But I can’t help but be excited for the way that Stockton has begun the season. A nice come-from-behind win over the San Jose Barracuda and a convincing win over the Texas Stars…or should I say… another convincing win over the Texas Stars has gotten the team off to a good start.
However it’s how the team has won that has me excited.
From an individuals perspective, it’s been really positive to see how players have grown from April 17 to October 15.
Back on the blueline, how about the contributions of Kenney Morrison, Ryan Culkin and Oliver Kylington? Morrison has looked poised in the defensive zone and I think early on he’s done a great job of forcing skaters to the outside and even separating the puck from the puck carrier without taking penalties. Last season, I’m don’t think he had that same kind of success.
Culkin’s start to the season, healthy, is already a great start but the blocked shots he’s rocking is something I haven’t seen from the defenseman before. On Wednesday there was a play where he blocked a shot and spun his stick around while falling to wack a puck out of the slot.
Again, not sure that happens last season.
And then there’s Kylington who’s got points in back-to-back and more importantly, has shown the same poise in the backend as he shows in the offensive zone. Again on Wednesday a play that resulted in him turning the puck over at the Texas blueline saw Kylington get back to catch the Texas skater and negate a shot attempt that would go in the corner.
No penalty on the play.
How about the rookie, Rasmus Andersson? He’s the QB of the top power-play unit and he’s shown that he’s not just an offensive guy but a solid two-way defender as well.
Combine that with the steady, you know what you’ll get effort, from Tyler Wotherspoon and Colby Robak and you have yourself a really good start to a defensive core.
Behind them is a goaltender who’s posted terrific numbers in just two games. A 1.50 goals-against-average and a .950 save-percentage and just three goals against is what you want to see out of your goalie and Jon Gillies looks very much like he’s picked up where he left off last year. As much as I’d have liked him to be the first goalie to get a shutout during every win (like he did in 2015-16), it was highly unlikely for that trend to continue so nice that he got a few wins that needed him to come up with a couple big saves when it mattered most.
Who’d have thought that the top three players on the team in points to get things going would be two rookies and a guy who a year ago was playing out east for the Vancouver affiliate?
Look we knew Hunter Shinkaruk was going to be the real deal, in fact I didn’t even think he’d be here to start the year, and while I doubt we’ll have him all season, enjoy him while he’s here because the goal he scored against Texas was similar to that of Derek Grant’s goal during the second game of last season. Carve through the defense and backhand one past the goalie.
Then there’s two-game pro Andrew Mangiapane. In the first two games he’s proved he can put up some offense while also not limiting himself because of his size (sounds like someone else I know on the team who’s name rhymes with Bomberg). That nasty wrist shot he took for goal number one was filthy, it was a snipe and it was a thing of beauty.
Then there’s Mark Jankowski, who really doesn’t appear to have a flaw in his game. He’s got to be one of the, if not, the most intelligent players on the ice who’s positionally fantastic and is always around the action in all 200 ft. of the ice.
And I could go on and on about what I’m liking about this team. The smart veterans like Matt Frattin and Linden Vey, the speed and tenacity (plus a far better defensive game) from Emile Poirier, the never give up attitude of Garnet Hathaway and Ryan Lomberg. There’s really a lot to like right now.
But remember, it’s very, very early and the Pacific is a good division, both in the NHL and the AHL. I expect a couple call-ups. I’ll expect a few bumps and bruises along the way.
However that doesn’t mean we can’t be encouraged by the start the team has had thus far.
The Heat have Tucson coming in tomorrow before finishing October on the road with one in San Diego and a pair in Tucson as the Roadrunners play their first home game against the Heat.
Who’s been the players you’ve noticed so far? Are you feeling encouraged by the start even though it is early in the year? Let me know what you think!
Since baseball is getting closer and closer to it’s end I figured I’d go the baseball route today with one of my favorites from the 1990’s in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
I always liked this one when I was a kid and I still like it now. I always liked the nickname of the team but I think more than anything I really liked the gradient behind the logo and the colors. Purple, green, blue, yellow and a hint of orange was very cool to me as a kid and the flapping ray was striking to me.
Certainly one of my favorites in baseball still today and definitely better than the new Rays logo that is out there. I miss the “devil”…
Brandon Kisker is the Heat’s Director of Broadcast & Media Relations and is in his fourth season as a broadcaster in Stockton and second for the Heat. He yells a lot when excited, but that yelling is genuine, and typically fist pumps when goals are scored or big saves are made. He thinks Rick Jenerette is really top shelf…..and that is where mama hides the cookies. He’s almost as glad that baseball is nearly over, almost as much as he’s excited hockey is back. Seriously…how many games do you really need that don’t count? The NHL and NBA have figured it out and it’s 82, I’d even accept 100, but that 162 is ridiculous. Follow him on Twitter @kiskerbc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments or questions.