STOCKTON HEAT (1-2-0) vs. TORONTO MARLIES (4-3-0)
2 p.m. MST | 1 p.m. PST | BROADCAST: AHLTV, Spreaker
Points – Adam Ruzicka (3)
Goals – Adam Ruzicka (2)
Points – Tyler Gaudet (8)
Goals – Tyler Gaudet (4)
PP – 3-for-8, 37.5% (2nd)/PK – 8-for-10, 80% (16th)
PP – 4-for-21, 19.0% (14th)/PK – 10-for-13, 76.9% (23rd)
1. HEAT INDEX
It wasn’t the start the Heat were hoping for Wednesday, but they definitely got the finish they were seeking. Toronto once again got the early upper hand but this time the Heat countered, with Zac Leslie knotting the game before the first intermission, Adam Ruzicka and Alex Petrovic scoring in the second and then Ruzicka putting the exclamation point with a late power play tally for Stockton’s first win of the season.
While the Heat were guided offensively by Ruzicka’s three-point outburst and Matthew Phillips’ pair of helpers, on the other end Dustin Wolf rebounded from a rocky debut Sunday with a stellar 36-save performance on Wednesday, featuring 19 saves in the third period alone and a handful of highlight-reel stops.
“A lot of resilience on (Wolf’s) part,” said MacLean on the 19-year-old backstop’s performance. “To be in that position after having three bounce off skates last game, then to get in there and just into the game he’s got one bouncing off (a skate into the net). I thought he was resilient, and he was able to settle in and play. He looked really solid.”
Between the pipes wasn’t the only area of play that has been cleaned up dramatically since game one just five days ago today. Stockton dominated on special teams in the most recent contest, scoring a pair of goals on the man-advantage while holding Toronto scoreless on its six chances, which included two 5-on-3s.
2. THIS, THAT, THE OTHER
THIS… It was only a matter of time until the Heat’s familiar formula set in, and Wednesday may have been a sneak peek at what’s to come this season while also being a reminder of what drove the success last season. Scoring: check – four goals. Special teams: check and check. Add in a more-than-solid effort from the goaltending and it’s a winning combination. THAT… Adam Ruzicka is definitely feeling good right now. Not only is the second-year forward coming off a game in which he matched his single-game career best with three points, but he also peppered Toronto with eight shots, a career high. He leads Stockton with 15 pucks on net in the early running, a promising sign that the big-bodied centerman is creating space and not hesitating to pull the trigger when the opportunity is there. THE OTHER… Following today’s game, the Heat will pack up and head out for a while. A shortened season with new divisions has caused some, or most, scheduling patterns to shift pretty dramatically. Still, being a late entrant to a division has done so even further. Stockton’s next seven games will be on the road, with the first coming at Belleville (AHL affiliate of the Ottawa Senators), then two at Toronto, followed by four in Winnipeg against the Manitoba Moose. The next Heat game at the Scotiabank Saddledome won’t take place until March 18.
3. PLAYERS TO WATCH
Heat – Luke Philp
With a goal in the season opener and 20 under his belt in his young AHL career, Luke Philp has shown a consistent scoring touch. If the Heat can keep offensive zone pressure and get some looks on the power play Friday, Philp will be one to watch.
Marlies – Andrew D’Agostini
He was able to frustrate Stockton in the first two games of the series, keeping the Heat off the board in the opening 40 minutes of each game while Toronto built comfortable leads. The Heat were able to puncture his armor last time out to the tune of four goals in 28 shot attempts, including three in the game’s first two frames.
4. MILESTONES WITHIN REACH
- Justin Kirkland is three points away from 100 in the AHL
- Matthew Phillips is three points away from 75 in the AHL and one assist away from 50 in the AHL
- Alex Petrovic is three points away from 75 in his AHL career
- Rob Hamilton is one helper away from 50 AHL assists
“Character is a skill. (Phillips’) ability to be a leader and to be a character guy in the dressing room or just show that resilience and resolve on the ice, and the tenacity, is a skill he needs to hone here and bring into the Calgary Flames’ dressing room so he’s an asset both on and off the ice.” – Cail MacLean on Matthew Phillips’ leadership with Stockton