Team Record: 9-0-2 (.909, 1st Pacific, 1st West, 2nd AHL)
Although Stockton saw a very long winning streak come to an end, the three game week provided a ton of positives. The team looked the most human they have all season with some fairly high scoring games by their standards, but they still managed to pull out 2 victories with all three games going to extra time. Connor Zary, who had been recovering from a broken bone suffered blocking a shot in the preseason, was assigned to the Heat and played his first game on Wednesday.
That affair was against the rival Condors in Bakersfield. Despite giving up 4 goals for the first time this year, Dustin Wolf still denied the Condors on 41 shots and ended the night with a save percentage above 90. Stockton built 2-0, 3-1, and 4-2 leads, but Bakersfield just kept chipping away until they had managed to knot the game up after regulation. Those Stockton goals in order came courtesy of Jakob Pelletier, Byron Froese (SH), Matthew Phillips (PP), and Eetu Tuulola. The man who started it all off would also call game, as Pellts got a fortunate bounce in overtime for his second of the game, and fourth of the season.
The next two games, much like last weekend, saw a brand new AHL opponent come into town. The Henderson Silver Knights (unsurprisingly, the Golden Knights affiliate) faced the Heat for the first time in franchise history, and both teams pulled out an extra time win.
Adam Werner stopped all 3 shooters he faced in a shootout Friday, as he kept his personal record perfect. The other Adam, Ruzicka, opened the scoring with his 8th, but two Knights goals saw Stockton fall behind, which is something that has not occurred many times this year. Another Pelletier goal evened the game up in the third on the powerplay, followed by a tightly played overtime. Justin Kirkland, Stockton’s first shooter, provided the only goal in the shootout to push that win streak to nine.
Saturday began with a powerplay coach’s dream, as Stockton came out of the first period with a 2-1 lead, with all 3 goals coming on the man advantage. Luke Philp and Paul Cotter traded the first two 5 minutes apart, before Zary notched his first goal and point of the season in his third game to give Stockton the lead. Ruzicka scored his 9th in the second period, but the Knights added one of their own 13 seconds later. Pavel Dorofeyev beat Wolf two minutes into the third to even the game up and Ben Jones handed Stockton just their second loss of the season exactly a minute into overtime.
Despite the disappointment, the Heat keep their franchise record 11 game point streak intact, as they remain one of only two teams undefeated in regulation. The Utica Comets, now the affiliate of the New Jersey Devils, are 10-0-0. Stockton overtakes division rival Ontario for first place in both the Pacific and Western Conference, and trail only the Comets league wide.
The Heat have had a slew of injuries recently, including Martin Pospisil and Emilio Pettersen. Daniil Chechelev, who has spent the entire season as third string goalie with Stockton, was assigned to the Kansas City Mavericks today, where he should finally get his first taste of North American hockey.
Adam Ruzicka and Jakob Pelletier both sit in the top 10 of AHL scoring, while Pelletier is third amongst rookies. The Week 6 Heat Wave will cover a very interesting Sunday-Monday matchup against the equally hot Ontario Reign.
by Gordie Taylor