The 2017-18 campaign may be the most highly anticipated season to date for the Flames AHL affiliate.
The Stockton Heat began its third season two weeks ago, looking to build off of last year's Calder Cup playoff berth, returning much of the roster that led the team to their most successful season in California.
For Mark Jankowski, who already ranks as the Stockton Heat's all-time leading point getter, he continues to display many of the same attributes that made him a member of the AHL's All-Rookie Team last season.
His play with the Flames during the big club's training camp, combined with the promise he's showed, made him one of the last players to be sent back to the American Hockey League.
"It's disappointing when you get sent down no matter when it is, so obviously that is the first feeling but you have to realize that you are coming down to a pretty good team here," Jankowski explained. "You have to do whatever you can to help the team win here.
"We have a lot of faith in this group."
And the group has faith in Jankowski.
Jankowski has been, once again, front and center for the Heat, scoring two goals in the season-opener. He followed that up with his third goal of the season in the team's second game against San Jose and scored again this past Saturday as the Heat defeated the defending Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins.
After the second weekend of games, Jankowski finds himself tied for second in the AHL with four goals and tied for 15th in scoring with five points.
Fellow linemate Andrew Mangiapane also has five points on the season (2-3-5), including scoring the first goal of the year for the Heat. Along with Jankowski and Garnet Hathaway, the trio have formed the top offensive threat for Stockton, evidenced by the line recording a combined 14 points in the three games played.
Next up for the Heat is their first road test of the season on Wednesday when the team looks to avenge an opening weekend loss to San Jose before returning home to host the San Diego Gulls on Friday and Saturday night at Stockton Arena.
- Goaltenders Jon Gillies and David Rittich have shown why they could be considered the best one-two punch in the American Hockey League. Gillies made 41 saves in the Heat's opening night win over Bakersfield, keeping the Heat in it early after the Condors fired 20 shots in the first period alone. Rittich got his first start of the season this past Saturday against the Grand Rapids Griffins, making 36 saves in his sixth career shutout in the AHL, improving his Heat team record.
- Marek Hrivik impressed in his official debut with the Heat on Saturday against Grand Rapids, showcasing why he played parts of six seasons and 338 games within the New York Rangers organization. He was solid in both zones, strengthened the team down the middle as another good faceoff threat, and showed some serious smarts in creating offence, including his first point within the organization on Oliver Kylington's first goal of the season against Grand Rapids.
- Speaking of first goals, it was a much anticipated tally from Emile Poirier on Saturday against Grand Rapids, his first marker since January 7, 2017. Poirier admitted to off-ice issues which caused him to miss the better portion of a quarter of a season when he seeked out the help and support of Brad Treliving and Brian McGrattan.
- The Heat traded their hockey sticks for hammers last Thursday, helping to build a pair of fences for two South Stockton Habitat for Humanity houses. It served not only as a terrific way to get out into the community, but also as a fun team building experience.
- "It's a great cause and we love helping out in the community," Heat defenceman Rasmus Andersson said. "It's fun to do something different and do this kind of work in the community. It's great to see the people it helps, too.
"And it's good competition between the boys. They might have got it done faster but ours looks better!"
- "The third period was the best I have seen [Poirier] play in a long time where he was using his speed and he was physically engaged and he got rewarded with the goal, so I'm really happy for him." - Heat Head Coach Ryan Huska on Emile Poirier's play Saturday against Grand Rapids.
- "We are very lucky to have Rittich and Gillies, who in my mind are the two best goalies in the league." - Hunter Shinkaruk on his team's 'tenders.
- "We play each other 100 times a year it feels like, so you don't really like each other. They have a good team, and we have a good team, and that is how it is supposed to be." - Rasmus Andersson on the rivalry with the San Jose Barracuda, which continues Wednesday.
- "I think when you can find times when the guys can come together away from the rink, it's valuable for our group in general. Then you can add in a great cause and make them a part of something special and that becomes great for our group." - Coach Huska on team's efforts during their Habitat for Humanity build.