The American Hockey League kicked off its 83rd season last weekend, with the Stockton Heat opening a new campaign on the road for the first time in team history.
And just like the big clubs, the fierce rivalry between the Stockton Heat and Edmonton’s AHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors, continued into the season’s first game.
But just 55 seconds in, the Heat penalty trouble began.
While the team wasn’t burned on the first penalty they took – in fact, Heat winger Buddy Robinson had a shorthanded breakaway that Condors goalie Al Montoya was able to deny – they eventually ceded the season’s first goal to the Condors on the powerplay midway through the first.
After another penalty-kill, the Heat finally received their first powerplay in the dying seconds of the first that would carry over to the second period and, unfortunately for the Heat, that’s when things derailed.
The Condors capitalized on a turnover deep in the defensive zone and doubled their lead with a shorthanded goal. Heat starter Tyler Parsons made a tremendous save on the first shorthanded chance but the Condor forward put his own rebound home.
That momentum shift invigorated the home team as Bakersfield continued to capitalize when a man up, scoring three-straight powerplay goals which ended the night for Parsons midway through the second.
Jon Gillies entered the game but didn’t fair much better, allowing two in the second period and one early in the third, which put Bakersfield up 8-0.
Kerby Rychel scored the lone goal for the Heat, with a beautiful slapshot that beat Montoya.
The game ended in an 8-1 final.
The Heat didn’t have time to dwell on the loss, heading home to host the LA Kings affiliate, the Ontario Reign, at Stockton Arena the following night.
They got off to a much better start, thanks to Spencer Foo who scored his first goal of the year on a wrap-around that beat Ontario goalie Peter Budaj.
Just moments later, Alan Quine – who was playing his first game in Stockton Arena since spending part of his 2013-14 campaign with the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder – slid a pass through to defenceman Andrew O’Brien jumping into the play and he pumped one through the wickets of Budaj.
Ontario would get one back a little over a minute later before a terrific play from Glenn Gawdin who came off the bench, pulled a half spin-o-rama around two Reign players and wristed a shot from the left-wing boards that beat Budaj high, blocker-side for his first pro goal and point.
Foo would collect his second point in the game moments later as he found Morgan Klimchuk off an Ontario turnover and the Heat were up 4-1 just 10:17 into the game.
But the tides turned as Ontario scored three goals in a matter of 1:45 – one a powerplay marker – to knot the game 4-4 after 40 minutes.
The teams traded goals as the scoring pace slowed in the second period, including Foo recording his second goal and third point of the night on the Heat powerplay, but after 60 minutes the game was tied and going to overtime.
Stockton dominated the overtime session with possession before the game opened up. Stockton found themselves on a two-on-one but couldn’t beat Budaj, and Ontario had a two-on-oh break the other way that resulted in a crossbar being pegged and a put back by the trailing Ontario defenceman.
- Kerby Rychel joined Derek Grant, Matt Frattin and Andrew Mangiapane in the small club of players that have scored the first goal of a season for the Stockton Heat;
- Tyler Parsons became just the second goalie to start the season in net for the Stockton Heat. Jon Gillies coming into the game in relief means he has now appeared in every opening night for the Heat since 2015;
- Glenn Gawdin made his professional debut for the Heat on Friday in Bakersfield and scored his first pro goal on Saturday in Stockton;
- Heat bench boss Cail MacLean made his AHL head coaching debut on Friday in Bakersfield;
- Alan Quine suited up in his 200th AHL game on Friday in Bakersfield and recorded his first multi-point game since April 2, 2016, with two assists on Saturday in Stockton;
- Spencer Foo recorded his first three-point night for the Heat since Jan. 26, 2018 at Texas;
- Curtis Lazar played in his first AHL game for the Stockton Heat on Saturday and impressed with his faceoff ability, two-way play and generating offence. It was his first AHL game since Nov. 16, 2016 while still with the Ottawa Senators organization;
- MacLean announced the team wouldn’t start the season with a captain but rotate an alternate captaincy. On Friday, Buddy Robinson, Klimchuk and Quine wore A’s and on Saturday, Robinson, Mangiapane and Tyler Graovac had them.
“We just have to get a little more used to each other, find some chemistry and work out the kinks in the D-zone. We’ve got to get a little bit better in front of the net and forwards (have) got to do a better job of blocking shots and making sure that nothing gets through. I think that’s been a bit of an issue this past weekend. But, we get a long week ahead of us to short things out.”
– Spencer Foo on the team building chemistry
“I think tonight was a much more complete effort, it’s the way we should play hockey games. It’s too bad we got into a little bit of a back-and-forth type game. It was a lot better than last night, so we can take positives from that.”
– Alan Quine on the team’s effort on Saturday in Stockton being better than the season-opener
“I thought today was a much better effort, I thought we had better compete in our game. Executed offensively and managed to settle the game down when it got a little out of control in the first. It was good to see us settle it down, although we don’t like giving up a lead. I think the difference from last night was the commitment to playing the right way. We have a long way to go in that department but, at the same time, I think it’s a step in the right direction.”
– Heat coach Cail MacLean on the team’s effort in their second of two weekend games