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Photo Credit: Graphic by Mike Gould

Heat Post-Game: Stockton earns a point, loses a Wolf shutout in OT

The Stockton Heat returned to home ice for the first time since March of 2020 to open their season against the Tucson Roadrunners on Friday night. A game that felt like a fresh start with their return to the Pacific Division and a new face leading the charge behind the bench in Mitch Love. Stockton kicked things off on a high note and showed a lot of good things after having about a five month break. They played a scoreless 60 minutes and took the game to overtime, ultimately falling 1-0 to the Roadrunners. 

Right where they left off

The players looked just as excited to play in this game as we were to watch it. Some even looked like they did not skip a beat at all. Emilio Pettersen and Luke Philp were not as noticeable in this first game as they have been in previous games, but they were still contributing. The types of performance you would’ve expected out of Adam Ruzicka, Matthew Phillips, and Connor Mackey were pretty on par with the type of play they are capable of. Mackey put up three shots, Ruzicka had four and Phillips had two while still being very active on the rushes and power play opportunities. 

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Perhaps the two biggest opportunities of the night came from Justin Kirkland in the first period. One was even on the penalty kill. Certainly ones to get you on the edge of your seat. 

The Roadrunners also played a pretty tight defensive game that prevented quite a few Heat shots from getting through. The ones that did were shut down by Roadrunner goaltender, Ivan Prosvetov. He took the win on the night with a 29 save shutout. 

Welcome home Wolf 

On the other end of the ice was Dustin Wolf. Now we’re going to try really hard not to make a Wolf joke this early in the season, however, Dustin Wolf is definitely worth mentioning. Friday was a big game for him as he returned to his home state for his first game in Stockton Arena. He carried this game and prevented any opportunity for the Roadrunners to steal some momentum back in regulation. He was solid on shorthanded opportunities and owned the crease with swagger. Wolf has earned the chip on his shoulder he played with tonight and hopefully that confidence stays present in future games.

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Wolf turned away 34 of 35 shots and looked like a seasoned goaltender in this league with some big-time saves. It was a game of bounces and at any point, it could have gone the Heat’s way. This match-up was his first professional home opener, but not his first pro game. He did get into three games for the Heat last year and it appears most of his pro hockey jitters were shaken off back then.

Knocking knuckles

The Heat didn’t wait to be on the back end of a weekend series to get the rough stuff going. Tucson played a physical game right from the get-go and the Heat held their own. Luke Philp ended up on the wrong side of an open-ice hit and that was just the start of it. 

In the second period, Alex Gallant stepped in himself and had a monster of a fight that started out pretty even, but he evidently sealed it in the end. 

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Missing pieces

The missing C has trickled down from the Flames to the Heat. No Heat skaters wore the C on their sweater in the first game of the season. The expectation was that Byron Froese would be returning to the Heat and taking back the role of captain that has been his role the last two seasons (off and on last year due to taxi squad roles). 

At this point, there is no confirmation of which press box he is sitting in. Whether it be in Stockton or in Edmonton on Saturday for the Flames’ season opener against the Oilers. (If he is with the Flames, there’s a possibility he might play for them on Saturday.) Until his return, it is looking like the captain spot will stay vacant as Alex Petrovic, who filled in last year as captain, was picked up by Dallas in the off-season to play with the Texas Stars. In this game, As were worn by Matthew Phillips, Andy Welinski, and Kevin Gravel.

Free hockey!

Now we’re not just talking about overtime hockey. The AHL streams are literally free for the weekend. If you missed Friday’s game, there is still a free way to watch Stockton’s second game of the season this weekend. AHL.tv is running a free preview weekend to promote the league and their variety of streaming packages so this game and Saturday’s game are available free of charge. Visit watchtheahl.com to catch tomorrow’s Roadrunner re-match at 7 p.m. MT.