We all know that guy.
Invite them over and next thing you know, their feet are on your coffee table and they've helped themselves to your refrigerator before you can ask how they've been since you saw them last.
In the American Hockey League, the Stockton Heat are that guy.
Undefeated on the road and not truly contested in foreign venues until Saturday night's clash, a 4-0 start away from the home barn has the Heat in first in the Pacific Division at 5-1-0-0 on the young season, winning a pair most recently over divisional foes from San Diego and Bakersfield, 5-1 and 4-3, respectively.
The four-point SoCal swing was more than a romp through two of the Golden State's other AHL clubs, it was an answer to the first bit of adversity Stockton had faced all season - a humbling 6-2 loss to the Condors last Tuesday at Stockton Arena.
"We've got to put this one behind us," said Alan Quine, recalled by Calgary on Sunday, in reference to the home setback following the game. "Just get back to work."
Less than 72 hours after Quine spoke about moving on, a refocused squad spoiled the party at San Diego's home opener. It took 12:19 for Byron Froese to connect for his third goal of the season, then 19 minutes after that he doubled Stockton's lead. Ryan Lomberg scored seven minutes later, and the rout was on. Zac Leslie and Buddy Robinson scored in quick succession to start the third, the lone score of the night for the home team coming from Daniel Sprong with 7:23 left in the contest.
A good game, a win, a return to playing the right way.
A tight turnaround then had the Heat hopping on a bus and heading up I-5 to take on Bakersfield, who had Friday night off. Stockton hadn't won at Bakersfield since March of 2018 - a string of futility that had hit five games. Rest be damned, it was Stockton that shot out of the gate to the tune of a 3-0 lead within the game's first 7:46 - Matthew Phillips, Brandon Davidson and Buddy Robinson pitching in to build the Heat's buffer - while chasing Bakersfield's Stuart Skinner after just five shots faced. Credit to the Condors, the home team battled back and forced a tie heading into the final frame, but Eetu Tuulola's score with 9:49 left proved to be the difference in a 4-3 victory. There were tight moments along the way, including two late penalty kills. Just as the weekend overall, though, a sign of the Heat's mettle when confronted with a challenge.
The next mountain to climb for first-place Stockton? Holding serve on home ice with a hungry Condors squad coming to town Friday.
- Jon Gillies made his season debut Friday night, stopping 23 of 24 shots faced at San Diego.
- Artyom Zagidulin responded to his first loss of the season with 24 saves on 27 shots faced in a win at Bakersfield.
- Two of Eetu Tuulola's three goals on the season are game-winners.
- Dillon Dube has six assists over Stockton's last four games, giving him a career total of a point-per-game with 49 points (15G, 34A) in 49 games.
- Buddy Robinson has goals in five of six games.
THEY SAID IT:
"We started well with three goals in the first period, but we took our foot off the gas and let the other guys into the game. Second period was bad for us, they beat us in almost everything. We rebounded well in the third." - Tuulola on Saturday's win
"The puck bounced to me in the middle, I ripped it as hard as I could and it went in. I tried to go high-blocker, top shelf, but it was just good that it went in and we got the win." - Tuulola on his game-winning goal Saturday
"(A good start) was very important, obviously. There's great energy in this building, and I thought the guys did a great job. Credit to Jon Gillies for being able to come up with some big stops early in the game. Obviously that takes the crowd out of it when you don't allow a goal." - Coach Cail MacLean on Stockton's start at San Diego
"(Gillies) was instrumental in the first and came up with some big stops in the second. He was not happy about the idea of giving one up in the third on a breakaway. That was an unfortunate goal because Jon had a really nice game going on. Still a very good game, but you want your team to find a way to protect your goalie late in the game. Overall a good return. A lot of credit to Jon, a lot of credit to Thomas Speer for getting him ready to go." - MacLean on the play of Gillies in his season debut Friday
"We really emphasized the fact that good teams aren't going to lose two games in a row. We think we're one of those good teams. At the end of the day, we don't feel like we should ever lose two games in a row. I think it was a really big bounce-back game for us. I'm really proud about how the guys battled tonight." - Leslie on Stockton's win Friday at San Diego