The Stockton Heat dropped two of their three games on the road this past week and now sit second in the American Hockey League's Pacific Division with a 9-5-1 record.
The Heat currently sit three points back of first-place Texas in the division. Despite last week's setbacks, the Heat's goal differential remains tops the in division at plus-14; they have outscored their opponents 53-39 this season.
On Wednesday, the Heat made a stop in Ontario to take on the Reign at Citizens Business Bank Arena. Brandon Bollig opened the scoring in the first period, backhanding a rebound in tight on net.
"We had the mindset of trying to shoot early and [Morgan Klimchuk] actually said right before that draw that he was going to shoot it as soon as he got it," Bollig said. "That's exactly what he did and [Emile] Poirier got a nice tip on it towards the net. Luckily for me I was sitting on the doorstep and I was able to get my stick on it."
Unfortunately for the Heat, that would be all the offence they could muster in Ontario, falling 3-1 to the Reign.
Goaltender David Rittich, who came into the game on a three-game winning streak, made 24 saves on 26 shots.
"[David Rittich] was great and kept us in the game all night. He made every save he should have made. We know we can't win if we only score one goal. We have to be better offensively," rookie defenceman Rasmus Andersson said afterwards.
The Heat headed to Arizona on the weekend, taking on the Tucson Roadrunners in a back-to-back set. They would split the pair of games, earning a win on Saturday and dropping Sunday's match-up.
In their 3-2 win on Saturday, the Heat scored three unanswered goals in the final two periods and earned their first win over the Roadrunners this season.
Brendan Perlini gave Tucscon a 2-0 cushion with a power play goal in the first period and a breakaway tally early in the second period but that would be all that netminder Jon Gillies would allow. After missing four games with an upper body injury, Gillies turned aside 25 shots in his return to the lineup.
"I thought [Jon Gillies] was excellent tonight," head coach Ryan Huska said in his post-game media address. "He's always there to bail us out when we make mistakes more often than not and he gave us a chance to win tonight. It was good to have him back that's for sure."
Mikkel Aagaard would get the Heat on the board with his first AHL goal - a power play marker - in the second period. Getting in front of the net, he was able to shovel a rebound underneath the goaltender at the 12:17 mark of the stanza.
Andersson tied the game up 4:18 of the third period, snapping a shot from the face-off circle and beating goaltender Adin Hill high. It was the blueliner's first professional goal.
"It was a clean breakout from the guys and I just tried to take the shot at an opening. I got it short side high and it was a nice feeling for sure. It's always nice to get the first one out of the way," Andersson noted.
"We played a solid game tonight. We played as a team and we came away with the win - that's most important part for us right now."
Late in the period, Linden Vey scored the game-winner when he chipped a shot over Hill's shoulder. It was Vey's fourth goal of the season and second point of the night. He was named the first star in the victory.
After falling behind after two periods of play in Sunday's game in Tucscon, the Heat pushed for another comeback win but came up short, dropping a 5-4 decision to the Roadrunners.
In a fast-paced opening period, Ryan Lomberg and Vey potted goals for Stockton but Tucson replied with goals from Kyle Wood and Perlini, leaving the game in a 2-2 tie after 20:00.
Bollig gave his club an early 3-2 lead in the second period but the Roadrunners scored three straight goals (Mark Olver, Wood, Henrik Samuelsson) to cap off the middle frame and give Tucson a 5-3 lead.
Three of the Roadunner's goals came on the power play, a source of disappointment for Huska.
"It starts with faceoff and I thought we lost just about every faceoff our penalty kill took," Huska explained. "[Tucson] has a good setup man in [Chris] Mueller and they have guys that can really shoot as well. When you lose that initial faceoff, it gives them a chance to set up and we just didn't have the guys in shot lanes like we did last night."
Andersson's second goal of the season would pull the Heat within one in the third period but Stockton couldn't net the equalizer.
"I've had a couple pretty lucky bounces against [Tucson], but at the end of the day we have to get these wins. We have to tighten up our defence. We can't allow five goals and expect to win," Andersson said after the loss.
The Heat will kick off a four-game homestand on Wednesday when they host the Charlotte Checkers at the Stockon Arena.