Two wins over their divisional rivals this past week have pushed the Stockton Heat to second in the American Hockey League's Pacific Division.
The Heat swept the San Diego Gulls in back-to-back games and now hold a 5-2-1 record on the season.
"Your group builds confidence in themselves, with the ability that they do have and I think that you build a little bit of trust in the way the guys can play the game and what we're trying to do, so the wins were important," head coach Ryan Huska said after Saturday's 7-3 victory.
On Friday, the Heat kicked off their five-game homestand with a 6-1 win over the Gulls. Netminder Jon Gillies made 23 saves on 24 shots while Linden Vey and Matt Frattin chipped in with three points each.
The Heat's defence were steadfast in the victory, an area of their game they have been working on early on this season. They were able to cut down on San Diego's quality scoring chances and held them to the perimeter.
"We were really pleased with the way we played," was Huska's assessment of Friday's victory. "I thought we cleaned a lot of our defensive zone play up and I thought we made some changes over the week that I think our players did a good job picking up, so it was a good night for us."
"I thought we played really well defensively," Vey added. "Obviously, we have a young team and we're still learning and to come home and be able to keep the lead the whole game was a huge thing for us and we're going to keep growing as the year goes on."
In addition to Vey and Frattin's markers, the Heat also received goals from Kenney Morrison, Mark Jankowski, Emile Poirier, and Brandon Bollig.
"Every line rolls for us," Garnet Hathaway said afterwards. "I think every line had a goal tonight and that's what it takes. We're not one line. We get everyone going and we keep building on momentum and I think that's the biggest thing."
On Saturday, the Heat put seven goals past San Diego netminder Matt Hackett in a 7-3 win, including four power play markers. Frattin (2), Andrew Mangiapane (2), Morgan Klimchuk, Mike Angelidis, and Oliver Kylington found the back of the net in the victory.
"This was a good special teams night for us. Our penalty kill was clean, so when you have success on your special teams game, when you win that game, you give yourself a chance to win," Huska said. "We got a few goals towards the end of the game, but our power play was the difference for us early on in particular."
Goaltender Tom McCollum earned his first win as a member of the Heat after he replaced Jon Gillies and played the final two periods. McCollum made 19 saves on 20 shots. Gillies left the game with an upper body injury and is day-to-day.
Jankowski collected two assists in the win on Saturday, extending his point streak to five games. The Stockton rookie has points in all but one of the eight games he has played this year.
The Heat are back in action on Friday when they host the San Antonio Rampage. AHL Live will carry the broadcast online.