A little early adversity never hurts.
In fact, in can be beneficial in the long term.
To get to where the Heat want to go - hoisiting a trophy at season's end - it'll take championship mettle and resilience to get there, two things this group has but hasn't had to show early this season after a dominating start.
However, an 0-1-0-1 run this past weekend at divisional foe Tucson tested the team in an important fashion.
"(The way the team responded) is a positive for sure, there's good character in that room," said Heat head coach Cail MacLean about how Stockton regathered itself following a tumultuous first period Saturday. "We put ourselves behind the eight ball. We had our worst first period of the year. But we do like the fact that we clawed back in it."
Down 3-0 on Saturday through 20 minutes, the Heat hit the reset button and came out firing on all cylinders to start the second, popping four pucks into the back of the net and climbing back into the contest - a one-goal game at multiple times - before ultimately falling 7-6 in a barn-burner to the first-place Roadrunners.
Spearheaded by a hat-trick from defenceman Oliver Kylington, Stockton was ruthless on the powerplay - a 4-for-7 effort guiding the team to contention on the night - while capitalizing on multi-point efforts from Glenn Gawdin (1g,2a), Buddy Robinson (3a) and Ryan Lomberg (2a).
Ultimately, the seven-game point streak ran dry on Saturday, but it was not for a valiant effort, the second of the weekend on the road.
In the first tilt against the Roadrunners Friday, the Heat jumped out to a 2-0 lead before a rally from the home team, Tucson scoring twice in the third then emerging victorious in a nine-round shootout to overcome a clutch 37-save performance from Jon Gillies.
The schedule is nearly all divisional contests, four-point swings every time the Heat hit the ice. It creates a constant state of put-up-or-shut-up, an environment in which Stockton has thrived thus far this season. Even after a less-than-stellar weekend in the win column, there's no reason to doubt that a positive response is on the horizon.
After the two-game tussle with Tucson, the sun came up Sunday with the Heat third in the Pacific Division standings but with the second-best point percentage in the Western Conference. Stockton boasts the top-scoring team in the AHL with 47 goals in 12 games, clicking at 3.92 per contest. The Heat are tops in the AHL on the powerplay at 29.4% and eleventh when down a man.
A Monday matinee with San Diego - a team Stockton has beaten twice already this season - awaits before a weekend in which the Heat will play host to Tucson and San Jose.
- Kylington's Saturday hat-trick was the first of the season for Stockton and the first since Alan Quine netted three against Colorado last season on Feb.17. It was the first ever hat-trick ever for a Heat blueliner.
- Stockton's seven-game point streak (4-0-1-2) that was snapped Saturday was the club's longest since an 11-game run (18 points) to close out the 2016-17 regular season en route to the playoffs.
- The Heat have earned at least a point in four consecutive starts by goaltender Jon Gillies.
- Saturday's game was the first road contest of the year in which Stockton did not earn at least one point (5-1-0-1).
- Gawdin has taken over as Stockton's leading scorer after a three-point night Saturday, now sitting with 13 points (4g, 9a) on the year.
THEY SAID IT:
"The powerplay deserves a lot of credit. They executed well, got us back in the game. Unfortunately we kept opening the door - after we got back in the game, we gave things up. The powerplay executed very well. Guys took it personally, the poor start that we had. It was one where we got back to our regular compete, our regular battle level, and things started to go our way more." - MacLean on Stockton's comeback attempt Saturday
"Some good offence. (Kylington) was a catalyst on the powerplay. He created some good looks from the top, a couple of goals from up there. A ton of offensive prowess. It's good for Oliver, a positive to take from the game, to get on the score sheet." - MacLean on Kylington's hat trick
"We haven't been good enough the last three games, all against (Tucson). We have to be more consistent. We have to make sure we stay out of the box, obviously. We gave up way too much tonight and the last couple of games. We have to make sure we tighten it up." - Byron Froese on Stockton's recent play
"After that first period, guys really turned it around and made sure they pushed, they got to the net, they got those greasy goals. Our power play stepped up big time. At the same time, any time you're allowing seven goals, or any time you're allowing over three, it's getting pretty hard to win, no matter how much skill you have." - Froese on Saturday's game
"(Jon Gillies) was outstanding. Some of those saves, we put him in those spots but he bailed us out. You've got to give him a lot of credit for the game tonight. He was our best player, 100 percent, on the ice." - Dillon Dube on Gillies' 37-save output Friday