Resiliency was the word of the week for the Heat.
And it all started with a road game against the LA Kings AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign, on Friday.
Early in the first period Curtis Lazar banged home his first AHL goal since 2016 – and first goal since February 2018 while with the Flames – just six seconds into the tilt on a powerplay to get the Heat on the board.
However, the Reign struck fast and furious, scoring the next three goals to jump out in front.
But before the period ended, Tyler Graovac walked up the left-wing boards and lobbed a pass high over the defence that fell at the stick of defenceman Oliver Kylington, who buried his first goal of the season and pulled the Heat within one after 20 minutes.
That was just the start of a big night for the duo.
After the Reign scored to regain their two-goal lead midway through the final frame, Kylington would score his second of the night in response after Andrew Mangiapane kicked a pass to him and the talented Swede unleashed a terrific wrister right over the goalie’s shoulder.
With time winding down, it appeared that Kylington had scored again to tie the game up. However, the replay showed Graovac redirected it into the net.
Because of the tandem’s brilliance in the third – championing the Heat comeback effort to ensure a second-straight OT game against the Reign – both Graovac and Kylington were on the ice to start the three-on-three session.
“I told him when I shot the puck and he tipped it, he said give me the puck and I will give you a goal,” Kylington said of his teammate. “I knew when he was skating up with the puck, I knew he was going to do something magical.”
Magical is one way to describe it, as Graovac grabbed the puck behind his own net and started the charge himself, going coast-to-coast, driving around a defender and finishing with the OT winner as the Heat prevailed 5-4.
The team didn’t have much time to celebrate though, as they hopped an early morning flight from Ontario to Sacramento and then boarded a bus to Stockton where the top team in the Pacific Division was waiting for them.
In the first of 12 meetings between the two Northern California rivals, Stockton hosted the San Jose Barracuda at Stockton Arena on Saturday night.
The Heat found themselves down 3-0 midway through the game but Lazar would score in his second-straight tilt for the Heat after Graovac found him, or rather Lazar’s skate, at the side of the net and put the Heat on the board.
The Heat trailed by three early in the third period when things got interesting again. Kerby Rychel, who scored the season’s first goal, went off on the Barracuda and championed another come-from-behind effort.
Three opportune bounces by the net, three goals for Rychel.
A late penalty from the Barracuda and the Heat were on the powerplay to end the game needing one goal to complete the comeback.
Opting to pull Tyler Parsons, the Heat had the six-on-four advantage but an intercepted pass and shot from the defensive zone helped San Jose hold on for a 6-4 win.
- Rychel recorded the fifth hat-trick in team history (the first in a single period), joining Mark Jankowski, Hunter Shinkaruk, Spencer Foo and Brett Pollock as the Heat players to have accomplished the feat;
- It was also a four-point night for Rychel, tying another Heat record. The last four-point game came courtesy of Mike Kostka against San Jose on March 17, 2017.
- Lazar has goals and points in back-to-back games and found himself wearing an “A” on on Saturday night;
- Graovac recorded his first multi-point night for the Heat and recorded the Gordie Howe Hat-Trick on Friday night in Ontario;
- Kylington recorded his first multi-goal game of his pro career on Friday;
- Cail MacLean recorded his first AHL win as a head coach on Friday in Ontario.
“It is huge. We felt it. We had good energy in the morning skate. I think even the coaches noticed that. Everybody really wanted to win this one, even when we were down 3-2 after the second. You just get that feeling, it is tough to explain. We just get pushing through. That was a fun one.” – Graovac on the big comeback win Friday night
“It is a big win for Cail, too. It’s his first win as a head coach. Guys were talking about it, we wanted to get that for him. It builds character – we have a character group, we have a lot of guys that can play at a high level. You can see the little things that we have tightened up over the week … the team is coming together and it’s a great step for us.” – Graovac
“I played relaxed. I was at the right spots. I made good reads out there and I capitalized on my chances. If I play like that I will score a lot of goals. I need to be sharp in the head and make good reads out there and I will get more goals this season.” – Kylington on his offensive production on Friday night
“Feels great. I was really proud of the guy’s effort tonight. I thought we handled some good adversity in the third period, especially. I am just happy to see them have success because that is something we have been grinding for a little bit for. It hasn’t gone pretty for the first couple of games so to see that made me really happy.” – MacLean on his first AHL coaching win on Friday night
“Execution has to be a little bit better. Again, it’s still early in the season. You are starting to nail down the systems and get on the same page and stuff. Things are going to go wrong out there, and it was one of those nights where they capitalized on every chance they got. We did a lot of good things out there. The fact that we didn’t roll over in the third and didn’t go to bed. We kept fighting until the end. There are a lot of good things to take away from tonight.” – Lazar on the team’s effort on Saturday night
“There is a lot of enthusiasm. Guys are coming to work every single day, regardless if it is a practice or a game. Guys step in that locker-room and put their best foot forward. It is an easy group to get along with. We are pretty young. It makes for a lot of fun. If we keep going the same way, I like where we are at.” – Lazar
“It’s nice to get a few bounces there at the end but there’s still room for improvement, not only for myself, but for the team. So we’ll focus on doing just that in practice this week.” – Rychel on the bounces going his way