Brandon Davidson said it was a wake-up call.
Cail MacLean called it a failure in execution and will.
Brad Pascall called it an off night where nothing seemed to work.
The fourth game of a season-long five-game road trip did not go as planned Friday night, Stockton's four-game win streak coming to a screeching halt with a flat effort in a 5-2 setback, the first matchup of two against the Colorado Eagles.
It was the penultimate stop in a trip that spanned 11 days with stops against Bakersfield, San Diego, Ontario and Colorado.
Saturday was a chance, though, to make good.
End the trip on the right note.
That's just not how these Heat roll.
There were plenty of opportunities to pack it in on Saturday in Loveland, like when the Eagles lit the lamp first - the team entering the night 10-1 on the year when breaking the ice. Glenn Gawdin had the answer to that issue, finding twine less than two minutes later. A.J. Greer put the home team on top once again midway through the second. Buddy Robinson stepped up with the tying goal 33 seconds later.
After Luke Philp popped in a go-ahead goal, the home team responded with back-to-back strikes, seizing a 4-3 lead through 40 minutes of play. The Eagles gummed up the game in the third, limiting chances and slowing the flow both ways, leading to Stockton emptying the net with just under two minutes remaining.
The clock ticked under a minute and the Heat were making their final push. Alan Quine dropped the puck from the half wall to Brandon Davidson at the blue line, who immediately moved the puck back to Quine, who threw the puck toward the middle. Justin Kirkland, who had quietly moved from the slot to the near post, redirected the feed for game-tying goal with just 41 ticks remaining.
One point in the bank, the second still up for grabs.
The game-deciding play started off with a Colorado shot that caromed back into the Eagles' defensive end, played in the corner by Hunter Miska. Matthew Phillips, the diminutive forward with big speed, pressured the goalie and stripped him of the puck. He slid it across the slot to Philp, who was making a bee line toward the cage.
Stick. Shot. Score.
The fifth game in four cities in 11 days allowed the Heat to show their strengths. A blue-collar, hard-skating, highly-skilled roster that's more than capable of filling the net, Stockton has excelled on the road this season - now 9-2-0-1 on the year on opponents' home ice. It also allowed Stockton to put a bow on a road trip that was full of positives, including earning an impressive eight of a possible 10 points and filling the net with 23 goals in the five-game span.
"If you look at the trip overall, we're doing a good job of playing the right kind of hockey," said MacLean about the sprint around the Pacific Division. "We're resilient in terms of being in situations where it's uncomfortable and finding a way to get it done.
"I'm proud of the group."
- The Heat have earned at least a point in half of the eight games this season when they have trailed after two periods of play (3-4-0-1), one of a six-team group to meet that benchmark in the AHL.
- Stockton is now 5-1-0-1 following losses this season; 4-0 after regulation losses.
- Of Philp's six goals this season, two are game-winners and one was a third-period, game-tying goal.
- Glenn Gawdin has recorded at least a point in nine of Stockton's last 10 road games.
- Stockton enters the week ranked second in the AHL on the powerplay (26.8%) and tied for fourth on the penalty-kill (87.1%), the only team in the league to be top five in both categories.
THEY SAID IT:
"If we take on a loss then we need to make sure we bounce back strong. The guys are cognizant of it. You point to the character of the room. Bottom line, we've got some older guys and leaders but we've also got some young guys with character who have been captains on their respective teams in junior and college. They know how to bear down." - MacLean on Stockton's ability to rebound after defeats
"I stepped on the ice and it was put on a platter by (Matthew) Phillips. He did all the work, I didn't really see what was going on. The goalie was out and I knew if (Phillips) got it, he was going to give it to me. He made a great play and I had a big chunk of the net to shoot at." - Philp on his game-winning goal Saturday
"We came out pretty determined. It's a hard place to play. (Colorado is) a good team. They've been pretty hot since we last played them early in the season. They're just a hard-working team, so we knew they weren't going to go away. Everyone up and down the lineup was great today. We had a talk about our effort Friday night, and we weren't happy with it. As a team goal we don't lose two in a row. We came out and took care of business." - Robinson on Stockton's Saturday win
"(Friday) night was a little bit of a grounding effort. We'd been winning, we'd been having success. To have a little bit of adversity like that can be a positive thing. If you look at the season and you look at our start (Saturday), it's a positive thing." - Pascall on the team's response from Friday's setback
"It's fun to win. We played in their end, and that's where most of the fun is. You get away from the defensive zone, play in their end down low, that's the fun part of hockey. Especially when you score eight goals, that's unbelievable." - Adam Ruzicka following his first multi-goal game Wednesday in an 8-5 win at Ontario