Happy New Year from Stockton!
This is my first report in eight games; four each on the road and at home. In between, Mrs. Finest and I took in a game in DC to see the reigning Cup Champion Capitals beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 at Capital One Arena. A nice place to see a game and easy access to get to the barn.
For the games before the New Year, the Heat lost 3-2 in OT on home ice on Dec. 19 to Bakersfield before hitting the road for a set of games in Iowa and Tucson.
In Iowa, the Heat took three of four points, losing in OT 8-7 and winning the next night 5-1. Jon Gillies was saddled with the loss in OT after giving up eight goals, while Tyler Parsons earned the victory when he stopped 31 of 32 shots. Tyler Graovac, facing his old team, put up six points (4-2) in the two games, including a shorthanded hat trick in the win. For his efforts, Graovac earned AHL Player of the Week honors.
Stockton then traveled to Tucson right after Christmas for a pair against the second place Roadrunners. The Heat split the Friday/Saturday set, with Parsons again getting the win by stopping 39 of 41, while Gillies allowed five goals in his loss.
After taking a respectable five of eight points on the road, the Heat returned to Stockton Arena for a five game homestand. With their position in the standings, in order to make a run at the playoffs, they need to come away with at least six points during these next handful of games.
DEC. 31 – SAN JOSE BARRACUDA
New Year’s Eve saw the first place San Jose Barracuda invade the barn. Nothing like facing Barracuda goalie Josef Korenar and his 12-1-1-2 record with a 1.99 GAA and 0.926 SV% (hum, maybe Antoine Bibeau is available???).
Coach Cail MacLean iced the following lineup against their Northern California rivals:
San Jose struck first when Alexander True (it seems like he scores every time against us) beat Parsons for an early lead. The good guys fought back when Kerby Rychel put back a rebound in his office and tied things up. The Barracuda scored again late in the period, but Brett Pollock answered quickly to take a tied game to the locker room after 20 minutes.
San Jose regained the lead with a goal within the first two minutes of the period. Once again Stockton knotted things up at three when Matthew Phillips notched his ninth goal of the year. Then the wheels fell off the cart. The hated Barracuda scored two goals 15 seconds apart. A third goal with just over two minutes left ended Parsons’ night allowing six goals on 31 shots. Enter Gillies to finish the game.
In the third, the Heat made a game of it. Lamp lighters from Rob Hamilton and Ryan Lomberg closed the gap to one, and Stockton had their chances in the final 10 minutes but could not slide the equalizer past Korenar, sending the 3,500 in attendance home disappointed (well, most disappointed, as there is always around 50 or so Barracuda fans there).
Post-game quotes can be found here.
JAN. 4 – TUCSON ROADRUNNERS
Tucson, and newly acquired netminder Calvin Pickard, came to Stockton for a Friday night contest with the Heat. Stockton was looking to improve on their 5-8-2 home record while Tucson was looking to keep pace with the first place Barracuda.
With Gillies in Philadelphia eating cheese steaks, the Heat called on a familiar face to back up Parsons: Ryan Faragher returned from Idaho on a PTO. The lineup looked like this:
|Hamilton (PTO)||Tansey (PTO)|
I know I have said this before, and I hope this is the last time I write this, but this was the worst 20 minutes I have ever seen a Stockton team play. The Heat took five penalties in the period, two of which resulted in 1:34 of five-on-three play. Tucson took advantage of the situation with a blast from the slot and a 1-0 lead. Another power play goal later in the period, followed by an even strength goal less than two minutes later, once again sent the home team to the locker room trailing. The Heat were outshot 19-3, outscored 3-0, and thoroughly outplayed. The Heat were atrocious.
Faragher replaced Parsons and promptly let in a goal two minutes into the period. Ryan Lomberg gave a little hope when he beat Pickard to put a little life into the home team, but Tucson stretched the lead to 6-1 after two more goals midway through the period. Stockton fought back to even the score with tallies from Graovac and PTO defenseman Kevin Tansey.
Stockton closed the gap to two when Anthony Peluso found paydirt early in the third, but Tucson closed the door with a goal with less than 10 minutes left. A Spencer Foo goal with seven seconds left closed out the scoring. The Heat took 11 penalties, including the first six of the game, and eight of the first nine. They did not have a power play until the 6:48 mark of the third period. The final score (7-5) may look respectable, but the Heat were never in this game. It was lost in the first period. final shots on goal favored the Roadrunners 45-27.
Post-game quotes can be found here.
JAN. 5 – COLORADO
The Heat really needed a win on home ice. Coming into this game, the Heat were 1-4-1 on Saturday home ice. They were two games under 0.500 and losing sight of the playoffs. The one bright side; they were 2-0 against Colorado this year.
|Hamilton (PTO)||Tansey (PTO)|
Colorado scored on their second shot of the game, putting them up 1-0 three minutes in. My first thought was here we go again, but Lomberg turned my doubt into hope with a nice tip in front to tie things up. Even though the Eagles regained the lead 90 seconds later, the Heat had a different look to them. The Heat started to dominate the shot clock and were rewarded with three more goals in the period, two from Rob Hamilton and a blast from Curtis Lazar, to send the home team to the locker room with a rare first period lead.
