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'READY TO SHOOT A LOT'

Good strategy for youngster Luke Philp, who has been on a torrid scoring pace for the Heat this season

by BRANDON WEISS @WeissBrandon1 / CalgaryFlames.com

Tied at three midway through the third period, Stockton needed to make a play.

It was back on Nov. 11, and a 3-0 lead over struggling San Diego had evaporated.

Then the game, and Luke Philp's season, changed in a span of just six seconds. 

Dillon Dube collected the puck behind Stockton's net and sent it out of the defensive zone to Matthew Phillips, who quickly rifled it across the ice to Philp, who came streaking down the left side. The rookie played the puck off the boards, turned his attention on goal and beat netminder Kevin Boyle to take a 4-3 lead.  

It was the first of three goals in a span of 3:57 for the Heat, two coming from Philp and one from Phillips in a 6-3 divisional win.

After 10 scoreless games to start his professional career, Philp had to wait less than four minutes to get his second strike, and there's been no slowing him since.

Since tallying that first marker on Nov. 11 - which came later in the same outing as his first point, a helper on a Dube goal to open the day's scoring - Philp leads the AHL in goals with 13 over that span. He now trails Phillips and Buddy Robinson by just one marker for the Heat team lead. He has 19 points on the year, good for seventh on the roster and most among rookies on the AHL's highest-scoring team.

"The best thing I can say about him is he's always ready to shoot the puck," said Heat head coach Cail MacLean. "His goals have been critical a couple of times for us to get points and in building our way up in the standings.

"Good for him, but also good for the team."

Talking to Philp, he attributes his increased production to a weekend that finished with a two-game aggregate of no goals, no assists, six shots, minus-1. With the numbers he's put up, it's surprising to hear. But for the rookie, it was about getting his mojo back.

"There was an adjustment period for me to get used to the pace of the league," said the 24-year-old rookie, who signed with the Flames after completing his collegiate career at the University of Alberta. "There were those two games in Tucson right before I scored my first that I started to feel better, started to get chances, started to get to the puck more. I knew it was just a matter of time until I got my first one, and it was just a matter of time after that."

 

 

Increased production meant an increased role in games, and with his skates on the ice more often he's been able to put up gawdy stats over the last seven weeks - he trails Phillips and Glenn Gawdin by just one point for the title of Stockton's top point producer since that fateful game against San Diego.

There was no doubt that the potential was there, despite the slower start on the score sheet. Philp had always been at or near a point per game in his career, the Canmore native totaling 251 points in 264 WHL games before becoming a highly-decorated USports skater, where in three seasons he earned a pair of First All-Star Team nods, led Canada West in points in 2017-18 and 2018-19, earned Player of the Year distinction in 2018-19 and a championship in the 2017-18 campaign.

"I think the goals really gave him confidence to take a big step," said MacLean. "There was always good work ethic. Once he started seeing more ice time, he really thrived on that. What really helped him was scoring those two in one game. It took the monkey off his back and he kept rolling from here."

Philp has five points in Stockton's last five games entering 2020, a pair of goals and three assists. No resolutions for him with the change of the calendar - it's about keeping his game the same, using his biggest strength that MacLean had mentioned.

"For me, just trying to be ready to shoot a lot," said Philp. "When the puck's going in for you, it doesn't hurt to be a shooter."

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