The Stockton Heat lost forwards Glenn Gawdin and Byron Froese to the Calgary Flames’ NHL taxi squad early on Saturday morning.
Mere hours later, the depleted Heat mustered just 13 shots while allowing 46 to the Manitoba Moose in a matinee game at BellMTS Iceplex in Winnipeg. Stockton deployed 11 forwards and seven defensemen in the contest.
Garret Sparks made 43 saves but the Heat ultimately fell by a 3-0 score. At the other end, Eric Comrie made 13 saves for a shutout and moved ahead of Cory Schneider
as the winningest goaltender in Moose franchise history.
Cole Perfetti scored the game-winner for Manitoba and Dominic Toninato added his first two goals of the season. These two teams will return to action on Monday afternoon.
The Moose got the party started early in the first period. The home side limited the Heat to just three shots in the entire opening frame while registering 17 of their own.
Cole Perfetti registered three of those shots for Manitoba and scored the only goal in the first 20 minutes. The 10th pick from the 2020 draft picked up a rebound to Sparks’ left and slammed it into the yawning cage for his eighth goal of the season.
Manitoba continued to dominate in the second period, forcing Sparks to stay sharp.
The 2018 Calder Cup champion came up large early in the middle frame with a terrific glove save against third-year Moose forward Kristian Reichel.
Fresh off a three-point effort on Thursday, Moose leading scorer Nathan Todd had a fantastic opportunity to double his team’s lead on a power play near the halfway mark of the second period.
Sparks managed to get across and make a ten-bell pad save.
Later in the second, Moose forward Nick Jones came streaking down the right side in the offensive zone before slamming into Sparks at full speed.
After the two players fell to the ice, an enraged Sparks got to his knees and started throwing punches at Jones’ head. The Heat goaltender then stood, turned, and dropped Cole Maier with a blocker strike.
Jones then engaged with Heat defenseman Zac Leslie in a spirited fight along the boards. Leslie and Jones both served five minutes for fighting, while Sparks and Moose forward Joona Luoto received two-minute roughing infractions.
Perfetti got back on the scoresheet in the dying minutes of the second period, setting up Dominic Toninato for a one-timer goal at the 18:27 mark of the frame.
Toninato, 27, scored 11 points in 46 games with the Florida Panthers last season but has only played two games with the Moose this year.
Toninato doubled his goal total in the third period, converting on another one-timer pass by Cole Perfetti to increase the Manitoba lead to 3-0.
Perfetti’s assist gave him three points—all primary—in the game and pushed his season totals up to 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 26 games. As a reminder, Perfetti was born on Jan. 1, 2002 and, in normal times, would not be eligible to play AHL hockey this year or next.
Jeff Malott, who leads the Moose with 12 goals, had two excellent opportunities to increase his team’s lead near the halfway mark of the third period.
First, Malott broke down against Sparks on a partial breakaway from the left side. Heat defenseman Alex Petrovic impeded Malott’s progress, resulting in a penalty shot being awarded to the Moose forward.
Sparks denied Malott on the one-on-one opportunity.
Manitoba ultimately emerged victorious by a 3-0 score and outshot Stockton by a 46-13 margin.
Dmitry Zavgorodniy – Luke Philp – Matthew Phillips
Emilio Pettersen – Adam Ruzicka – Eetu Tuulola
Alex Gallant – Mark Simpson – Giorgio Estephan
Colton Beck – Walker Duehr
Connor Mackey – Alex Petrovic
Yan Kuznetsov – Zac Leslie
C.J. Lerby – Rob Hamilton
Jeff Malott – David Gustafsson – Nathan Todd
Dominic Toninato – Cole Perfetti – Kristian Reichel
Joona Luoto – Cole Maier – Nick Jones
Skyler McKenzie – Ty Pelton-Byce – Bobby Lynch
Dylan Samberg – Johnathan Kovacevic
Ville Heinola – Nelson Nogier
Declan Chisholm – Leon Gawanke
Why the Heat lost
Well, did you see the shot totals? Manitoba led 17-3 in the first period, 13-6 in the second, and 16-4 in the third. It was never even close.
Stockton received two power play opportunities. They mustered just two total shots with the man-advantage; for comparison’s sake, Manitoba recorded one shorthanded opportunity.
The hottest Heat
How could it not be Garret Sparks? He made 43 saves, including one on a penalty shot, and was the only member of the Heat to show up consistently through all three periods.
Sparks’ 5-9-0 record this season looks less than stellar, but he’s managed to pair it with a solid .913 save percentage. The 27-year-old goaltender is currently with the Heat on an AHL deal but might be able to parlay his performance this season into an NHL contract for 2021-22.
The Heat will continue their season-ending five-game series against Manitoba on Monday at 12:00 pm MT. You can catch that game on AHL TV; I’ll be posting updates on Twitter at @miketgould.