The Stockton Heat and Tucson Roadrunners kicked off their third series of the season on Tuesday night. Stockton’s deadly penalty killing skills ended up being their biggest weakness in this game as the Roadrunners scored both their goals on the man-advantage to earn them a 2-1 win over the Stockton Heat. 

Third time’s a charm? 

Tucson has given Stockton quite a hard time this season. Some of their only losses on the year came at the hands of the Roadrunners. They started the season against them, which resulted in a 1-0 overtime loss. After that, they went on a nine-game winning streak that was snapped by the Henderson Silver Knights.
The Heat got another run at the Roadrunners on Dec. 10, where they fell 5-4 in a shootout. The Roadrunners were once again the better team in the first half of this series, leaving the Heat in a position to possibly earn a split on Wednesday night.
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Not getting the bounces

Once again it wasn’t for lack of trying on the Heat’s end. They ended up out-shooting the Roadrunners 31-24 with the third-period being the most productive on the shot side of things. Nick DeSimone led shooting for the Heat with six. 
Tucson kicked things off early, scoring 1:29 into the game on an early power play opportunity. It was Connor Mackey who watched everything unfold from the penalty box after being whistled for a slashing call a mere 31 seconds into the game. The Heat had not given up a power play goal in just over a month with their last one coming on Dec. 3 against the San Diego Gulls.
This one seemed like quite a harmless shot, but with quite a bit of traffic in front, it is possible Dustin Wolf didn’t see it all the way. 
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Despite this early goal, the Heat were able to play a fairly even first period, matching the Roadrunners shots at 10. The one shot that did go in though, was Justin Kirkland’s. Kirkland has now scored in back-to-back games with this one being a result of a backhand shot he got on a rebound. This goal ended up coming at 4:37 into the second period and was assisted by Luke Philp and Kevin Gravel.
The Heat would finish the second period with a two shot edge on the Roadrunners with 18 shots to their opponents 16. They put themselves in a much better position to start the third period but shot themselves in the foot on the power play once again. 
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Tucson scored 6:44 into the third period on a power play that was a result of a delay of game call. This call was dealt to Jay Dickman, who was playing in his first game with the Heat after being loaned from the ECHL’s Wichita Thunder. Another goal that appeared to be screened and another one Wolf probably kicked himself over following the completion of the game.
That would finish up the scoring for the night as Wolf was pulled at 18:38 into the third period to try and stir up a last minute scoring chance but they were unable to capitalize. Power plays are definitely part of hockey, but after giving up two goals in a low scoring game on the man advantage, it makes you wonder how this game would have been had there been more even strength time. Tucson ended up going 2/5 on their power play and Stockton went 0/4. 
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The Wolf streak comes to an end

After the Heat’s winning streak was snapped, there was one more streak we were all keeping an eye out for. That was Dustin Wolf’s regulation win winning streak. Up until this game, he was able to go the entire season as a primary goaltender without dropping a single game in regulation. His last regulation in loss in the AHL actually dates back to his professional debut almost a year ago on Feb. 21, 2021. 
No typos, not misinformation: Dustin Wolf is really that good. The December AHL goaltender of the month stopped 22 of 24 shots in this game, which wasn’t exactly his best showing but doesn’t knock him down much with the track record he’s had this season. He still has the third best GAA in the league at 1.81, second best save percentage at .940 and the highest amount of wins with 15. This streak was snapped in his 18th game this season where he worked up to 521 saves on the year. The future is certainly looking bright for the Flames goaltending depth. 
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Healthy Valimaki

There is some good news coming out of this loss, however. Juuso Valimaki returned to the Heat lineup after announcement came from the team last week that he was in Covid-19 protocol alongside Emilio Pettersen and Adam Werner. Valimaki got four shots on goal and played in his first game since Dec. 18.
Pettersen was not in the lineup for this game and a timeline for his return is still unknown. Adam Werner was also absent as Daniil Chechelev dressed as the backup goaltender. With three more games to go this week, maybe a couple more familiar faces will return to the Heat lineup when they are healthy and ready.

Rebound the next night

The Heat are sticking around in Tucson for one more day as they play the Roadrunners again on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. MT. The last two series have resulted in a Heat victory in the second half of the series. We will see if Wednesday’s game shapes up to follow the same trend.
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