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Jon Gillies and David Rittich have been strong throughout the Heat's recent struggles

by DUSTIN COWELL @dustin_cowell /

It's no secret that the Stockton Heat have had a tough go of it lately.

Going winless in eight straight isn't exactly where the Heat pictured themselves at this point in the season, especially after leading the Pacific Division heading into the holiday break back in December.

However, one thing has remained consistent - the play between the pipes from David Rittich and Jon Gillies.

Admittedly the two have had their ups and downs throughout the season, but as the offense has hit a bit of a rough patch, the two netminders have stepped up their respective games and put together one of the better stretches the tandem has seen this season.

Over the course of the last six games, Rittich and Gillies have combined for a .928 save percentage and a 2.34 GAA, while allowing more than two goals just twice over that stretch.

Despite that success, the team always comes first and the fact that the steady play in the crease has not led to more wins can be vexing at this point of the season.

"It's tough, but we're there to help the guys however we can," Rittich said. "We know we are better than this and we must work in practice and focus on the next game." 

Gillies echoes his counterpart's sentiments, adding that the team has played well in front of them - it's just a matter of getting a few more bounces in the offensive zone.

"I think that with the people we have in this room and the way that we're playing - we're going in the right direction right now," Gillies explained. "We've shown in the past that we can score a lot of goals and I think we'll get back to that." 

Those goals that have proven elusive of late are not for a lack of effort.

The work and compete level has been there all year and there is certainly no questioning that at the moment.

Meanwhile, Rittich and Gillies have kept Stockton in games on the scoreboard and given the Heat an opportunity every night.

As for whether or not life is tougher between the pipes during times like these, Gillies says not at all.

"As a goalie you go into every game expecting to stop every shot - that's your job," Gillies said. "There isn't any more pressure to put on yourself outside of that."

The tandem's next task will come this weekend, as Stockton kicks off a three-game homestand against three different opponents this Friday when they host the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Barracuda.

Stockton will surely count on Rittich and Gillies to remain at the top of their respective games for the upcoming stay at home.


Record: 0-2-0-0, Overall: 19-19-4-1 … F Mark Jankowski extended his team-lead in goals with his 15th on the season … F Morgan Klimchuk played in his 100th AHL contest Friday in Charlotte … "Last year was a bit of an adjustment, but I'm pretty happy with how things are going right now. I'm happy with where my game is at, but it's hard to focus on yourself when the team is struggling like this. I'm just trying to do whatever I can to get the boys back going like we were at the beginning of the year." - Klimchuk on playing his 100th AHL game … "I've been through some tough stretches, but this is probably the toughest. It's just something we have to keep battling through. There's no magic solution. Everybody just has got to give a little bit more because it's not enough right now. We just need to get home now and try to reboot a little bit." - D Keith Aulie on the recent stretch for the Heat.

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