Despite falling in a mid-week clash in San Jose, the Stockton Heat rebounded for a pair of wins over the San Diego Gulls this weekend at Stockton Arena, bringing the club's record to 4-2-0 to start the year.
Stockton's first road test of the year saw Stockton's top line of Andrew Mangiapane, Mark Jankowski (who was recalled to the Flames Monday) and Garnet Hathaway provide the only offensive spark for the club with all three players ending the game with multi-point efforts in a 5-2 loss to the San Jose Barracuda. Tied heading into the third, San Jose rattled off three-straight goals to hand Stockton their second loss of the year and dropping the Heat's record against the Barracuda to 8-15-3-0 since 2015-16.
"We have to forget about the third period and build off of the first two periods," Mangiapane said. "They knocked us out of the playoffs last year so we definitely have some hatred between us so it's obviously annoying when they beat us like this."
Part of the disappointment was Stockton's lack of special teams' production, going 0-5 on the powerplay in San Jose and converting on just two of their 21 opportunities to start the season.
That all changed early in the game on Friday night in Stockton as the Heat clicked with the extra man thanks to Spencer Foo's first pro goal, redirecting a pass from the top of the crease between the goalie's legs.
"It is nice to get the monkey of my back and help me build a little more confidence as we go on here and it was a bit of relief," Foo said of his first tally, coming in his fifth pro game.
Foo would also record an assist in the contest, good for his first pro multi-point effort, and for the second-straight game Foo led the Stockton Heat in shots on goal.
"He is around it right now, usually when players are getting chances like that, eventually the dam breaks," Heat head coach Ryan Huska said. "Our hope for him is that he will continue to get to the areas where he is getting chances and he will start seeing the back of the net a little bit more often."
Foo wasn't the only special teams goal the Heat got on Friday night as Joseph Cramarossa followed up with the Heat's second shorthanded goal of the season along with powerplay goals from Mark Jankowski and Morgan Klimchuk, finishing the game 3-7 on the powerplay and doubling up San Diego 4-2.
The Heat would carry the effort over to Saturday's rematch against San Diego with first-period goals from Klimchuk and Hathaway, but the Gulls matched the Heat every step of the way. It wasn't until the second period when the Heat broke open the game by dominating offensively and outshooting the Gulls 22-6 and getting goals from defencemen Cody Goloubef and Tyler Wotherspoon just 52 seconds apart.
Marek Hrivik scored his first goal as a member of the Heat to add the insurance tally early in the third period, capping off another terrific week from Hrivik who continued to impress with his two-way play.
"I have had plenty of chances the past few games, especially our line," Hrivik said. "I saw [Foo] going down the ice and chasing the puck so I tried to get open in the middle and when I got it, tried to go up with it."
Hathaway finished the game off with an empty-netter, his second of the night, leading the Heat to the 6-3 win and improving the Heat's record over San Diego to 15-7-0-2 all-time, including a 10-2-0-1 record against them at Stockton Arena.
The Heat now head out for a trip down south to take on the San Diego Gulls on Wednesday night and then the Bakersfield Condors on Friday and Saturday nights.
Mangiapane now leads the Heat in points and ranks among the AHL leaders with 10 points after a scoring correction gave him a second assist night on Saturday. The second-year forward also tied a Heat team record with assists in five-straight games on Saturday night, joining defenseman Colby Robak and forward Linden Vey as the only players to accomplish the feat (Vey did it twice). Mangiapane is now the only Heat player to have points in all six games this season (3-7-10).
"I have to give credit to my teammates and linemates for scoring the goals and they have been open and we have just been working together and playing as a team and it has been going my way right now." - Mangiapane on his five-game assist streak
"Hrivik's line has just been put together, but they fit. There is something about them that works and I think they enjoy playing with each other. So far they have complimented each other really well. If they can stay playing hard and playing well together, that is a great option for us to have." - HHuska on the Hrivik-Foo-Klimchuk line
"Five-on-five we were pleased with our weekend. There were a lot of different guys that contributed, and it is nice to see guys get on the score sheet and feel good about themselves. We do have to sure up our special teams, our powerplay in particular." - Huska on his overall thoughts from the week