Head coach Cail MacLean paused.
Asked about a positive to take away from a weekend where they suffered a pair of tough losses, Stockton's bench boss took a moment to answer.
"Guys got in front of shots in the third period," he said on Saturday. "Just that small sacrifice by guys for the team - the game's not over, but we're getting late in the game and there's a wide gap - guys are getting in front of pucks and doing something that takes some courage, takes some commitment for your team."
That's what it will take from here on out - an unwavering attention to detail, steadfast commitment to blue-collar hockey, speed and skill and some help - for Stockton to brag a seat at the table for the second season.
As hot as the Heat had gotten toward the end of February and start of March, the script has flipped over the last two weeks - a hot Colorado squad that had won nine straight, a resurgent group of Gulls from San Diego and the San Jose Barracuda finding their bite once again to allow the three teams some breathing room over Stockton in the standings.
A frustrating weekend at Stockton Arena has pushed the Flames' AHL affiliate to desperation mode, dropping a pair of contests against the Tucson Roadrunners by 3-1 and 5-2 finals.
The path forward won't be easy, with the Heat needing to do their job and have some bounces go their way in other cities and on other sheets of ice.
Who's to say it can't happen?
Stockton, after all, was the club to snap Bakersfield's 18-game divisional win streak with an emphatic 4-1 victory earlier this month, the last team to hand Colorado a losing weekend with a sweep on Feb. 16 and 17.
The Pacific Division has seen three teams go on lengthy win streaks - Bakersfield's 17 from Jan. 12 through Feb. 25, Colorado's nine from Feb. 26 through March 16 and San Diego's eight from late December through mid-January.
The Heat have nine games left in the regular season.
Why not add a fourth team to that list?
- Saturday's contest represented the 200th professional game for Ryan Lomberg and 300th for Scott Sabourin;
- The Heat saw defensemen Matt Taormina and Marcus Hogstrom return to the lineup after lengthy absences due to injury. Friday's game was the first for Taormina since Dec. 21 and the first for Hogstrom since Jan. 21;
- Juuso Valimaki registered his third goal with the Heat in Friday's game and has four points (1g,3a) over his last three games played;
- Curtis Lazar found his way back onto the scoresheet with a goal on Saturday, his first since Feb. 9 after a stint with the Flames.
"(Lomberg and Sabourin) bring a lot of passion to the table. They do a good job with creating energy inside the building and with their team and bringing their teammates into the battle. I think that was on display tonight." - MacLean on the career milestones for Lomberg and Sabourin Saturday
"Early in the game, it wasn't (carry-over from Friday). But as the game got rolling on, the frustration started to build for sure. Guys at this level, they care a lot. Sometimes their emotion gets the better of them. I think that started to happen tonight. It's a good lesson. We probably have find a better way to control that, find a way to play through it and make sure we keep the team goal in mind." - MacLean on Saturday's game
"(Win our games) is all we can do, control what we can control. We now have a week of preparation, and we have to go back to work after a rest and reset and refocus. We lost our focus tonight. We have to refocus and get back on it. We have games against Iowa that we have to be prepared for and ready to win. The rest of the standings are going to be what they are, we just have to make sure we take care of our side." - MacLean on moving forward from the weekend.
"Solid games. Both of them at times showed they hadn't played in a little while and both at times showed that they're really valuable defencemen in this league. They've got the veteran presence out there with the puck. I look forward to them growing from here." - MacLean on returns of Taormina and Hogstrom to the lineup.