It was like Groundhog Day for the Heat.
But this time around with a better ending.
For the second consecutive night, Stockton had raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first period at Colorado just to watch that cushion slip away early in the second.
It was do-or-die time for Stockton, game tied at two and an uphill battle in the standings with few points left to leave out on the ice if the Heat are to make the postseason.
Enter Dillon Dube.
The dynamic forward scored the go-ahead goal, the first in a series of four unanswered from the visiting team to quiet the crowd and skate away with a 6-2 win on Saturday.
It was a welcome bounce back after falling 4-2 on Friday.
It was a beautiful sequence, 200 feet in a flash with the puck in the net and goal light ablaze just 59 seconds after the Eagles had tied the game.
“That was huge,” said Heat coach Cail MacLean. “The momentum in this building is tough. The crowd gets pretty loud. For Dillon Dube to drive the net hard, put that goal in, that was a big one for us to get us back in the lead.”
It started with a seemingly harmless loose puck, corralled by Juuso Valimaki, who retreated behind Stockton’s net and hit the brakes. The young blueliner then reversed the play and found Spencer Foo at the attacking blue line, who had to retreat as he was hemmed in by a pair of Eagles defensemen and a back-checking forward.
Foo passed to Dube, who entered the zone with speed, danced around a defenseman and powered to the net. One forehand-to-backhand move later, and Stockton was back on top.
“We talked about it last game, and we had the opportunity in the same situation when they tied it back up,” said Dube about flipping Friday’s script for two points on Saturday. “It’s tough when you’re losing. You get anxious. You want to make plays. The effort’s there each night, but we’ve got to start playing the right way and we did tonight.”
Dube, who finished Saturday’s game with a goal and an assist, was one of six goal scorers on the night for Stockton in an offensive onslaught, a relentless effort that saw the Heat will themselves to win in a hostile road environment.
The Heat will need more of the same if they’re to cut into their point deficit with 21 remaining regular-season games. The Heat currently sit 10 points out of the playoffs, giving each game added weight.
If Saturday was any indication – with the poise and discipline, dedication to getting back to the system and playing the right way – the Heat still have a puncher’s chance at making a run.
- Dube has the hottest hands on the team right now with points in eight of the last nine games. The forward has amassed five goals and five assists in that span.
- Foo has found his rhythm on the offensive end of late with points in five of six, including a pair of assists in Saturday’s game.
- Valimaki has recorded points in four of his six games with the Heat: a goal and four assists in his brief AHL tenure.
- Adam Ollas Mattsson scored an insurance goal on Saturday to go up 4-2, his sixth goal of the season and third in just six games against Colorado.
- With his win on Saturday, Jon Gillies took over the team lead for wins on the year for Stockton, breaking what was a three-way tie with Tyler Parsons and Nick Schneider.
- Stockton’s next game comes Wednesday against Bakersfield, which enters the contest as the hottest team in the AHL, riding a 12-game win streak.
“This group has had trouble finding that through the year. We found it for a period last night and we put it together more tonight. We just have to build on it. We have to understand what we’re capable of, but it only happens when we’re focused and we’re managing pucks and we’re doing the right things. That’s a commitment that we’ve all been asking from each other and we have to continue to focus on and try to bring it again next game.” – MacLean on the team playing with confidence in a strong Saturday performance
“I thought Valimaki played his best game of his time with us thus far. He was really good. He was great on the breakout, he was joining the rush, he was good offensively on the blue line. He logged a lot of minutes. It was a good game for him. I think you’re starting to see the Valimaki that is in midseason form here after being out for a while with an injury.” – MacLean on the play of Valimaki over the weekend
“Tonight it was all about winning. From the puck drop, we had another 2-0 lead, it was a good opportunity for us after yesterday to get back that lead. All hands were on deck for us. That was a good win for us and we need to keep going.” – Dube on Saturday’s win
“I thought we played really well. The first period was really good again. At the start of the second we had a tough time, but we managed it really well. We got a big goal from Dube and we got back in the game and stole the momentum. We were working really hard the whole game, and obviously (the goal) helped. I thought that was the key.” – Valimaki on Saturday’s game
“I thought we’d play quick. (Spencer Foo) was in a good spot to stretch the guys. (Dube) had a lot of speed, just came up the ice, made a nice move and drove the net and really wanted to score. That’s what you want from your forwards.” – Valimaki on Dube’s go-ahead goal Saturday