They say everything is bigger in Texas.
Perhaps a cliché, but with the Stockton Heat fighting for their playoff lives no truer statement could be said about Stockton's five-game road trip through the Lone Star State that concluded this past week.
Going in, the Heat were on the outside looking in, trailing Edmonton's AHL affiliate - the Bakersfield Condors - by two full games for the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division.
Two weeks later, Stockton is deadlocked in a virtual tie with Bakersfield for that final spot after nearly sweeping their five-game swing in Texas with a 4-0-0-1 record.
"We were in a situation where we had to find a way to win some games and winning on the road is never an easy thing," Heat coach Ryan Huska said. "These were really big games for us and now we have an opportunity to go home for the majority of the remainder of the season and try to do some damage at home to put ourselves in the playoffs."
Finding a way to win games is an apt description of Stockton's road trip as a whole.
It wasn't pretty at times, falling behind early in games and giving up leads in others. However, the Heat never wavered and managed to take nine of a possible 10 points on the trip.
Yet when looking back at the trip as a whole, it's difficult not to point to the very first game against Texas two Fridays ago when the Heat fought back from a 4-1 deficit to steal two points and kickoff their trip with a statement win.
As Huska would put it, the momentum from that win certainly played a heavy role in carrying Stockton through the remainder of the trip.
"If we lose that game in a blowout fashion like it was looking, then I think we maybe are on our heels and not feeling good about ourselves," Huska explained. "For us to come back the way we did brought some renewed life and emotion back into our group."
Still, with all the success and the momentum garnered throughout the trip, Stockton finds themselves in that virtual tie for the final playoff spot - in which Bakersfield currently owns the tiebreaker.
Both teams have just six games left on their respective schedules, but with very different routes to the end of the line.
The Condors will have to play five of their final six games away from home, including a tough three-game trip to Texas of their own.
Meanwhile, Stockton will be home for five of their final six with the caveat of all but one of those six coming against teams above them in the Pacific Division standings.
For Morgan Klimchuk, that just means that the Heat control their own destiny down the stretch.
"You want to win your games on the road, but the ones at home are the ones that you absolutely need," Klimchuk said. "They're going to be really important games in front of our fans and we're really excited to get back."
Not enough excitement for the playoff push?
Stockton will face Bakersfield on April 14 in Stockton in what could potentially be a deciding game for a spot in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs.
LAST WEEK'S HEAT
Record: 3-0-0-0; Overall: 31-25-4-2…Several Stockton players ended the week on point streaks, including Mark Jankowski (9 games), Morgan Klimchuk (5 games) and Ryan Lomberg (4 games)…G Jon Gillies has now won three-straight games and the Heat have collected wins in his last five starts…Speaking of Gillies, he made a Save of the Year candidate this past week in Texas…F Andrew Mangiapane continued his impressive rookie season, scoring his 8th and 9th power-play goals this past week, bringing his total goals to 17 this season.