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.
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.
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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.
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.
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The Heat are halfway there.

Projected lineups

These combinations are based, in part, on those used in these teams’ previous games. 
Stockton Heat
@Justin Kirkland – @Glenn Gawdin – @Matthew Phillips
@Jakob Pelletier – @Byron Froese – @Martin Pospisil
@Emilio Pettersen – @Connor Zary – @Eetu Tuulola
@Alex Gallant – Rory Kerins – @Walker Duehr
@Kevin Gravel – @Colton Poolman
@Connor Mackey – @Nick DeSimone
@Juuso Valimaki – @Andy Welinski
@Dustin Wolf
@Adam Werner
Chicago Wolves
CJ Smith – @Andrew Poturalski – @Stefan Noesen
@Josh Leivo – @Jack 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

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.
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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.

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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