Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

AHL Post-Game: Heat survive Game 2, even up the series

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 Rundown

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.

Red Warrior

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.

The Lines

Andrew Mangiapane – Mark Jankowski – Garnet Hathaway
Morgan Klimchuk – Linden Vey – Matthew Phillips
Hunter Shinkaruk – Mikkel Aagaard – Austin Carroll
Jamie Devane – Mike Angelidis – Brandon Bollig

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.

Up Next

Game 3 goes Friday night at 8 p.m. MT from Stockton Arena, with the Heat trying to take a lead in the series.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I just watched the highlights on the Stockton Heat website. Gillies really struggled which kind of scares me. I believe it was 3 of the 4 goals that went through the legs. Now it should be noted that SJs keeper who is the best in the league looked weak as well. I am thinking Rittich gets the call until he loses.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        I can’t quite put my finger on what is missing in his game (from the small sample size that I have seen). His glove hand seems suspect and his rebound control is spotty. When you look at the way Rittich has been able to shut teams out, he appears to have the better focus.

        I think Rittich takes over the starting role in the playoffs and carries the team out of the first round. I am not sure if Gillies becomes a casualty of the goalie equipment trend but I don’t see that impacting Parsons.

  • Sammy p

    Looking good down on the farm so for next year Flame fans can look forward to their team boasting 3 of the leagues top defencemen.,a. Great crop of rookies and best of all an 18 year old Ryan Kessler in the person of Mathew Tkachuk,find a goalie and with a couple of tweaks the Flames will become the scourge of the west.

    • Alberta Ice

      Here’s hoping with you. I really trust some of these in Stockton can make an impact soon. (I really liked Hathaway’s toughness when he played for us this year.) And I am so very thankful Tkachuk is a Flame and not a Blue Jacket, Canuck, or an Oiler.