The Heat returned to the Stockton Arena after a disappointing 0-2-1 road trip that saw Jon Gillies in net for all three. The defense (or what passes as defense) didn’t do him any favors, but still he needed to be better than 0.889 SV% and 3.73 GAA for those three games. At least those numbers were better than his season numbers.
The Heat cannot continue to give up an average of 33 SOG and expect to win. While defenseman Marcus Hogstrom made his Heat debut on the trip, playing two games with no points and a -3, he did not suit up on Saturday. Lastly, the Heat signed Rob Hamilton to an AHL contract for the remainder of the year.
Saturday night was the annual Teddy Bear Toss with the Texas Stars, who became the latest victims of plush toy abuse.
Coach Cail MacLean sent this lineup out to dance with the Stars.
Texas came out fast and controlled play for the better part of the first period but could not beat Tyler Parsons, who was on his game. Finally, with just over five minutes left in the period, Alan Quine grabbed a loose puck in the slot, hesitated a half second to pick his spot, and wristed one top shelf glove side that sent Paddington flying!
With just under two minutes left, Matthew Phillips fired a perfect pass in front that Glenn Gawdin tipped in for a 2-0 lead after one period. Texas outshot Stockton 13-9.
Parsons kept up his netminding magic in the second period. During the first power play, he made at least four point-blank saves. The Stars finally broke through with a goal after a scrum in front. From my vantage point, not only was the puck kicked but there was goalie interference, but unlike the NHL, coaches cannot challenge those calls. That was the only shot out of 20 that got by Parsons. Yes, Texas fired 20 shots on net in the second period compared to five for the Heat. One would say they were the Shooting Stars.
While the Stars continued to press, Stockton cashed in on their limited opportunities. A faceoff win by Gawdin led to a one-timer by Dillon Dube that whistled by the netminder and Deep in the Heart of Texas’ net for a two-goal cushion. The Stars answered back quickly with a two-on-one break and a clean shot that beat Parsons to cut the lead to one, but that would be as close as they got as Parsons closed the moon roof and denied Texas the chance to see the net. Rinat Valiev ended the scoring with a trickling shot from the Heat zone that kissed the post as it “bearly” went into an empty net. Parsons ended the night with a well-deserved first star, setting a Heat record with 49 saves, as the Heat were outshot 51-22. Parsons gave the 6,600+ in attendance a clinic in goaltending.
Post-game quotes can be found here.
Parsons has now won his last three starts while Gillies has lost (regulation and overtime) his last seven starts. It is time to hand the reins to Parsons and let him develop. He gives the Heat the best chance to win. Sign Ryan Faragher for the remainder of the season (he was sent back to Idaho) or bring up Nick Schneider to back up Parsons. Look into signing Ben Halford, the goalie in Kansas City who has been taking starts from both Schneider and Mason McDonald. I know I am beating a dead horse but it is time to move on from Gillies.
The defense, in name only, needs to improve drastically and quickly. Allowing 51 shots on goal on Saturday is embarrassing. They have been outshot in six of the seven games in 2019. The defense needs to simplify their game plan and concentrate on clearing the zone at all costs.
On a team desperate for defense and all positions open for the taking, Andrew Nielsen looks slow, out of position, and is constantly on the bottom pair. He is a step behind when finishing checks and doesn’t use his 6’4 frame to clear bodies in the crease.
Adam Ollas-Mattsson has not been as solid defensively as at the start of the season. He has contributed more offensively this season with 10 points (4-6) while leading the team in +/- at a +12, but defensively he is allowing defenders to get by him more often. At 6’5”, he should not get muscled off the puck by a smaller winger.
On a positive defensive note, Rob Hamilton and Kevin Tansey have been a pleasant surprise. Known more for their offense, both have played a steady defensive game. Hamilton leads all Heat defensemen with 21 points (5-16) and is a +6. In eight games Tansey has four points (2-2) and a +1.
I am writing a separate post on the forward group that will be coming out later this week. It will focus on the “Black Ace” factor for the eligible wingers and centers that could help the Flames make a deep playoff run as they chase the cup.
There will be one more article before our trip to Calgary for the Flames/Sharks rematch on Feb. 7 and the Canucks/Flames game in Vancouver on Feb. 9. Looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible.