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Photo Credit: Graphic by Mike Gould

Heat Post-Game: The Wins Keep Coming and They Don’t Stop Coming

The Stockton Heat took a road trip up north California to face the Bakersfield Condors on Saturday night. A road trip about three hours away against a team wearing a white, blue, and orange uniform? Sound familiar? Bakersfield is the Edmonton Oilers affiliate and their proximity to Stockton makes them an easy natural rival. It was the battle of the Flames and Oilers prospects, and it is the Heat who came out victorious in their 4-2 win. They have yet to go a game without earning a point and this win gave them a three-game winning streak to take into the third week of AHL hockey.

Battling from Behind 

Until their third goal of the night, the Heat were chasing the Condors the whole game. Bakersfield scored first on the power play 5:17 into the first, but the Heat were able to answer back in a timely manner. A skill they have been showing early this season that is keeping them in games very well. 

Kevin Gravel scores his first of the season 45 seconds after the Condors goal and Martin Pospisil and Glenn Gawdin pick up the assists.

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They ended the first period tied at one. In the second, both teams picked up a goal a side. Stockton arguably had two goals in the second, but that is a controversial play to read about later in this write-up. 

The Condor’s scored quickly into the second from a goal by Tim Schaller and the Heat found a way to answer back. Justin Kirkland continued to find scoring chances and evened things up just shy of three and a half minutes later on the power play. This was his third straight game he scored in. Three straight wins? Three straight Kirkland goals? Pattern? Possibly.

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The second period also finished in a tie, this time at two. It wasn’t until the third, that the Heat secured the win. Matthew Phillips scored the game-winner off a feed from Jakob Pelletier 4:46 into the third and Nick DeSimone netted his first of the year at 19:05 from a long empty-net shot attempt that proved successful. Byron Froese picked up an assist on the Heat’s fourth and final goal of the night.

The Terrific Top Line 

Jakob Pelletier, Adam Ruzicka, and Matthew Phillips. The line to look out for. These three are absolutely electric. Phillips and Ruzicka picked up where they left off last year with their undeniable line chemistry and Pelletier plays as if he has been on that line with them for years. The top trio once again took credit for the game-winning goal as Jakob Pelletier had both his linemates open and passed it to Phillips to earn the third Heat goal of the night. 

We will now be accepting suggestions for catchy line names for these three as we have a feeling there will be much more to report from them down the stretch. 

Wolf Watch 

After taking the night off in Friday’s game, Dustin Wolf was back between the pipes in Bakersfield. He played another solid game stopping 31/33 opposing shots. At this point, he’s making it look easy. The presence he has developed early in this season gives his team and those who watch him a sense of ease and confidence in his abilities. Even when they are on the penalty kill or when he is facing high-danger shots, there is barely any doubt anything will make it past him. He is playing with great confidence and his team feeds off it.

An interesting fact pointed out by the team highlighted the fact that Wolf has not actually lost a game since his professional debut with the Heat early in the 2020-21 season. He is definitely the guy you want to have on your side. 

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The “5-2” Game that Wasn’t

Now this game didn’t finish without any head scratches by any means. It seemed pretty clear on the broadcast that the Heat should have had an additional goal in the second period. 

The broadcasters were better placed in the rink to see the play and they even thought it was worth a second look. The whistle does not blow until after the puck bounces in and out of the net and the Heat celebrated as if it crossed the line. Head Coach Mitch Love had a brief conversation with the officials and no further review took place. 

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There are some leagues that play without video review, but this is not one of them. It appeared to be the referee’s decision to not take another look at this play. Rule 79 in the 2021-22 AHL Rule Book states, “It shall be the Referee’s sole discretion as to whether the use of the video review system shall be utilized for any apparent goal or non-goal that takes place during the course of the game. Any potential goal requiring video review must be reviewed prior to or during the next stoppage of play.” 

Slow Starts

Now it is early, and most of the Heat’s play has been positive, but there are some individuals that could use a boost down the stretch. The likes of Connor Mackey, Emilio Petterson and Martin Pospisil have not been as noticeable and dangerous as they were in last year’s season. Part of that is new players in the lineup competing for their playing time, but on the other end of that, there is a reason others are playing ahead of them.

Through the first four games, Pospisil and Mackey have picked up an assist each and Petterson has been unable to make it to the score sheet. All have played in all four games. This isn’t hurting the team at the moment with the top two lines doing quite a bit of damage, but if they hit a rut, these are the guys to look to. 

Martin Pospisil had an exceptional camp with the Flames and really made a name for himself within the organization. If he is looking to make a jump or put his name in the hat for call-up opportunities, the performance has to be there to back it up. 

Some credit is due to Mackey, he has not been lacking opportunity. It is early. There may still be a little offseason rust to shake off and scoring on pace with forwards as a defenseman (like he did last year), is definitely not the ongoing expectation. He has been still getting top minutes and is on the ice in key game moments which is a good sign. These three might be a few to keep an eye on going forward in case there really is something to be concerned about.

Looking Ahead

It will be a spooky weekend for the Heat as they play the October 30th and 31st games next weekend at home. They host the Colorado Eagles on Saturday at 7 pm (MT) and the San Jose Barracuda the following night at 6 pm (MT). Through their first four games, the Heat have yet to walk away without at least a single point and currently ride a three-game winning streak that puts them second in the Pacific Division just under the Ontario Reign.