The Stockton Heat kicked off their 2016-17 season with a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Barracuda on Saturday night at the Stockton Arena.
Matt Fratin, Hunter Shinkaruk and Ryan Lomberg scored and Jon Gillies made 28 saves on 30 shots in the win.
"You want to win your first game, no matter who you're playing against, so I think at times it takes a little bit of pressure off of your group," head coach Ryan Huska told the media afterwards. "We'll be able to show them some of the things they did well, we'll be able to show them some of the things they have to work on.
"Whenever you're winning, whether it's the first game of the year, the 50th game of the year, your group feels better about itself, so it's nice for us to be able to go into a couple of days of practice on Monday and Tuesday and get ourselves ready for Texas that way."
Saturday's game began with San Jose's Daniel O'Regan opening the scoring when a blocked shot in the Barracuda's zone created a breakaway and the forward was able to beat Gillies five hole at the 10:17 mark. O'Regan's shot was one of 11 that the Barracuda put on net in the opening stanza.
The Heat picked things up in the second period, with Matt Frattin potting the team's first goal of the season mid-way through the frame. After Andrew Mangiapane dug the puck out of the corner, he put it out in front and Frattin was able to get his shot past Barracuda netminder Troy Grosenick's glove.
Hunter Shinkaruk gave the Heat a 2-1 lead a few minutes later, getting in tight and going high glove side on Grosenick. Mark Jankowski and Garnet Hathaway collected the assists on Shinkaruk's first of the season.
San Jose evened things up in the third period when Barclay Goodrow's one-timer eluded Gillies but Ryan Lomberg played the hero for Stockton just under five minutes later.
Defenceman Oliver Kylington put the puck up ice from along the boards and Lomberg was able to beat the Barracuda defencemen in a foot race. He got his stick on the puck and chipped it past the goaltender at 15:25. Colby Robak was credited with the secondary assist on the game-winning goal.
It was Lomberg's first AHL goal.
"You know, the season opener, home opener is a big deal for us, but we settled down and stuck to our game plan," Lomberg said after the win.
"It was a good team game and we're already really happy to get the two points here."
Overall, Huska was pleased with the effort put forth by the Heat in their season opener and see plenty of positives to build off in the coming games. The Heat's next challenge comes on Wednesday when they host the Texas Stars.
"It was a game where I thought we were on our heels a little bit early on in the first period, they have some good speed on their side and I thought we had a hard time with it. But I thought as the game went on, we got a little bit better with our game," was Huska's post-game assessment of his team's performance.
"[We were] scrambling at times and there's a lot for us to work on, but the end result was a good one for us."
HEAT NOTES: Mangiapane, in his first professional game, collected his first professional point with an assist on Frattin's goal ... Lomberg and Brandon Bollig were named the game's first two stars ... Kylington led all Heat skaters with a plus-2 rating in the game ... The Flames have signed goaltender Tom McCollum to a two-year, two-way deal and have assigned the former first round pick to the Stockton Heat.