There’s no getting around it: The Stockton Heat are in a rut.
The Heat have won just two of their last 13 games, dropping decisions to each of their four Canadian Division rivals during that stretch.
Most recently, they lost to the last-place Belleville Senators on Wednesday. The Heat battled hard and pushed for a game-tying goal while down 3-2 in the third period, firing 14 consecutive shots but failing to get that all-important third goal.
Stockton and Belleville will meet again on Thursday afternoon for the second half of a back-to-back. With Tyler Parsons still unavailable, it remains to be seen whether the Heat will stick with Garret Sparks in goal—he made 28 saves on Wednesday—or give Andrew Shortridge his first start with the team.
Shortridge, 25, spent the last two seasons in the San Jose Sharks organization and played 15 games for the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda, going 3-8-0. He played four games for the Kansas City Mavericks, the Calgary Flames’ ECHL affiliate, earlier this season and went 2-1-0 with a .943 save percentage.
Zac Leslie and Matthew Phillips scored Stockton’s two goals on Wednesday. Phillips also recorded an assist and moved one point behind the recently recalled Adam Ruzicka for the Heat team lead in scoring.
These combinations are based, in part, on those used in these teams’ respective previous games.
Dmitry Zavgorodniy – Giorgio Estephan – Matthew Phillips
Emilio Pettersen – Glenn Gawdin – Luke Philp
Colton Beck – Byron Froese – Eetu Tuulola
Alex Gallant – Mark Simpson – Kris Bennett
Connor Mackey – Zac Leslie
Colton Poolman – Alexander Yelesin
CJ Lerby – Koletrane Wilson
Angus Crookshank – Mark Kastelic – Egor Sokolov
Joseph LaBate – J.C. Beaudin – Vitaly Abramov
Cole Reinhardt – Cole Cassels – Parker Kelly
Mitchell Hoelscher – Curtis Douglas – Zach Magwood
Jonathan Aspirot – Colby Williams
Cody Goloubef – Jack Dougherty
Hubert Labrie – Lassi Thomson
This listing excludes players on NHL call-ups or assignments to various other leagues.
Stockton — Matthew Phillips (seven goals, 18 points in 23 games); Luke Philp (eight goals, 16 points in 23 games); Connor Mackey (three goals, 14 points in 23 games); Martin Pospisil (five goals, 11 points in 14 games); Glenn Gawdin (two goals, 11 points in 19 games).
Belleville — Vitaly Abramov (six goals, 15 points in 20 games); Egor Sokolov (10 goals, 14 points in 21 games); Angus Crookshank (one goal, eight points in six games); Parker Kelly (four goals, eight points in 21 games); Lassi Thomson (one goal, eight points in 21 games).
Players to watch
Stockton — Glenn Gawdin. After leading the 2019-20 Heat with 47 points (16 goals, 31 assists) in 54 games, Gawdin has just two goals and nine assists in 19 games this season and has struggled to generate offense in any situation.
Gawdin finding his groove would likely be a massive boon for linemate Emilio Pettersen, who has just two points (one goal and one assist) in his last 13 games.
Matthew Phillips spent the first part of Wednesday’s game with Giorgio Estephan as his centre but was eventually moved to a line with Gawdin. That combination started to click in the third period and it remains to be seen whether it will stay intact on Thursday. Phillips and Gawdin played much of the 2019-20 season together.
Belleville — Egor Sokolov. Sokolov offers a tantalizing combination of size and skill. He somehow went undrafted twice before being selected by Ottawa in the second round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
Standing 6’3″ and weighing in at 222 pounds, Sokolov is already a beast at the AHL level despite not turning 21 until June. He has 10 goals in his first 21 professional games and beat Sparks with a beautiful shot on Wednesday.
— Mike Gould (@miketgould) April 14, 2021
Sokolov is coming off a 2019-20 QMJHL season where he scored 92 goals (46 goals and 46 assists) in just 52 games. It’s safe to say he’s carrying some of that momentum with him into Ottawa’s professional system.
How to watch
This game will be broadcast on AHLTV.com (subscription required), with the opening puck-drop set for 5:00 pm MT. Live game updates can be found on Twitter at @miketgould or online at TheAHL.com.