On Friday, the Stockton Heat will face off against a familiar foe in the San Jose Barracuda to kick off the best-of-five first round series in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
The two teams are all too familiar with each other, having faced off 12 times during the regular season, with Stockton finishing 5-5-2 against their divisional rivals. The Heat come into the postseason on a roll, as they went on an 11-game point streak to end the campaign, to finish with a 34-25-7-2 record for fourth in the Pacific Division. The division-winning Barracuda finished off the year at 43-16-4-5, closing out the regular season with a 5-2-2-1 record in their last 10 skates.
"It's a big moment, I think it's a really important thing for our group," head coach Ryan Huska said of making the playoffs. "It's pretty remarkable when you think about it. The ups and downs that our group went through.
"With the great start, a really horrible middle portion of the season where it looked like we were out of the mix and then to the way we got ourselves into the playoffs here. We were on a good run to get ourselves in, so I'm real proud of the no quit in our group and the way we stuck with it when things didn't look so great."
Heat Season Leaders vs. San Jose
Goals - Mark Jankowski (7)
Assists - Jankowski (7)
Points - Jankowski (14)
Penalty Minutes - Keith Aulie (50)
Wins - Jon Gillies (3)
Keep An Eye On - Mark Jankowski
The Flames' 2012 first round pick is coming off a strong rookie season with the Heat, leading the team in goals (27) and points (56). He also finished second in rookie scoring and 15th overall in the AHL, proving to be a threat each time he stepped foot on the ice. Against San Jose, Jankowski finished with 14 points (7 goals, 7 assists) and also led the team in plus/minus at plus-6. After a strong regular season campaign, the Heat will look for the centreman to carry that over into the postseason.
"In my opinion playoffs are a whole new ballgame. It's a totally different game and we have plenty of playoff experience whether it be NHL or AHL in this room and that's going to be beneficial for us. We know we have guys that have been there and know what it takes and have plenty of younger guys that really feed off that and bring their work ethic every game. I think we're in a good spot mentality physically. The boys are excited and we're looking forward to getting this series started. It should be a fun one." - Brandon Bollig on the team morale
"At this point of the season you can't take any game or any team lightly. Everyone knows what's at stake and we just have to keep our game playing the way we have been playing in the last little bit. When we are on our game we know that nobody can play with us. We have to get off the right foot and go from there." - Mark Jankowski on the team's mentality ahead of Game 1
"We're obviously thrilled. That's goal one, the big one is now obviously the trophy, but mission accomplished for sure. It's a tight-knit group in there. We've been through a lot of highs and lows and stuck together and that just shows the character and leadership of the group so I'm proud of everyone." - Ryan Lomberg on getting to the postseason