With the series between Stockton and San Jose tied at one, Game 3 wasn’t a must win. It was the next closest thing, as with the AHL’s first round lasting just five games, the winner of this one would take a stranglehold on the series, and make things awfully precarious for the other team.
David Rittich, who replaced Jon Gillies in Game 2, rewarded Ryan Huska’s faith to turn back to him. Ultimately, though, in an evenly-matched game, he was beat that one extra time – and the Heat have, as a result, been pushed to the brink.
While the Heat had a couple of good chances to start, it was the Barracuda’s Barclay Goodrow who drew first blood, capitalizing off of a defensive breakdown in the midst of a San Jose wraparound attempt.
The rest of the first was rather back-and-forth, including both teams getting powerplay opportunities. Rittich came up very strong when his team needed him – such as two impressive stops on a Goodrow breakaway – while the Heat’s top players were unable to properly connect to generate any meaningful chances.
The Barracuda solved Rittich in the final 16 seconds of the first, as traffic in front of Stockton’s netminder allowed Daniel O’Regan to get it past him for a 2-0 lead. Shots were 10-8 for San Jose after one.
Stockton and San Jose traded powerplay opportunities to start the second, and the Heat were able to break through once they received a 25-second five-on-three opportunity. While the Heat’s powerplay had been having some trouble creating high danger chances, they came alive particularly after the first penalty on the five-on-three was killed, and a lot of cycling led to a Mike Angelidis goal, created through Andrew Mangiapane’s effort.
Not even a minute and a half later, Brandon Bollig tied it thanks to Brett Kulak’s efforts to get the puck to the net.
— AHL (@TheAHL) April 29, 2017
Things got exceptionally frantic after that, with the Heat really pressing, and Matt Frattin nearly taking the lead for Stockton on a shot that just went off the crossbar. That was it for the second, though, as San Jose outshot Stockton 23-20 after two.
San Jose controlled much of the start of the third period, and while Rittich continued his strong effort, the Barracuda eventually capitalized with just under five minutes to go in regulation thanks to Ryan Carpenter’s third goal of the series. He beat Oliver Kylington on his own blocked shot and put it over Rittich’s shoulder to make it 3-2 for San Jose.
Though Stockton – and Mark Jankowski in particular – did their best to create chances to even it up, Troy Grosenick came up huge, and Timo Meier even bigger as his goal made it 4-2 San Jose with just over three minutes to go.
The Heat got a bit of life as Rourke Chartier interferred with Rittich, giving the Heat a powerplay with just 1:29 to go. With Rittich pulled, the Heat secured puck movement six-on-four until a Mike Kostka slapshot from the point beat Grosenick, making it a one-goal game once again, albeit with just 28 seconds to go.
That was it for the Heat, however, as San Jose was able to secure the puck off the ensuing faceoff and score the empty netter, winning 5-3. Shots were even at 33 apiece.
- Jankowski was particularly aggressive on the penalty kill, often entering the offensive zone whenever he had the chance and pushing the San Jose players.
- Seeing him on a two-on-two rush with Bollig on the kill was somewhat surprising, though I guess that’s the fun the AHL can provide!
- Actually, Jankowski was rather noticeable throughout the entire game, and for all the right reasons. He was active in creating chances in all situations, and the most impressive of all the Heat prospects.
- Mangiapane created a number of chances, including two breakaways, both of which he only just failed to capitalize on.
- In the third period, he split the defence on an individual effort to nearly get what could have been the game winner. It was a really strong performance.
- He also tried to scrum things up a bit centre ice after the Barracuda’s fourth goal, but was quickly shut down by the officials.
- Though they didn’t get in on the offence, Garnet Hathaway, Linden Vey, and Hunter Shinkaruk also put up strong efforts in their bids to score.
- Hathaway led the way with six shots. Shinkaruk, Mangiapane, and Jamie Devane had four each.
- Oliver Kylington had an outstanding effort to prevent an empty net goal after Rittich had been pulled but before the powerplay at the end.
- If Kulak isn’t in the NHL full time next season, we riot.
- Kostka is a fantastic AHL defenceman, and the Heat really relied on him.
- The Barracuda were undisciplined, taking seven penalties, and the Heat made them pay twice. Bollig’s goal was their only even strength effort.
- The Heat were disciplined by comparison, and killed all three of their penalties.
Why the Heat lost
Honestly? It was a tied game with like five minutes to go in regulation. Two quick goals from the Barracuda sunk them, Meier’s game-winner being the back-breaker.
The Heat were outplayed in the first period; they were the better team in the second period; they had a weak start to the third, but Rittich held firm. This was a close game, though. Though San Jose had the edge, thanks to Rittich it really could have gone either way – but Grosenick was just that much better.
Jankowski had just one assist and two shots, but he was absolutely buzzing throughout the entire game, playing all situations and clearly being relied on to be one of Stockton’s top players. Without his efforts, the level of play is nowhere near as close as it was.
Rittich shares the honour with him, as the game likely isn’t nearly as close as it was without him in net. He was out-duelled by Grosenick, but still put up a strong performance, stopping 28 of San Jose’s 32 shots on him.
Sunday, 5 p.m. MT, Stockton hosts San Jose for Game 4. They’ll be fighting to stay alive and force a Game 5. If they can’t, that’ll be it for their season.