victory, right? Well, taking a page from their parent club, the Heat laid back a bit in the second and nearly blew their lead. And like with the parent club, goaltending drove the lead-blowing bus. On a power play, Barracuda defender Joakim Ryan beat Gillies five-hole to make it 4-1. A little bit later, Barracuda captain John McCarthy’s wrister was almost gloved by Gillies… but it trickled through his mitt and into the net to make it 4-2. Ryan beat Gillies five-hole again on a two-on-one to make it 4-3. At this point, Stockton head coach Ryan Huska yanked Gillies in favour of David Rittich. Mark Jankowski sprung Hunter Shinkaruk on a scoring chance late in the period and he beat Grosenick just inside the post to make it 5-3 and give the Heat a little bit of breathing room. Shots were 9-5 San Jose in the middle frame.
Clinging to a one goal lead, the Heat were a tad better defensively in the third. However, Michael Kostka mishandled the puck at the point on a Heat power play and Buddy Robinson was sprung on a breakaway and beat Rittich to make it 5-4. The Barracuda pulled Grosenick for the extra attacker, but Vey added his second goal of the game on a wrist shot from his own blueline that hit the empty net to make it 6-4 and ice this one. Shots were 8-6 San Jose in the third.
Why The Heat Won
Stockton bent but did not break. They got a big lead and nearly blew it, but Huska adjusted by pulling the shaky goalie and putting in Rittich to hold the fort. They lost Morgan Klimchuk in the first period to an apparent upper body injury (and had to dress Matthew Phillips in place of an injured Ryan Lomberg), but they seemed content to just roll their lines with the guys that remained.
Their penalty kill was basically emblematic of their entire team’s approach. They weren’t amazing, but they were consistently solid and occasionally very good. They were better than San Jose and managed to not let adversity throughout the game trigger a collapse.
Jankowski had a three point game, including scoring the game opening goal and setting up the game winning goal. He looked very good and was dangerous throughout this game.
Stick-taps to Kulak, Hathaway, Vey, Aagaard and Rittich for strong performances, as well.
Tyler Wotherspoon – Michael Kostka
Brett Kulak – Rasmus Andersson
Oliver Kylington – Keith Aulie
Scratches: G Tyler Parsons, D Kayle Doetzel, D Kenney Morrison, D Adam Ollas Mattsson, D Josh Healey, F Cam Braes, F Ryan Lomberg, F Matt Frattin, F Hunter Smith, F Daniel Pribyl
As noted elsewhere, Klimchuk left the game in the late first period and didn’t return, while Angelidis had to crawl off the ice after blocking a shot late in the game. Based on who did and didn’t play in the final regular season game, my thought process is that Lomberg, Frattin, Smith and Pribyl are injured. My guess is that Brett Pollock gets recalled from the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder prior to Game 3 if Klimchuk can’t play, as the team would rather use Pollock than Braes in a situation of this magnitude.
Game 3 goes Friday night at 8 p.m. MT from Stockton Arena, with the Heat trying to take a lead in the series.