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Eetu Tuulola goes on a tear ... Heat off to team-best 3-0 start to the season ... Balanced scoring has been key to red-hot start

by BRANDON WEISS @WeissBrandon1 /

Eetu Tuulola took his First-Star-of-the-Night lap, grinning from ear to ear. 

After all, there was lots to smile about.

The Finnish forward had recorded his first professional point in the first period with an assist on Glenn Gawdin's game-tying goal. He then potted his first professional goal in the third, a tally that went down as the game-winner.

Oh, and in the process he helped the Heat reach 3-0 to start a season for the first time in team history.

Overall, a decent day at the office.

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Strong 2-0 start to the season - both road wins in a tough barn ... depth scoring continues to shine ... Zagidulin an absolute beast between the pipes


There's starting the season strong.

Then there's starting the season Stockton Heat strong.

Roll into Loveland, Colorado, and win two straight road tilts - 5-2 on Friday and 4-2 on Saturday - to open the new campaign: check.

Colorado is a tough out, especially on home ice - going 20-7-2-1 against non-Stockton teams at the Budweiser Events Center since joining the AHL. However, the Heat seem to have co-signed the deed to the barn. 

After the weekend sweep of the Eagles, Stockton is now 5-1 in Loveland. 

Not too shabby.

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Heat miss playoffs but the talent continued to flow to the Flames via the Stockton Pipeline, while the AHL team improved as season went on

by BRANDON WEISS @WeissBrandon1 /

The season came to an end for the Stockton Heat on Sunday, a campaign cut short by a cold winter stretch despite a resurgent spring and furious push to get back into playoff contention.

Ultimately the goal of an AHL team is to show concrete proof of development, progress and improvement throughout a season, even more so than wins and losses might indicate. 

It's hard to argue that, in that respect, this year wasn't a success for Stockton.

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Heat relishing the role of spoilers ... Lomberg has big game with pair of goals ... goaltenders remain red hot

by BRANDON WEISS @WeissBrandon1 /

It may not be the role Stockton hoped for entering the final week of the regular season, but the heel turn seems to suit the Heat.

Despite a late-season resurgence from a Stockton club that had won five of its last six and eight since the calendar flipped to March, the Heat's path to the playoffs dissipated prior to Stockton's weekend series in Manitoba.

The Moose, a strong home team that has been arguably the hottest club in the AHL since the all-star break, were looking to protect home ice in Winnipeg against Stockton. They were battling for their playoff lives while the Heat had no dog in the fight.

Apparently someone forgot to tell Stockton.

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Heat show off flair for the dramatic in four-straight wins ... Club now 10-4-0-1 in last 15 games ... Gillies and Parsons coming up big

by BRANDON WEISS @WeissBrandon1 /

What a difference two weeks can make.

Talking to media on March 16 following a disappointing weekend against Tucson - knowing where his team stood in the playoff picture and the challenge that was awaiting the Heat - Cail MacLean laid out the situation with a blunt calmness.

"All we can do is control what we can control," he said. "We have to reset and refocus."

What MacLean talked, the Heat have walked.

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Heat continue to battle for post-season berth ... Lomberg and Sabourin hit milestones ... Valimaki notches four points in last three outings

by BRANDON WEISS @WeissBrandon1 /

Head coach Cail MacLean paused.

Asked about a positive to take away from a weekend where they suffered a pair of tough losses, Stockton's bench boss took a moment to answer.

"Guys got in front of shots in the third period," he said on Saturday. "Just that small sacrifice by guys for the team - the game's not over, but we're getting late in the game and there's a wide gap - guys are getting in front of pucks and doing something that takes some courage, takes some commitment for your team."

That's what it will take from here on out - an unwavering attention to detail, steadfast commitment to blue-collar hockey, speed and skill and some help - for Stockton to brag a seat at the table for the second season. 

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Gillies taking his play to a whole new level at crucial point of season ... Dube and Quine have solid outings offensively ... Heat split weekend games

by BRANDON WEISS @WeissBrandon1 /

With the playoff race entering its home stretch, the Stockton Heat earned a weekend split against Pacific Division foe San Diego - a 5-2 win on Friday before the offence went cold in a 3-0 setback Saturday.

The common denominator in the two games was solid outings by netminder Jon Gillies, standing tall between the pipes for the Heat as points become pivotal and games remaining run low. 

The Flames' third-round pick in the 2012 NHL draft conceded two goals in each game against the high-powered Gulls attack, stopping 34 of 36 shots faced on Friday and 33 of 35 Saturday. 

"Jon Gillies was playing well and was giving us a chance," said Heat head coach Cail MacLean following Saturday's game. "It's disappointing that we get that kind of effort out of our goaltender and we don't make hay with it."

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Never-say-die Heat continue to battle for playoff berth ... Lomberg comes up big to ice important victory ... Gillies getting job done in Stockton

by BRANDON WEISS @WeissBrandon1 /

Ryan Lomberg laughed at the idea he'd let himself, or his team, not finish the job.

Minutes after sparking a 4-1 come-from-behind win over the rival San Jose Barracuda on Feb. 24, the forward who had just potted a pair of goals - one shorthanded and one into an empty net to punctuate the win - was asked about having to fight through Barracuda defencemen on his way to the yawning cage.

"Yeah, they were trying," he said with a chuckle. "But they weren't going to stop me, though."

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Heat win two important tilts against Eagles ... Quine make it rain hats again ... Dube continues to get the job done

by BRANDON WEISS @WeissBrandon1 /

Don't look now, but the Heat are catching fire.

Stockton is riding high following a successful weekend set against the Colorado Eagles, where they swept their Pacific Division rivals with a pair of exciting victories on Saturday and Sunday.

Beyond the weekend, Stockton has won three of its last four and looks to be firing on all cylinders as the Flames' AHL affiliate hits the home stretch and final playoff push.

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Dube comes up big in pivotal victory ... Heat still focused on making playoffs ... Gillies now Stockton goalie leader in wins this campaign

by BRANDON WEISS @WeissBrandon1 /

It was like Groundhog Day for the Heat.

But this time around with a better ending.

For the second consecutive night, Stockton had raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first period at Colorado just to watch that cushion slip away early in the second. 

It was do-or-die time for Stockton, game tied at two and an uphill battle in the standings with few points left to leave out on the ice if the Heat are to make the postseason.

Enter Dillon Dube.

The dynamic forward scored the go-ahead goal, the first in a series of four unanswered from the visiting team to quiet the crowd and skate away with a 6-2 win on Saturday. 

It was a welcome bounce back after falling 4-2 on Friday.

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