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HEAT REPORT - 26.03.18

Rookie Spencer Foo hit a career milestone last week

by BRANDON KISKER @kiskerbc / CalgaryFlames.com

Exclusive company joined.

While it wasn't his biggest, most impressive, or even his best highlight reel goal of his brief pro career, Spencer Foo recorded his 20th goal of his season in Stockton's big road triumph over the Manitoba Moose, the AHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets, who were the top team in the entire Western Conference heading into last Saturday's game against the Heat.

And even though Foo's 20th goes into the empty net to seal the team's fate in the contest, it is a significant milestone for the rookie forward, who's recorded nearly 65% of his entire offence on this side of the calendar.

"I wanted to come in and make an impact right away," Foo said. "Obviously I had a bit of a tough start to the season, but grinding through it I have found some really good chemistry with some teammates. It has been pretty easy playing with some of the guys I have been playing with.

"The puck is finally starting to going in now and I want to keep building on that."

It would take Foo five games into his pro career to record his first points, and even long stretches of seven and five games without a points made it hard for the prosperous college forward to replicate his consistent success.

But after that adjustment period, Foo has really come alive, and since January 1st, the winger has recorded 14 of his 20 goals.

Lofty expectations may not have been met earlier in the year, but the hard work he put in to improve his overall game has seen Foo not only meet some of those expectations, but exceed them as well.

A hat trick, tied for the second most multi-point games on the Heat this season (9) and tied for the most power-play points (14) and shorthanded points (2, which are both goals) are just some of the accolades the winger has earned due to his terrific second half.

He was also named the CCM/AHL Player of the Week to end January, which was the first time a Heat player had ever been named to the weekly honour.

He's also kept the Heat afloat offensively during stretches where key players have been called up or injured, most notably Andrew Mangiapane.

"At the end of the day I want to help this team win," Foo explained. "It is nice to help offensively and that's what the Flames brought me in to do. They wanted me to be that offensive guy.

"I am glad it is starting to pan out."

Perhaps most impressive may be that Foo's empty netter on Saturday ensured he is in some exclusive company, joining Mark Jankowski and Andrew Mangiapane as the only Stockton rookies to reach the 20-goal plateau.

When you're hoping things "pan out", sure doesn't hurt to look at the sophomore forwards who've both spent time in Calgary this season.

"Those are unbelievable players and you see they have already made the jump," Foo says of his Flame teammates. "Obviously, Jankowski is a full-time guy and Mangiapane has played about ten games this season with the Flames so for me, it is big to be in that kind of company."

Taking the exclusive company a step further, Foo becomes the seventh rookie to reach the 20-goal plateau for the Flames AHL affiliate since 2005-06, joining Dustin Boyd (27 goals), Jankowski (27 goals), Markus Granlund (25 goals), David Moss (21 goals), David Wolf (20 goals) and Mangiapane (20 goals).

Making an adjustment from amateur to pro hockey is just that, an adjustment, and when any goal scorer can come in and prove his goal-scoring mettle by scoring 20 in a season, it is something to be proud of. 

A feeling that Foo's coach, Ryan Huska, has. But he also knows that Foo has more to offer than what he's displayed through his first 58 pro games.

"I think it says a lot about where he has come this year," Huska said. "Up until Christmas he was not scoring much, and when he had those three goals in San Jose that is where I felt he started to feel he could score and contribute at this level. He should be proud of this milestone, but we are going to continue to lean on him.

"In our opinion, he is nowhere near close to being done so we are going to need him to continue to put the puck in the net in our remaining games."

Foo has a chance to increase his 20-goal and 37-point season with nine remaining AHL games this season for the Heat. The team will need him as the club continues to push for a playoff spot in the Pacific.

QUICK HITS

- Stockton is currently fifth in the Pacific Division a couple wins back of the Texas Stars who hold the fourth and final playoff spot in the Pacific. The Heat face the Cleveland Monsters on Wednesday at home before heading out to Texas to play a pair of games against the sixth placed San Antonio Rampage and a key showdown with the Stars in Austin, Texas on Wednesday, April 4

- Brett Pollock recorded his third multi-point game of the season and his third game winner of the year on Saturday's win over Manitoba, which put a halt to the Heat's four-game winless skid and three-game losing streak

- Jon Gillies made 29-saves on Saturday's win over the Moose, including a couple dandies to keep the Heat on top. 

QUOTABLES

"It is huge. I think you saw the desperation from everyone tonight. We had a great effort from our goaltender on out. All 20 guys were amazing. We need more of that moving forward, when we play like that we are really confident in ourselves." - Brett Pollock on the team effort to get the win on Saturday night

"The mentality right now is to take it one game at a time and control what we can control. We have to prepare for that Wednesday game and hopefully we can execute." - Pollock on the importance of Wednesday's game vs. Cleveland at Stockton Arena

"I thought we played really well, blocking shots and executing. I think that was the toughest thing about our last couple of games. It wasn't an effort thing, passes were bouncing around, a lack of execution on our part, and some bad bounces. Tonight we controlled most of the play throughout the game. They put a push on at the end, but our guys were blocking shots, seemingly with every body part, and then we got the empty net goal to seal it." - Jon Gillies on the team effort on Saturday to get back in the win column

"It was one of those nights where everyone was in for sure. For our team to have success that is how it has to be. This time of the year it is hard to swallow it when guys have a off night. I loved the response from our group, in particular our forwards tonight." - Ryan Huska on the full-team effort on Saturday night

"Those are the saves that allow a team to win a hockey game. When you look at his whole body of work tonight, there were some big saves that he had to make tonight to get us the win. When you look at his game as a whole, it might be the most complete game I have seen him play. I thought he was excellent tonight and a big reason why we won tonight." - Huska on Gillies play in goal on Saturday

"We can't overlook the one on Wednesday. That is something that we talk about with being in the moment right now and eliminating all distractions that take away from that next game for us. It will not be hard for us [to focus in on Wednesday], we only have a number of home games left and we have to make good on those games and we want to see that same effort when we head back to Stockton Arena." - Huska on not overlooking this upcoming Wednesday night in Stockton against Cleveland

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