This weekend, Stockton hosted the San Diego Gulls for a two-game tilt. Coming off a 5-2 loss on Wednesday to San Jose where the top line produced all points, the Heat were looking to get back on track in the friendly, albeit desolate, Stockton Arena, as a total of 4,400 people attended between the two games.
Going into Friday’s game, the top line accounted for 20 of the 37 total points, and 10 of the 14 goals for the season.
This was the scene for Friday’s game:
The Heat won 4-2, with all of their goals coming on special teams. Jon Gillies made 29 saves for the win.
Spencer Foo got the night started on the power play with his first professional goal of his career. Parked in front of the net, he buried a rebound from Hunter Shinkaruk. Later in the first, Joseph Cramarossa picked off a pass and raced down the ice, beating San Diego goalie Boyle for a short-handed snipe.
Mark Jankowski got in the act with a power play goal in the second as he followed up his own rebound, with credit going to Tyler Wotherspoon and Andrew Mangiapane for the assists. It was Jankowski’s league-leading third game-winning goal.
Welcome back, Morgan Klimchuk! I know it was an empty netter (from Rasmus Andersson and Foo), but a goal is a goal. He played a good third period. Early in the game, Mrs. Finest actually asked if Klimchuk was a scratch on Friday, as he blended in with the ice.
On Friday, the best players for me were Wotherspoon, Adam Ollas-Mattsson, Foo, Shinkaruk, and Marek Hrivik.
Wotherspoon played with control. He cleared pucks from the zone, jumped into plays, and moved players away from Gillies. He helped control the zone. If he had played this way during camp, I would be reporting on Matt Bartkowski right now instead.
Ollas-Mattsson acted as the stay-at-home D man, finishing his checks and moving the puck better. This was the best game I have seen him play in person. He was paired with Oleg Yevenko, who was seeing his first action of the season.
Foo is getting more active and involved in the play. You could tell getting that goal early really took the weight off his shoulders. He played fast, but was also getting in front of the net looking for rebounds or tips.
Shinkaruk is looking more mature than last year. He still needs a full year down here, but he should be pushing for a fourth line LW spot next year.
Lastly, Hrivik is good, and counted on to play both the power play and penalty kill. You can tell he’s strong and fast. Like Jankowski, he has good vision of the ice. He will fill in as the top line center whenever the Flames recall Jankowski (#freejanko).
There was a coach’s Chalk Talk for season ticket holders before Saturday’s game. Ryan Huska and Brandon Kisker took questions from the audience, and Mrs. Finest and I were prepared. We asked four of the six questions from the crowd.
SF: Why the move to the fourth line for Emile Poirier?
Huska: We really do not number our lines. Except maybe the Jankowski line.
Translation: I do not want to answer that one.
Mrs. SF: Why the decision to move Ryan Lomberg to center?
Huska: By playing center it helps to improve his defense, training, and abilities. He gets different looks at center than wing. He considers Lomberg a combo center/winger. He likes his speed, which makes a good winger, but he wants controlled speed while playing center.
Translation: We need help up the middle.
SF: You are playing five left wingers but only three right wingers. Is that by design?
Huska: Both Poirier and Cramarossa can play both sides, so it is not as much of an issue as perceived. Most Canadian kids start out shooting left handed, so it is not that big of a deal.
Translation: We are trying to groom another RW.
Mrs. SF: Is Austin Carroll playing tonight?
Huska: Austin is practicing with the team and remains in shape for when he is called on. Right now the forwards are playing well and he doesn’t want to upset the lineup.
Translation: Don’t ask me about Austin Carroll.
- Side note: there has to be something more to this, but nobody is saying anything.
As for the game itself, it kicked off with Klimchuk scoring his second goal in as many games with a sweet feed from Hrivik. Garnet Hathaway got on the board with an apple from Mangiapane, too.
No Jankowski? Just wait. The score was 2-2 after the first period.
Cody Goloubuf scored his first goal of the season in the second frame with a blast from the point, set up by Oliver Kylington and Mangiapane (the assist was originally awarded to Jankowski, but a scoring change has given it to his winger, snapping Jankowski’s point streak).
Scoring correction from last night now sees Jankowski’s point streak end and @andrewmange13 tied for the AHL lead in points entering today!
— Brandon Kisker (@kiskerbc) October 22, 2017
Wotherspoon, too, got on the goal train with a bomb from the blue line. After two, the score was 4-3.
Gillies was looking pretty good for back-to-back games, something I do not like, as he always seems tired the day after a game. The defense helped out by limiting the Gulls to only six shots, while the offense put 22 on their goaltender.
The game ended with another couple of tallies in the third. Hrivik snapped a wrister past the goalie for his opening goal of the season, and Hathaway added an empty netter to tie Jankowski for the team lead in goals with five.
Every player in Saturday’s game had at least one shot on goal.
My takeaways from this weekend:
Hathaway needs to control his temper. He took an “Abuse of Official” penalty on Friday when he flipped the puck down the ice after being called for slashing. You knew the refs had a short fuse and by doing that, he put his team at a disadvantage.
Jankowski is getting more chippy than he was last year. He is protecting himself more, getting in the middle of scrums at the end of plays and confronting those who are trying to mess with him. He is pushing it to the limit without crossing the line.
Stockton has eight solid defensemen. The top pairing of Wotherspoon and Andersson mesh well together. They know each other’s game and work in unison to keep the defensive end clear. They move pucks well and will step into the play when they see the opportunity.
Kylington and Goloubef balance each other. Goloubef covers for Kylington when he pinches the zone, while Kylington has the speed to get back when he makes that ill-advised pass. Goloubef has a lot of experience, both in the AHL and NHL, which he is clearly passing on to Kylington and others.
It appears that Huska is putting Colby Robak and Josh Healey together to get them to gel as a pair. They played well Saturday. Healey had some good hits, and Robak can move the puck. This will be a bottom pairing throughout the year.
Finally, Ollas-Mattsson and Yevenko were paired together on Friday. Ollas-Mattsson is flexible and can be teamed with any of the bottom four to make a good pairing, while Yevenko – all 6’7 of him – needs some work. He seemed a little slow but not as slow as the bearded stork, aka Hunter Smith. With some chemistry, these two could be a good shutdown pair.
- This just in: Mangiapane is fast. He has jumped Klimchuk as the best LW prospect for the Flames.
- The move to center has made Lomberg a better all-around player.
- Cramarossa is a solid bottom six winger. He plays well on the PK and brings an overall grittiness to the team.
- Shinkaruk and Poirier are finding their way in the bottom six, and they are not letting that hamper their progress.
- And Carroll is the only Heat player yet to don a sweater this year.
So, after playing five of their first six games at home, the Heat take to the road with a Wednesday clash in San Diego (again) and a weekend clash in Bakersfield. I would have gone down to see the Saturday game, but I will be taking in the Golden Knights game in Vegas on Friday instead.