After opening up the new year with a pair of wins, the Stockton Heat stumbled in the second week of January, dropping all three games on their California road swing.
The Heat fell in San Diego, Bakersfield and San Jose and now sit fourth in the American Hockey League's Pacific Division with a .588 win percentage through 34 games this season.
The team returns home this week for a pair of games against the Condors on Friday and Saturday.
"Things aren't easy for us right now, but that's the time where we have to stick together and make sure everybody is pulling in the same direction," head coach Ryan Huska said after Saturday's loss in San Jose. "That's important when you get through these rough patches.
"Every team faces adversity and we're in that stretch right now, but we have a good group. We're going to have a good week of practice and make sure we're prepared and ready for Friday night."
On Wednesday in San Diego, the Heat couldn't quell the Gulls' third period comeback, falling 5-3 and losing their first game in regulation at the Valley View Casino Center this season.
Mental errors and undisciplined play, according to Huska, were the team's undoing.
"We had so many turnovers," he lamented. "For our team to have success, we can't turn the puck over like that. We found that out the hard way. That's one area we have to correct and that's about taking care of your teammates more than anything. If you don't take care of the puck, you're asking for trouble.
"(San Diego) was the much better team all night. I don't think our effort tonight was anywhere near what we're capable of. It was a game that we had an opportunity to win, but we just didn't play the right way."
Mark Jankowski, Morgan Klimchuk and Matt Frattin scored in the loss. Goaltender Jon Gillies made 33 saves on the 38 shots he faced on Wednesday.
On Friday, the Heat made a stop in Bakersfield to take on the Condors. Like on Wednesday, they entered the third period on a positive note - this time tied up at 2-2 - but couldn't hold off a surging Condors crew in the final 20 minutes.
Bakersfield scored three unanswered goals in the final frame to pick up a 5-2 win over Stockton.
Despite the score, Huska saw a drastic improvement in his team's play from their performance in San Diego.
"I thought we were in the game all night. I don't think the score was a great indicator of how the game went. (Bakersfield's) one line was excellent tonight and they capitalized on their opportunities, but I thought our work ethic was really good.
"We had compete from our whole group tonight. We had some opportunities and some looks in front of their net, but we just weren't able to finish them when we needed to."
Klimchuk and Jamie Devane scored for the Heat in the loss. With his second period tally, Klimchuk extended his team-lead in goals with 12 on the year.
David Rittich was in net in Bakersfield, making 29 saves. The Czech netminder holds a 7-5-1 record with a 2.04 GAA and a .929 save percentage in his first season in North America.
The Heat wrapped up the week in San Jose, dropping a 2-0 decision to the Barracuda at the SAP Center.
Stockton's power play came up empty-handed in the loss despite having multiple opportunities with the man advantage. The Heat's power play now ranks fourth in the Pacific Division, operating at a 17.5 percent clip.
"It comes down to our power play," Huska stated. "We had eight chances and we weren't able to generate much out of those. We had a few looks early in the game, but when we had those chances late in the game we weren't able to get much accomplished."
"There are games where we get looks and we're getting pucks to the net like (Friday) night in Bakersfield," Klimchuk added. "But at times like this you just have to go back to the basics and simplify it. We need to generate more pucks on net and get that going if we want to start winning some games."
Gillies was in net on Saturday, making 25 saves. The 22-year-old has a 10-7-3 record with a 3.05 GAA and a .907 save percentage this year.