On Sunday, Mrs. Finest and I will be following the path of players like Mark Jankowski, Garnet Hathaway, David Rittich, Rasmus Andersson, Jon Gillies, Andrew Mangiapane, Ryan Lomberg, Marek Hrivik, and most recently, Morgan Klimchuk in traveling from San Francisco (where the temperature is in the 60s F) to the freezing, single digit temperatures of Calgary to join the Flames for our one-game call up.
For us, it will be to just watch Monday’s rematch against Boston. After that, back to my regular assignment of covering the Heat.
We do not come to Calgary empty handed though, as I will be handing out some Stockton Heat hats to some lucky fans (okay, just ask for one…). Many thanks to Heat personnel for allowing us to bring these up and distribute amongst the Flames fans who have shown great interest in their AHL affiliate.
I also have some Ryan Lomberg player cards, as he is my enforcer for this trip. Unlike Lomberg, I will not be “dropping my mitts” in fear of my hands freezing and falling off.
SF and Mrs. SF will be catching a stuffed burger and poutine pre-game at Naina’s Kitchen around 11 a.m. and will head to Trolley 5 for some post-game discussion (and some local beer for me and vodka for Mrs. SF). I will be in my white #14 Andersson jersey while Mrs. SF will have her red #9 Hathaway jersey on, if you can see them under our coats. Hopefully some of you here in Flames Nation can come by, introduce yourself, and join in some good hockey discussion with us. The code word is “Glove Side High”.
Now for Friday’s game. Because of work, we got to the barn a little late. It took a few minutes to get the lines straightened out. With all of the recent moves and players coming and going, coach Ryan Huska has put out some odd line combinations recently, and Friday continued that trend. The real only certainty is the top defensive pairing of Andersson and Tyler Wotherspoon.
As stated before, Huska does not “number” his lines, so I tried to put them in the order I would have if I was coach.
FEB. 16: SAN JOSE BARRACUDA
By the time we finally got to our seats, the Heat were down 1-0. They seemed a bit disjointed in the beginning while they got to know their new linemates. The Heat were shooting pucks on net, but most of them in the first five minutes were not quality chances. Midway through the period, Tanner Glass capitalized on the rebound from a one-timer from Oliver Kylington to tie it up at one. Later in the period, Mason McDonald gave up another goal and San Jose took a 2-1 lead after the first.
The Heat played well in the second and fired 15 shots against the Barracuda netminder but couldn’t find an opening. They could not convert on a 53-second five-on-three advantage. Meanwhile, the Barracuda scored a power play goal and a shorthanded goal to take a 4-1 lead into the third.
Stockton, needing a spark to get going, found it within the first minute of the third. The known tough guy (cough cough) Brett Pollock decided to do battle with a much bigger Alexander True and landed some good shots. From that point, the Heat went into attack mode and played their most inspired third period of the season.
Two and a half minutes later, Andersson, with a nifty pass across the crease, found a charging Austin Carroll to cut the lead to two. Nearly six minutes later, Mangiapane went behind the San Jose net, fought off a mauling check and continued to control the puck, skated out and found a wide open Andersson, who buried the puck to make it 4-3.
Holding the Barracuda to just three shots in the third, the Heat continued to put rubber on last year’s winner of the Aldege “Baz” Bastien award for the AHL’s Outstanding goalie, Troy Grosenick. With just under three minutes left, it was Andersson again tickling the twine for his second of the night and knotting the score at four. (During his post-game interview, he said he missed the shot but got lucky it went off the shin guard of the defender).
With a three-goal comeback, we headed to overtime, where the Heat have won only once in six tries. After a shot by each team, Kylington intercepted a mid-ice pass, Brett Findlay gobbled up the puck, fed Hunter Shinkaruk who executed a perfect give-and-go with Kylington and buried the return pass home and sent the 4,000 fans home happy.
AFTER GAME THOUGHTS
This was my first look at the newly acquired center from Pittsburgh, Colin Smith. He was good on draws, even though he got kicked out twice (and chirped about it to the zebras). He has a nice soft, flat pass that seemed to hit the tape of the intended player. He is smallish (listed at 5’10 and 180 lbs) and fast. I will get a better feel for him after I return from Calgary and they have a few games on the road together. But the initial read is that he will fit in well. The stats show he is pass-first (5-18-23), so he may be a better fit with players who tend to shoot a lot, like Spencer Foo or Emile Poirier.
All night long, and especially when down 4-1, I kept saying, “That’s what you get with an ECHL goalie.” But Mason McDonald played a solid game. Not all of the goals he gave up were his fault. At least he did not get beat glove side high all night (couldn’t resist). The first one was a two-on-one; the second one was just a nice move by the forward; the third one was on the power play and a result of a rebound. The last one was shorthanded, where Kylington was frozen in his skates. He made some great saves, especially on a few breakaways and odd-man rushes. He is no Tyler Parsons or Jon Gillies, but if the team plays solid defense in front of him, he will give them a chance to win.
I have been noticing over the past few months, as players are being called up, Rasmus Andersson has stepped up and taken control of this team. He is constantly directing his teammates before draws, playing deeper in the offensive zone, and has been shooting the puck more often. I wish he would take a few more one-timers, but I know I am just nitpicking. Even though he does not wear a letter, he is definitely a player that others look to for direction. His celebration after his first goal really pumped up the crowd and the team seemed to play off that energy.
Hope to see you on Monday!!!