ONTARIO, Calif. – The Stockton Heat (42-12-4-2) raced out to a 3-0 lead Sunday but could not hold on as the Ontario Reign (37-15-5-4) rallied for to take the final regular season meeting between the clubs by a 6-5 final score in a shootout Sunday.
By earning a point, the Heat became the sixth-ever Pacific Division team to reach 90 points in a season and are the fastest to ever reach that mark, needing three fewer games than the previous best of 63 games set by San Jose in 2016-17.
Justin Kirkland and Luke Philp led the Heat on the offensive end in a wild contest, the former notching a pair of goals and the latter recording a career-best three assists in the contest. Martin Pospisil also added a multi-point effort of his own with two helpers.
The visitors built their lead in the first half of regulation, Walker Duehr scoring 5:28 into the first then Nick DeSimone and Kirkland adding on early in the second. The Reign were able to get one back before the second intermission, Austin Wagner finding the back of the net to trim the gap to two.
A busy third period saw the teams combine for six goals, Stockton’s pair coming from Connor Zary and Justin Kirkland, each putting the Heat ahead after Ontario had rallied to tie the game at 3-3 and 4-4. Akil Thomas, Martin Frk and Taylor Ward were the goal scorers for the home team in the final frame of regulation.
After a scoreless overtime period, the game went to a shootout – the third straight meeting between Stockton and Ontario that has required the skill competition. Kirkland lit the lamp in the first round for the visitors, then Fagemo and Anderson-Dolan scored in the second and third rounds to give the Reign the extra point.
- Walker Duehr netted his 10th goal of the season to open the scoring, the 11th Heat skater to reach double digits in the goal column this season.
- Nick DeSimone pushed Stockton’s lead to 2-0 with his third goal of the season, his first marker of the season against the Reign.
- Justin Kirkland posted his third multi-goal game of the season. Stockton is now 6-2-0-1 on the year when he has a multi-point effort.
- Luke Philp finished the game with a season-high three points on the night, all assists. It’s his second career three-point game and first since November 11, 2019, when he scored twice and added one helper against San Diego.
- The 13 seconds between Connor Zary and Martin Frk’s goals matched the shortest amount of time between goals for each time this season in a Heat game, tying the gap from November 13 against Henderson.
- Glenn Gawdin recorded his 100th AHL assist in the contest.
- The Heat finish the regular season series against Ontario with a 5-2-0-1 record. Three of those games were decided in shootouts and four went beyond regulation.
- Stockton’s division-clinching ‘Magic Number’ is now eight points with eight games remaining.
STK PP – 1-for-5
STK PK – 3-for-4
First – Taylor Ward (1g,1a)
Second – Austin Wager (1g,1a)
Third – Samuel Fagemo (1g)
W – Matthew Villalta (35 saves on 40 shots faced, 2 saves on 3 shootout attempts)
SOL – Dustin Wolf (28 saves on 33 shots faced, 1 save on 3 shootout attempts)
Stockton heads to Henderson for three matchups against the Silver Knights, Wednesday and Friday at 7 p.m. and a Saturday finale, a 4 p.m. puck drop.