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.
“We worked hard tonight and we got rewarded for it,” said Tuulola about his own effort and the team’s overall grit in mustering a 5-3 win over divisional foe San Diego. “I had a couple good opportunities in Colorado that I couldn’t bury at the time. Luckily I got the goal tonight – it was a nice play from (Byron Froese) and (Ryan Lomberg).”
The home-opener did not start as planned for the Heat, who coughed up the game’s first goal just 3:13 into the night’s action. Stockton took over after that as Gawdin, Lomberg, Brandon Davidson and then Tuulola found the back of the net over the next 45 minutes to build a comfortable lead before the game tightened late. Buddy Robinson then deposited an empty-netter to deliver the knockout blow.
Not a perfect effort, but enough to tack on two more points in the standings.
In achieving a start unmatched in Stockton’s brief AHL history, this being Year 5, the whole club has had to contribute.
Gawdin and Davidson had three-point nights in Stockton’s divisional bout on Saturday. Tuulola, Froese, Lomberg, and Dillon Dube each pitched in a pair. The half-dozen multi-point efforts on home ice exemplified what seems to be a growing trend around the Flames’ AHL affiliate’s room – roll up the sleeves because everybody’s got to pitch in.
Through three games, a trio of players have four points. Four players have three and another four have two each. Balance up-and-down the lineup has been an asset for this club, and it’s one that bench boss Cail MacLean was excited about after the game.
“It’s huge,” said the second-year head coach. “You want to make sure that you’re comfortable in terms of being able to produce. I think right now we feel that way, but we have to keep working and want to make sure we keep getting it done.”
- With the win over San Diego, Stockton is now 4-1-0-0 all-time in home-openers;
- Four players scored their first respective goal of the season in Saturday’s win: Gawdin, Lomberg, Davidson and Tuulola.
- The Heat went a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty-kill against San Diego and are now an impressive 16-for-17 on the year.
- Artyom Zagidulin stopped 21 of 24 shots on the night, bringing his yearly totals to a 2.33 GAA and .920 SVP.
- Stockton leads the AHL with 4.67 goals per game.
THEY SAID IT:
“It was a slower start, but overall I thought we were pretty good structurally. We had our moments, definitely. I really liked the way we started that third period, and obviously those goals followed as a result. You want to make sure you’re playing the right way after that, and we let it get away from us a little bit there.” – MacLean after Saturday’s win
“It was a great crowd tonight. The guys were excited. It was a little bit too much drama at the end for us, but it was fun. The crowd was into it. At the end it got a bit tight, things got rougher, and overall it was a really good atmosphere in this building all night.” – MacLean on getting to play in front of the home crowd for the first time this season
“It was electric, for sure. It was nice to play in front of them and we want to just keep going, keep bringing more fans in here.” – Tuulola on his first home game at Stockton Arena
“It’s funny the way those things go in sometimes. I missed the net, it goes off the goalie and into the net. It was a strange one for sure. I was looking to come into this game and I was looking for that first goal to get things rolling. I was glad I was able to pot that one. It was a timely goal as well, too, going into the home stretch. Just happy with getting a lucky bounce.” – Davidson on scoring his first goal of the season
“It’s huge. Especially in the third – all game long they were relentless with us – but in the third when we started to gain even more momentum, it was easy for us to build on their energy that they brought in the building.” – Davidson on playing with the home crowd
“I think that the team has come together. We’ve got a group of young, skilled hockey players with a good veteran group. It meshes really well right now. I think there’s a lot more to our game that we’re going to keep figuring out and building on. The clouds are the possibilities here. I don’t think there’s any ceiling on this.” – Davidson on the team’s 3-0 start to the season