Phillips opened the second period with a nice partial breakaway that tickled the twine, and Buddy Robinson was planted in front and redirected a power play shot from the point from Hamilton for a 6-2 lead. Colorado cut the lead less than two minutes later with a power play of their own, but Stockton doubled up the Eagles after 40 minutes.
The Heat scored the first goal of the third period when Glenn Gawdin put the biscuit in the basket and the Heat had a 7-3 lead with nine minutes left. One would be comfortable with a four-goal lead, but this is the Heat and Parsons, winless at home, was still in net. Two Colorado goals in 19 seconds rapidly cut the lead to 7-5. With offsetting penalties involving Foo (for being leaned on for about 20 seconds and then firing a slash once play stopped), and the Eagles’ goalie pulled, a Colorado shot found its way past Parsons and we had a one-goal game with less than two minutes left. This time the Heat clamped down defensively and found a way to hold on for a rare home victory (6-9-2).
In a reversal from the previous night, Stockton outshot Colorado 46-29, including 20-9 in the first. They played a simple game: short tape-to-tape passes, no rink-long stretch outlet passes, shooting the puck every opportunity they had, and playing improved defense. This was Tyler Parsons’ first home ice win. Let’s hope it isn’t the last one.
Post-game quotes can be found here.
Phillips has finally reached the top line flanked by All-Star Lazar and Rychel. He is also on PP1. He continues to shine and has rapidly ascended the depth charts. He is now tied for fifth in scoring with Alan Quine, six points behind Rychel. He needs the full year to get adjusted to the pro game, but he will be pushing players at next year’s camp for a roster spot.
Since that top line was assembled for the first time in Tucson on Dec. 28, they have accounted for six goals and 15 assists in the last five games, four coming off Phillips’ stick. Like the top line in Calgary, Phillips has filled the RW role to allow Lazar to dish and Rychel to cruise the front of the net for rebounds.
In the eight games in between reports, Stockton went 3-3-2, scored 36 goals but allowed 38. Parsons was in net for all three wins, but was also pulled twice. He allowed 18 goals in five games. Gillies saw action in four games, losing all three starts, two in overtime. He surrendered 16 goals in those starts while shutting out the Barracuda in just over a period in relief. Faragher allowed four goals in two periods against Tucson and was saddled with the loss. Some of this is on the goalies, but a proper defense turns an 0.861 goalie into a 0.902 netminder by clearing the zone, not allowing numerous odd-man rushes, and staying out of the box. It also earns points, something Stockton is in desperate need of to make the playoffs.
The Flames are searching the nation for anyone who can provide depth. This is what coaches, players, and fans have had to deal with all season long, and I doubt it is over. To emphasize the revolving door that is the Stockton Heat this 2018-19 season, below is a list of players who have spent time in Calgary, called up from Kansas City, or were (or currently) on a PTO.
|Spent Time in Calgary||Still in Calgary|
|Kerby Rychel||Oliver Kylington|
|Alan Quine||Andrew Mangiapane|
|Rinat Valiev||Kansas City Recalls|
|Jon Gillies||Nick Schneider|
|Dillon Dube||Jordan Ernst|
|Active PTO Players (on loan from & games played)||Past PTO Players (number of games)|
|Rob Hamilton (Manchester Monarchs – 21 games)||Cliff Watson (4 games)|
|Kevin Tansey (Toledo Walleye – 3 games)||Yasin Ehliz (4 games)|
|Scott Sabourin (beginning of year – 19 games)||Brady Austin (2 games)|
|Etienne Boutel (Orlando Solar Bears – 2 games)||Mike Szmatula (2 games)|
|John McCarron (Florida Everblades – 1 game)||Kayle Doetzel (1 game)|
|Ryan Faragher (Idaho Steelheads – 3 games)||Nolan De Jong (1 game)|
The Heat have two more games on this homestand. If they want to make a run at the playoffs, they need to sweep these contests. The next game will be a big challenge, as San Diego brings their 8-0-0-2 record in the past 10 into town. After that, the last place Ontario Reign return for a Saturday bout with Stockton.
Only a month until we come up for the Flames – Sharks rematch on Thursday, Feb. 7. Mrs. F and I will be pre-gaming at Naina’s Kitchen at 5 p.m. and then heading to the game from there. Post-game discussion and drinks are planned for Jamison’s Pub on 17th. Then we follow the Flames to Vancouver for the Feb. 9 game against the Canucks. There we are set for a 5 p.m. pre-game at the Devil’s Elbow. We hope to see as many of you as possible.