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Photo Credit: Graphic by Mike Gould

Heat Playoff Game Day: Time for the toughest test yet (6:00 p.m. MT)

If Connor Mackey scored the final American Hockey League goal at the Stockton Arena, it was a good one.

With just over five minutes remaining in overtime of Game 5 between the Stockton Arena and Chicago Wolves, the 25-year-old defenceman took a feed in the high slot and wired a wrist shot past Wolves goaltender Alex Lyon.

Mackey’s first career AHL playoff goal kept the Heat alive in the Western Conference Final.

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The Heat dropped the first three games of the series — two in Rosemont, IL, one in Stockton — before roaring back to win back-to-back overtime games at home. The Western Conference Final now shifts back to Illinois for Game 6 and (if necessary) a winner-take-all Game 7.

It’s not as though Stockton was grossly outplayed in its losses against Chicago. Games 1 and 2 both ended with the Wolves up by one goal; Game 3 saw Dustin Wolf make 27 saves in a 3–0 Heat loss.

Stockton took Games 4 and 5 despite being without top-six centres Adam Ruzicka and Luke Philp. Glenn Gawdin and Byron Froese have both risen to the occasion in big ways, with Gawdin scoring the OT winner in Game 4 and Froese setting up Mackey’s clincher in Game 5.

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Even if the Heat fall on Tuesday evening, they have a lot to be proud of. They’ve won eight playoff games, including two against the AHL’s top team in the regular season.

If they can push this series to Game 7 and win, they’ll become legendary. Only three AHL teams have ever come back from 0–3 series deficits to advance.

The Heat are halfway there.

Projected lineups

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

Stockton Heat

Justin KirklandGlenn GawdinMatthew Phillips
Jakob PelletierByron FroeseMartin Pospisil
Emilio PettersenConnor ZaryEetu Tuulola
Alex Gallant – Rory Kerins – Walker Duehr

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Kevin GravelColton Poolman
Connor MackeyNick DeSimone
Juuso ValimakiAndy Welinski

Dustin Wolf
Adam Werner

Chicago Wolves

CJ Smith – Andrew PoturalskiStefan Noesen
Josh LeivoJack Drury – David Gust
Noel Gunler – Vasili Ponomarev – Richard Panik
Stelio Mattheos – Jamieson Rees – Spencer Smallman

Max Lajoie – Jalen Chatfield
Jesper Sellgren – Joey Keane
Cavan Fitzgerald – Josh Jacobs

Alex Lyon
Pyotr Kochetkov

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Playoff scoring stars

This section excludes players recalled to the NHL or on assignment to other leagues.

Stockton Heat

  1. Justin Kirkland — 12 GP, 7 G, 12 P
  2. Byron Froese — 12 GP, 1 G, 10 P
  3. Matthew Phillips — 12 GP, 3 G, 8 P
  4. Jakob Pelletier — 12 GP, 4 G, 7 P
  5. Glenn Gawdin — 9 GP, 3 G, 6 P

Chicago Wolves

  1. Josh Leivo — 12 GP, 10 G, 19 P
  2. Jack Drury — 12 GP, 7 G, 16 P
  3. Stefan Noesen — 12 GP, 7 G, 15 P
  4. Andrew Poturalski — 12 GP, 4 G, 13 P
  5. David Gust — 12 GP, 3 G, 10 P

Heating up

Heat captain Byron Froese has beautifully risen to the occasion with his team’s season on the line.

The 31-year-old centre has slid into a top-six role in the last two games and has responded with four assists, including the primary helper on Glenn Gawdin’s last-second equalizer in Game 4.

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How to watch

Game 6 in Rosemont, IL will be broadcast on AHL TV (subscription required) and on Spreaker (audio only), with the opening puck-drop set for 6:00 p.m. MT.

FlamesNation contributors Paige Siewert and Mike Gould will provide live game updates on Twitter. Additionally, you’ll be able to follow along at TheAHL.com.


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