Arena: Valley View Casino Center
Date: October 30, 2015
Time: 7:05 p.m. PST
Broadcast: AHL Live, Spreaker & iHeartRadio beginning at 6:50 p.m. PST
Leading Scorer: STOCKTON: LW Kenny Agostino (4GP, 0-4-4)
SAN DIEGO: LW Nick Ritchie (5GP, 4-1-5)
The Stockton Heat look to get back on the winning track, as they face the Anaheim Ducks affiliate, the San Diego Gulls in San Diego for the first time in team history.
Heat leading scorer Kenny Agostino and company have had great success on the power play so far this season and will look to once again provide an offensive spark early and often in Southern California.
WHO TO WATCH
With Karri Ramo getting the call back up to Calgary, Jon Gillies and Kent Simpson are the player(s) to watch tonight.
A starter has yet to be named for tonight’s tilt, but whoever it is will have a big test in front of them, as the Gulls are coming into the game with a 4-1-0 game through their first five this year.
Gillies has started every game during his rookie campaign, but was pulled ahead of the third period, in favor of Ramo, his last time out.
Simpson on the other hand has watched from the bench during his time with the Heat this year, but in his two appearances while with the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL, Simpson earned two impressive wins and compiled 62 saves on 66 shots.
While Gillies has gotten every nod so far this year, there is reason to believe that Coach Huska could send Simpson to the crease tonight due to his play in Adirondack and the fact that the Heat have to turn around and face the Gulls again Saturday night as well.
That said tonight is an odd-number game (5th of the year) and in the previous two Gillies has a posted a…well we’re not going to say it but Gillies has proven that he can bounce back from a loss.
Thursday was a busy day for the hockey ops departments throughout the Calgary Flames organizations, as four players were on the move with goalie Karri Ramo being recalled by the Flames, defenseman Jakub Nakladal being reassigned to the Heat by Calgary and forward Ryan Lomberg and goalie Kent Simpson being recalled by the Heat from Adirondack.
Simpson gets the call undoubtedly due to Ramo’s call-up leaving a void in the Stockton crease, while T.J. Brodie’s return from injury in Calgary gave the Flames an extra defenseman on the backend.
Lomberg turned heads within the Calgary organization during his time in Penticton and throughout Calgary and Stockton training camps. If he dresses, he will get his first regular season chance to show the Heat coaching staff that his success so far in the ECHL (5GP, 4-1-5) can be translated into offense in the American Hockey League.
CAN’T DO MUCH BETTER THEN 100%
In the first three games of the season, the Stockton Heat penalty kill has been magnificent. Between Jon Gillies in net and the crop of rotating defenseman and forwards in front of him, the Heat are the only team to have killed off 100% of the penalties taken.
The PK unit will have to be good this week as the Gulls power play ranks as the fifth best in the league, just one spot behind the Heat, converting at 23.8%.
OF COURSE BEING RESPONSIBLE LIMITS YOUR PENALTIES
Certainly the PK has done their job but it’s helpful when you don’t have that many opportunities to kill.
The Heat are the least penalized team in the AHL, averaging just 9.25 minutes per game and a league low of 37 total minutes. Meanwhile, the Gulls are the most penalized team, averaging 25 minutes per game but rank fourth in total minutes with 125.
POTENTIAL IN DIFFERENTIAL
The Heat are sporting an impressive, almost absurd 8-0 goal differential in their two wins this year, while suffering a 9-2 goal differential against in their two losses.
The team has stressed consistency in all facets of the game throughout the week as they prepared for San Diego and those two goal differentials tell the story as to why.
The special teams play has been rock solid all year, with the both the power play and penalty kill holding solid success rates, but 5-on-5 the Heat have had some trouble burying chances when they get them.
Speaking of chances, those have not been the issue. Stockton had over 30 shots on net in their win over Texas last week, but were only able to manage a single goal.
Certainly Texas’ goaltender Maxime Lagace had a say in that, but you still would like to see more notches on the board following an offensive effort like that.
Watch for the Heat to have a “shoot first” mentality tonight, as they try to keep earning chances and, most importantly, executing on them.
Tonight will feature an old face in a new place, as San Diego’s Brian McGratton squares up against a lot of his teammates from last year when he played 16 games with the Adirondack Flames.
McGratton played in 137 games with the Calgary Flames over the course of his career and became known as one of the toughest heavyweights in the league during that time.
He will be up against some old friends tonight, as he faces his old franchise for the first time.