The Stockton Heat remain one of the top teams in the American Hockey League's Pacific Division after splitting a pair of home games against the San Antonio Rampage this past week.
Through 10 games this season, the Heat boast a 6-3-1 record and have 13 points on the year. They have outscored their opponents 41-28 this season and their plus-13 goal differential is tops in their division.
On Friday, the Heat dropped a 4-1 decision to the Rampage at the Stockton Arena. Despite the outcome, head coach Ryan Huska was pleased with his team's performance throughout the course of the match-up.
"I thought we played a decent game," Huska told StocktonHeat.com. "For long stretches, we hemmed them in their zone, we just weren't able to find enough traffic at the net for one, and enough quality chances inside. [San Antonio] defended pretty well, but we made a few mistakes that they capitalized on. We didn't really have too much time spent in our own zone tonight.
"We did a lot of things well tonight. We have to find a better way of getting traffic in front of their net and then make sure we have that focus for a full 60-minutes."
Andrew Mangiapane scored the Heat's lone goal in the setback, beating Rampage goaltender Spencer Martin at the 13:17 mark of the second period. Mark Jankowski and Daniel Pribyl assisted on Mangiapane's power play tally.
"(Daniel Pribyl) passed it down low to (Mark Jankowski) there and he took it to the net and just kind of gave it to me there in the slot. I just took a quick wrister down low and I was fortunate enough to get it past the goalie. Great play by those guys though to get it started," Mangiapane said.
With goaltender Jon Gillies out with an upper body injury, David Rittich got the nod in net on Friday, making 18 saves on the 21 shots he faced.
Gillies, who did not dress for either game last week, is considered day-to-day. He suffered the injury in the first period of the Heat' 7-3 win over San Diego on Nov. 5.
Rittich was back in net on Saturday for the Heat's rematch with the Rampage and the 24-year-old turned in his best performance of the season.
The Czech netminder, who is in the midst of his first season in North America after signing a one-year, two-way contract with the Flames in June, pitched a 20-save shutout in the 3-0 victory over San Antonio.
"I'm excited to get my first professional win in North America and shutouts are great, but more importantly for us, it's two important points. Getting to play in back-to-back games let me settle in and find my groove, rather than just playing a single game every once in a while," he said afterwards.
Jamie Devane scored the game-winner at 14:12 of the first period, cashing in on a scramble in front of the net and wrapping the puck around Spencer's outstretched pad.
"We made a point that we wanted to get guys to the net and get traffic on the goalie. We weren't doing that last night, so we had all three guys there in front of the net and I just got a rebound and saw the goalie was down, so did a wraparound," Devane noted.
Defenceman Tyler Wotherspoon gave the Heat a 2-0 cushion in the second period, firing a shot past Spencer's blocker from the face-off circle. Jankowski picked up the primary assist on the goal and extended his point streak to seven games. He now leads the team in scoring with 12 points in 10 games.
Pribyl added the Heat's third goal in the final stanza. His backhand wraparound shot got between the post and Spencer's pad late in the game. Wotherspoon and Rasmus Andersson were credited with the assists.
The Heat are back in action on Friday when they wrap up their homestand with a game against the Ontario Reign. They will then travel to Bakersfield for a game against the Condors on Saturday.
The Calgary Flames have been bit by the injury bug in recent weeks and three Stockton forwards have been recalled a result: Hunter Shinkaruk, Linden Vey and Garnet Hathaway.
In addition, on Nov. 9, defenceman Nicklas Grossman was assigned to the Heat and blueliner Keegan Kanzig was assigned from the Heat to the ECHL's Adirondack Thunder.
In response, the Heat have recalled three players from the Thunder: forwards Matt Bailey and Mikkel Aagaard and defenceman Roman Dyokov.
Bailey, recalled on Nov. 11, played in both games last week. Aagaard, who was recalled on Nov. 12, played in Saturday's game and became the first Danish player to dress for a game for a Flames' AHL affiliate. Dyukov did not play in either game.