Riding a six-game point streak into the holiday break, owning the fourth-best record in the AHL, and most fearsome complement of special-teams units, it seems the Heat made their way onto the 'nice list' this year.
So nice, in fact, that even when Stockton isn't adding to the win column it's still getting points.
The Heat fell just short in a pair of tight battles this past week, falling in overtime Wednesday at home against the Iowa Wild and in a shootout Saturday at San Diego. Even with the results, that's not to say that there wasn't the familiar combination of resilience, of timely scoring and occasionally some flash from Stockton.
Wednesday appeared to be the latest installment of Luke Philp's rampage through the AHL, the rookie adding two goals to his impressive run since November - now totaling 13, tops in the league in that span. A back-and-forth game, the Wild and Heat traded shot for shot, exchanging leads with Iowa appearing to be closing out a win. Enter Justin Kirkland, whose desperation heave found the back of the net with just 3.7 seconds remaining on the clock.
Iowa went on to take the game 2:08 into the extra frame, but still - a point earned whereas both easily could've slipped away.
"I thought it was a hard-fought game," said Heat head coach Cail MacLean. "Iowa played well. They played a strong game. I thought we played a strong game, too. It was just tight. It got too wide-open in the second period, but in general it was hard-fought out there. Both teams stuck with it, and we were fortunate to have gotten a point."
Next it was on to San Diego, the final game before Heat hit the holiday break. The Gulls got the jump on Stockton, potting a pair in the opening frame for a 2-0 lead less than 13 minutes into the contest, a score that held until Glenn Gawdin lit the lamp with 1:09 left in the second to bring Stockton back into the contest. A furious start to the third then saw the Heat gain the upper hand, Matthew Phillips and Austin Czarnik scoring to seize a 3-2 edge. The lead was short-lived, however, and the Gulls went on to steal the extra point in a shootout.
"Good resilience, obviously," said MacLean. "I thought we got out-competed in the first half of the game. We found our game and did a good job of climbing our way back into it. We had the lead (in the third), would've wanted to be able to find a way to finish that off."
While a win heading into the time off could've been a nice punctuation to the pre-break puck, a six-game point streak is a far cry from a lump of coal.
The Heat will look to match their season-high of seven-straight games with a point when play resumes on Friday, a matinee at San Jose.
- After being held scoreless in Wednesday's game, both Glenn Gawdin and Matthew Phillips scored Saturday. Neither player has been held off the score sheet in back-to-back games this season.
- Austin Czarnik now has two goals and three assists in four games with the Heat this season.
- Artyom Zagidulin has registered at least a point in 10-straight decisions. In 16 appearances on the year, he has only one regulation loss.
- Justin Kirkland's game-tying goal Wednesday punctuated a season-long five-game point streak (3g,4a) for the Stockton newcomer.
- Zagidulin and Jon Gillies have combined for a .920 Save Percentage over Stockton's six-game point streak.
THEY SAID IT:
"(Gawdin and Phillips) have been really good. They've been around it, just consistent through and through. They're guys you expected to take a step, and they're both mature in the fact that they expect a lot of themselves as well. They've both done a great job with that. The goal for them is to get right back on the horse after the break, make sure they come out and put solid games under them. I have confidence in them to do just that." - MacLean on Gawdin and Phillips
"(Czarnik) is a special player. He's a really high-level player at this AHL level, a guy that can change the game with a flick of the wrist. He was able to come down the wing, he doesn't need much space, and he can get a shot off. Good for him to get us a lead. Good to see him get on the board right away and use his best asset there." - MacLean on Czarnik's goal Saturday
"(Our team's play) has been strong. We have a talented group, no doubt. Offensively we've been very explosive. Our special teams have been very good. We've done a great job through the first (portion) of the season. Defensively we need to make sure we're limiting chances, not relying on goaltending as much as we had." - MacLean on Stockton's play thus far this season
"You feel good (when you're scoring). You get an extra little boost of confidence every time you're able to score. For me, just trying to be ready to shoot a lot, and when the puck's going in for you it doesn't hurt to be ready to shoot and to be a shooter. I've just been shooting on this streak and I'll continue to do that." - Philp on his scoring run with 13 goals in 15 games
"Our group has been a powerhouse in the scoring department. You're going to need that all throughout the year. It's a nice sign to see that early on. We're going to want to continue that as we move into a more important time of the year, it's just nice to know we have the right tools in the bag. It's exciting to see." - Brandon Davidson on Stockton's AHL-best offensive output