Congrats from Stockton, Mark!
While the Heat rebounded from a tough loss to the Manitoba Moose on Friday in San Diego with a big 6-3 drubbing of the San Diego Gulls, the buzz around the room was the excitement of Mark Jankowski scoring his first NHL goal the night before against the Detroit Red Wings.
When you combine that with two assists from Brett Kulak and Rasmus Andersson making his season debut for the Flames and going plus-2, it sent a message reverberating through the visiting dressing room at the Valley View Casino Center on Friday.
One of opportunity.
“You just have to prove yourself every day down here and those are guys that did that and they are fantastic players in this league and they deserve to be there,” Morgan Klimchuk said after scoring the game-winning goal against the Gulls. “They are all unbelievable guys and really special players and I am really happy they are getting that chance because they deserve it.”
Jankowski received plenty of texts after his big goal, many coming from his former Stockton teammates.
“I texted Janko afterwards and just said congrats man,” Hunter Shinkaruk said. “You dream of doing that since you start putting on the skates. That was a good bounce for him and he is a good kid and good people always get good bounces.”
For Shinkaruk and some of the others on the team, Jankowski’s goal served as an opportunity to reflect on their own first goals in the NHL.
“It was in Anaheim,” Shinkaruk said with a smile beaming from ear-to-ear. “It was a tip on the powerplay and it was a pretty exciting moment for me. I followed it up the next night with a goal in L.A. so it was a pretty special couple of days.”
Kulak, named the Defensive Player of the Year by the Heat coaching staff in 2015-16, Jankowski – the Heat’s all-time leading scorer – and Andersson – who was the top point getter on the Heat blueline at the time of his call-up – have made deep impacts in the AHL and are now seeing their hard work pay off at the next level.
And the trust that Flames bench boss Glen Gulutzan, along with GM Brad Treliving and the management group, has in the process of producing talent from the American League that can contribute at the NHL level will certainly motivate the Heat.
“The message is that if you believe in yourself and trust what the plan is for you, good things will happen,” Heat coach Ryan Huska said. “For Janko, we couldn’t be happier and his goal will be on our video on Monday morning because that first one was pretty greasy, just going to the net, and that’s what we want our guys to do!”
Maybe the most unique part of Jankowski’s goal that got the Heat fired up was who happened to get the primary assist on the tally. Having NHL legend Jaromir Jagr set up their first marker is a story only 12 NHL players can talk about and Jankowski is now one of them.
“When he’s 50, when he’s 60 or even when he’s 26, it’s going to be quite the tale to tell that Jaromir Jagr helped you get your first goal,” Huska said. “What a special night for Janko and we’re really proud of him and of course Rasmus and Brett for their contributions up there.”
“Hopefully down the road, we can send a few more up there to help the Flames win.”