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Photo Credit: Graphic by Mike Gould

HGD 4: Heat battle Bakersfield for preliminary Pacific playoff positioning

It’s still early, but every point counts for the Stockton Heat as they try to return to the American Hockey League playoffs for the first time since 2016–17.

Fresh off a commanding 6-2 win over the San Diego Gulls on Friday, the Heat will take on the hated Bakersfield Condors on Saturday night in the rivals’ first meeting of the 2021–22 season.

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Bakersfield is the AHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers. The Condors currently rank fourth in the AHL Pacific Division with a 2-1-0 record; Stockton, at 2-0-1, is tied with the Henderson Silver Knights for second behind the 3-0-1 Ontario Reign. With a win over Bakersfield, the Heat can move into a tie with Ontario for first place in the Pacific Division and the entire AHL.

Justin Kirkland, Matthew Phillips, Jakob Pelletier, Adam Ruzicka, Walker Duehr, and Luke Philp scored for Stockton against San Diego. Adam Werner made 20 saves for his first win as a member of the Calgary Flames organization.

Projected lineups

These combinations are based, in part, on those used in these teams’ respective previous games.

Stockton

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Jakob PelletierAdam RuzickaMatthew Phillips
Martin PospisilGlenn GawdinLuke Philp
Justin KirklandByron FroeseWalker Duehr
Emilio PettersenMark SimpsonRyan Francis

Connor MackeyAndy Welinski
Kevin GravelNick DeSimone
Yan KuznetsovColton Poolman

Dustin Wolf
Adam Werner

Bakersfield

Tim SchallerLuke EspositoBrad Malone
Devin BrosseauRyan McLeodSeth Griffith
James HamblinAdam CracknellCooper Marody
Graham McPheeRaphael Lavoie

Markus Niemelainen – Philip Kemp
Philip BrobergMichael Kesselring
William LagessonVincent Desharnais
Filip Berglund

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Olivier Rodrigue
Ilya Konovalov

Scoring leaders

Stockton Jakob Pelletier (two goals, four points); Adam Ruzicka (one goal, four points); Matthew Phillips (one goal, three points); Luke Philp (one goal, three points); Justin Kirkland (two goals, two points); Walker Duehr (two goals, two points).

Bakersfield Seth Griffith (two goals, five points); Adam Cracknell (two goals, four points); Philip Broberg (zero goals, two points); Ryan McLeod (one goal, one point); Yanni Kaldis (one goal, one point); Luke Esposito (one goal, one point).

Players to watch

Stockton Dustin Wolf. The 20-year-old goaltender has been a revelation between the pipes for Stockton and should make his third start of the season on Saturday. Wolf currently boasts a .957 save percentage to go along with a 1-0-1 record, having picked up right where he left off when he stopped 62 of the final 64 shots he faced with the Heat in 2020–21. Also in 2020–21, Wolf posted an 18-3-0 record and a .940 save percentage with the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League and won the Del Wilson Trophy as the league’s goaltender of the year.

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Bakersfield Adam Cracknell. The Flames drafted Cracknell, now 36, way back in the ninth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He spent parts of three professional seasons in the Flames organization but didn’t crack the NHL until 2010–11, by which point he had joined the St. Louis Blues. Cracknell has played 210 NHL games with the Blues, Columbus Blue Jackets, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars, New York Rangers, and Anaheim Ducks; he re-joined the Oilers organization in 2020–21 after spending the previous season with Kunlun Red Star of the Kontinental Hockey League.

How to watch

This game will be broadcast on AHL TV (subscription required) and on Spreaker (audio only), with the opening puck-drop set for 8:00 pm MT.

FlamesNation contributor Paige Siewert will provide live game updates on her Twitter account. Additionally, you’ll be able to follow along at TheAHL.com.