The youth movement was fully on display, two flicks of the wrist bringing Stockton Arena alive.
The Heat had trailed 4-1 to the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Barracuda less than halfway through regulation’s 60-minute allotment, and bench boss Cail MacLean opted to go to the bullpen, sending in 21-year-old Tyler Parsons off the bench to take over in the blue paint.
Over the next 22 minutes of game time, the Heat caught fire. Parsons went a perfect 17-for-17, Dillon Dube and Juuso Valimaki each found the back of the net to tie the game at four apiece at 11:15 of the third period. Each of the skaters finished the night with a goal and an assist.
“Good energy,” said MacLean about what made the youngsters effective in Friday’s game, eventually a 6-4 loss as San Jose found a pair of late goals to pull away. “Bottom line, it’s the energy we need. We’ve got to find it, and we’ve got to find it consistently. It’s crunch time. It’s important that we come up with that on a shift-by-shift basis.”
In the moment, a 6-4 setback – the first of two on the weekend against San Jose, which has been a thorn in Stockton’s side all year – was a sour start to the home stretch and post-All-Star Break schedule.
From the birds’ eye view, though, it was tough to not be excited about what it could possibly represent for the Flames.
The key players in a game against a tough opponent were a trio of top prospects within the organization – Dube up front, Valimaki on the blue line and Parsons between the pipes. All three have the pedigree, and all three – especially of late – are producing.
For Dube, Friday’s two-point game extended his point streak to six games, totaling seven points (3g,4a) in that span. All told, the forward has now tallied 10 points (4g,6a) in 11 games since his last stint with the Flames.
For Valimaki, the young defenseman hasn’t skipped a beat since missing extended time to injury. Optioned to Stockton by the Flames, the Finnish blue-liner has three points in four games, a goal and a pair of assists, and has been a standout on all 200 feet of the frozen pond.
For Parsons, the pieces continue to come together for the 21-year-old out of Michigan. A World Junior champion with Team USA, his ‘plus’ athleticism has helped him earn lofty praise and high expectations. While the numbers this year aren’t flashy, he’s shown clear progress, highlighted by his team-record 49-save effort in a win over Texas on Jan. 19.
With 23 games remaining in the regular season, the Heat find themselves 10 points out of the fourth and final playoff spot in the Pacific. The final push is here, and it’ll take the full roster stepping up to make noise toward the second season.
– Stockton has erased third-period deficits in four-straight games, including each contest against San Jose this past weekend. The Heat are 1-3 in those games.
– Defenseman Rinat Valiev earned his second call-up to Calgary of the season, announced prior to Saturday’s game at San Jose.
– Stockton continues its divisional run with 14 games remaining of a streak of 16-straight against Pacific opponents.
– Curtis Lazar has found his way onto the score sheet in four-straight games with two goals and two assists, sandwiched around his appearances at the Lexus AHL All-Star Classic.
“Resilience is always a good thing. It’s a good thing, it’s a positive. Bottom line, we’re pro hockey players. We’ve got to find a way to not be coming from behind every third period. We like the fact that this team can score and can be relentless in terms of how we fight back in games, but we’ve got to do a better job overall and make sure we come out on the winning side.” – Cail MacLean on the team’s third-period come-from-behind efforts.
“I didn’t like our first half of the game. We were slow out of the gates. We weren’t executing. As a result, San Jose was able to get a start on us. Bottom line is the desperation we had in the third period was the difference. If we can sustain that and find it early, that’s going to put us over the top but we didn’t do it well enough tonight.” – MacLean on Friday’s game.
“That’s part of my game. I try to create some offense. I definitely felt good. It’s been a long time since I’ve scored a goal. It was good, it was at a good time but we fell short in the end. It was a tough one.” – Juuso Valimaki on his two-point effort Friday.
“We’ve got to be better in first periods. Tonight the start was awful. We weren’t ready to play. In the third period (San Jose) had nothing at times. We were all over them. That tells us this team has skill and we’re capable of doing a lot of things, but we’ve got to start on time and be ready to play full 60-minute games.” – Valimaki on the team’s third-period comebacks.