The math doesn't seem to add up - two games, two fast starts, zero points.
The brain-teaser that was the weekend trip to Iowa saw a team that entered 16-1-2-2 when scoring first on the year go 0-2 after claiming early leads in back-to-back games, in a measuring stick series against one of the top teams in the AHL's Western Conference.
"Adversity is going to make us better," said Heat head coach Cail MacLean following Sunday's setback. "We did some good things. (Saturday) night we did some good things, didn't get the result that we needed. Tonight, good start, good physicality early in the game. We allowed it to get away from us."
The weekend may have eluded Stockton's grasp, but that's not to say there weren't high points. Austin Czarnik stayed hot with a goal and two assists in the two games. Byron Froese and Alan Quine continued their impressive scoring runs. Luke Philp found the back of the net in Sunday's contest.
What could prove more valuable long-term, though, is the experience of going through a tough weekend and fine-tuning the shortcomings.
These were two teams that mirrored each other in many ways - Stockton's high-potency attack against the AHL's leading goal-scorer, Gerald Mayhew, and point-getter, Sam Anas. The Heat's dynamic special teams units against Iowa's explosive power play and stout PK.
Saturday's contest saw Czarnik light the lamp with a slapshot in the first, an advantage that was surrendered in the second as the home team poured in three goals sandwiched around Froese's 15th of the season for a 3-2 score through 40 minutes. An early goal from Anas in the third then put the game out of reach, and the forward then added an empty-netter to punctuate the win.
In Sunday's game, Stockton jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to a slick redirection from Froese followed by a highlight reel goal from Quine, who danced around a defenceman before scoring his 11th of the year. Iowa responded with five unanswered, four before the horn sounded on the opening frame, to seize control. The Heat countered with a pair of goals over a span of just 49 seconds, Rinat Valiev and Philp finding twine, but a shorthanded tally with just 1:23 left in the second stopped all momentum for the visitors in what ended as a 7-4 defeat.
The weekend voyage did not go as planned, but there's no time to sulk.
"We'll learn our lesson in terms of understanding the team that Iowa is," said MacLean with a tip of the cap to the hottest club in the AHL, the Wild with points in eight straight. "But we also have better. We have to get ourselves back on track and make sure we get ourselves back on track and get ready for Wednesday."
Stockton is back on the horse Wednesday at San Jose, a season series that currently stands 8-0 in the Heat's favor, followed by a three-games-in-four-days sprint at Stockton Arena. Looking beyond the immediate future, nine games remain on the February slate.
It won't take long to see what Stockton was able to gain from its trip to the Wild.
- Froese (4g,6a) and AQuine (3g,7a) each ride six-game point streaks into Wednesday's game at San Jose.
- Quine surpassed Glenn Gawdin for Stockton's team scoring lead with 41 points.
- Czarnik has five goals in Stockton's last six games and has found the score sheet in three-straight contests (4g,2a).
- The Heat are one of only two teams in the AHL alongside Syracuse to have four 15-goal scorers on the year: Buddy Robinson (16), Froese (16), Philp (16), Gawdin (15).
- The Heat are tied for second in the Pacific Division with a game in hand over the Colorado Eagles with 56 points. Ontario sits in fourth with 51, San Diego fifth with 50.
THEY SAID IT:
"(The Quine-Froese-Czarnik line was) very strong. They've found ways to contribute 5-on-5 and on the powerplay. We want that to permeate through the rest of the team. They're a talented trio of players and they have good work ethic. It's something that's a good example for the other lines on our team, they have that skill but they continue to work." - MacLean on Stockton's top line over the weekend
"We have to make sure our special teams get right back on track. This was a rare weekend where our special teams were outplayed. We need to make sure that we've got that intensity, but it's under control, so we're disciplined in terms of how we play the game. We don't want to give the other teams free time on the powerplay and opportunities to possess the puck. Dial in our game, get back to our foundation, make sure we're detailed on our systems. Things will come around, but it's not going to come around easy. We're going to have to work for it." - MacLean on where Stockton needs to improve following the weekend set
"Everybody down here, you're proud to see those guys go up, and it's well-deserved. For (Buddy Robinson and Brandon Davidson), and anybody that gets called up, especially those two guys, they were playing extremely well. They were playing some really good hockey here in Stockton and deserved to go up. You don't want to see any injuries (on the Flames roster), it's obviously going to happen, and these players are playing in all situations (in Stockton), they're playing with tenacity, they're playing with compete. I know when they enter into the lineup in Calgary they're providing that. They're providing spark and energy. They're seasoned pros and have been around the game, and they continue on with how they're playing in Stockton and bring that mix into Calgary." - Flames assistant GM Brad Pascall on Stockton players being called up and contributing with the big club
"That was a good wake-up call of a weekend for us. This time of year, games get tougher and tougher. Going forward, we have to be prepared to up our level and get the two points next game." - Quine on takeaways from the weekend
"(Froese and Czarnik) are awesome to play with. We have developed a little chemistry, we've been playing together for some time now. They're both high-end players. If we keep working, more and more will come for us." - Quine on chemistry on his line with Froese and Czarnik