The takeaway from a tough home series with Laval was to learn from the experience of scrapping against a top team, but falling just short.
It's a short sample size since, but in a 30-game season everything has to move quickly.
"There's been some good things," said Cail MacLean about the past three games, a two-game split at Belleville followed by a back-and-forth battle with Toronto. "We're having some trouble putting it all together consistently, but I like the idea that we learned some things and have applied them since the Laval series."
Stockton came out with a sound defensive effort through 50 minutes of their first outing since departing the Scotiabank Saddledome, but a pair of late penalties doomed the club with two powerplay goals for the Senators being the difference in a 2-1 decision.
Again, the Heat limited opportunities for the Sens on Saturday, but this time they got the scoring on the other end. The Heat potted seven goals in the weekend contest, with contributions up and down the lineup. Eleven skaters found their way onto the score sheet, while seven found the back of the net - all at even strength.
It was a glimpse of what the Heat can bring when they're clicking.
"We executed well," said MacLean after the game. "There were some really good offensive things that we did. We needed to break out of our shell, for sure."
Monday's game, the front end of a two-game set against the Toronto Marlies, went a little differently. Less systematic and more track meet at times, it was about the Heat showing the compete that's in their DNA.
They fell behind in the first, but after the slow start they kept battling. First it was Adam Ruzicka finishing a feed from Zac Leslie to tie the game. Again, Toronto gained the upper hand, and again, Stockton answered with Colton Beck netting his first of the season to pull even at two, firing a puck to the back of the net off a faceoff just 22 seconds after the second Marlies goal.
The stalemate stayed until late in the frame with Toronto's third of the game, but the resilient Heat continued to scrap - Connor Mackey potting his third of the season for a 3-3 tie through 40 minutes.
Ultimately, the Heat ran out of counters - a powerplay goal for Toronto in the third being the difference.
With the first three contests in a seven-game road trip in the rearview, the Heat will now look to string together strong performances through the end of the travel, which includes another game against Toronto followed by three in Montreal against the Laval Rocket. The goal? Consistent efforts and more confidence in their own abilities.
They are, after all, the same team who strung together eight consecutive wins earlier this month.
"I would've liked to see (the confidence) exemplify itself tonight, because breaking out against Belleville could've been good for us," said MacLean. "We're fighting that fight to stay on our toes and stay aggressive.
"We haven't been able to find a way to fire on all cylinders lately. That's as simple as it is, it's tight in this league. We're not finding a way to come across well on all levels. That's on us coaches and players, we just have to find a way to do better."
LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:
- Friday at Belleville - L, 2-1
- Saturday at Belleville - W, 7-1
- Monday at Toronto - L, 4-3
- Connor Mackey continues adding to his repertoire, riding a three-game point streak into Wednesday's game against Toronto. He two goals and two assists and is a plus-4 in that span. The rookie leads all AHL rookie defencemen in scoring with 11 points on the year.
- Adam Ruzicka snapped a goalless streak with his score Monday against the Marlies, his team-leading eighth goal and 17th point of the season.
- Colton Poolman registered his first professional goal on Saturday in Stockton's win over Belleville.
- Luke Philp has points in seven of the last nine games, including five goals and four assists in that span.
- Zac Leslie notched his 100th point in the AHL with an assist on Ruzicka's goal Monday.
THEY SAID IT:
"(Connor Mackey) is learning what he can and can't do at this level, and he's being more assertive with increased opportunity. He's started to feel more confidence there. He's made some plays where he has more poise with the puck, starting to press the issue in terms of creating offence. He's confident physically and growing in some areas. That's what happens over time with the really good players. His base line is pretty high, and he'll continue to be instrumental."
- Cail MacLean on Connor Mackey's development
"It's been inconsistent in terms of production so far, and they're trying to find that chemistry. But you can see in the last few games, it's starting to gel for them. The effort and intensity that they're playing with is going to help push them along. It's coming. It's not there yet, but we're seeing flashes of it."
- MacLean on the play of the newly formed Glenn Gawdin-Adam Ruzicka-Matthew Phillips line
"Our challenge is to win games. We won eight in a row, we know we're a good team… I see a little bit of hesitation on our part, guys being a little intimidated by this level still. We have to have everybody show up for a 60-minute effort."
- Garret Sparks on the Heat working through a slump
"That's something I've tried to focus on the last few games here, once we got on the road trip, is my offensive game. I take a lot of pride in the defensive zone too, but I've been trying to get in the rush more lately. (Coaches) have told me 'go, go, take care of our own end but get in the play and be the fourth guy in, create offense and rush the puck up the ice."
- Mackey on his recent offensive outburst
"I've loved playing with (Byron Froese). He's a good player, smart, strong and an even better person. It's been super easy to play with him. I think you see with our line, we play a simple game at times but it's effective in this league. You do things the right way, you get rewarded."
- Colton Beck on playing with captain Byron Froese