After playing catch-up for much of Friday night’s 5-3 defeat at San Jose, the Stockton Heat took a more proactive approach on Saturday, downing the San Diego Gulls 4-2 after Derek Grant secured the game-winner in the final minutes of the third period.
Grant took advantage of a misplayed knockdown by a San Diego defender before depositing the puck past the San Diego goaltender’s shot blocker side for his first power-play goal of the season.
“[Oliver Kylington] just tried to throw it in there and their defense knocked it down,” Grant said. They tried to clear it out right away and I think it hit me in the chest. I got in all alone and was fortunate enough to beat the goalie.”
The centre was not finished, however. Less than four minutes after regaining the lead for the Heat, Grant sealed the victory with an empty-net goal on a breakaway. The dagger was his team-leading seventh goal of the season.
The teams traded goals in the first two periods. Left winger Ken Agostino continued his hot play as he got things going late in the first with a power-play goal earned off a partial breakaway.
Agostino was also credited with an assist on Freddie Hamilton’s sixth goal of the season that came off a rebound and 19 seconds before a San Diego response that retied the game 2-2.
The win came a night after the Heat could not rectify a three-goal deficit amassed in the first period against the San Jose Barracuda.
Agostino secured his second and third goals of the season late in the first and second periods, respectively, but the Heat had trouble closing on the defensive end throughout the contest.
“I thought we were a little bit loose defensively here tonight,” head coach Ryan Huska said after the loss Friday. “We gave them some second opportunities after Joni [Ortio] made a good save. We weren’t positionally sound defensively on those goals. We kept pushing again like our team typically does, but you can’t give teams lead like we have in the last little while and expect to win.”
Ortio received 17 save opportunities with the fifth San Jose goal scored on an empty net. By comparison, San Jose goaltender Aaron Dell saved 43 of 46 shots.
Despite his team outshooting San Jose in each period, including 20-3 in the third period, Stockton’s shot selection left something to be desired for Huska.
“I think you have to go to the net a little bit harder,” Huska said. “I thought we did that in the third period and we were a little bit harder in front of the net, but some of our chances we just put right in [Dell’s] belly. I thought he played well and he did a good job of limiting our second opportunities.”
Stockton (7-8-0-2) will make its third trip to Texas this season when it travels to San Antonio to face the Rampage on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. MT.
by Ed Lupien