Mark Binetti, the “Voice of the Stockton Heat” will check in every week with a series of thoughts surrounding the Heat, the world of hockey, and maybe even the world in general. In this week’s column, he dives into the thrashing of San Jose, unsung heroes across the lineup, and other observations ahead of the team’s road trip to Tucson:
Hey Heat fans! Sorry for the absence of “’Mark’ My Words”! We’re back on the wagon and providing an inside look at Stockton Heat hockey, and will continue to do so moving forward. In case you have any burning questions you’d like me to address in future editions, tweet me (@BinettiPxP), or hit me up on Instagram (@justtheradioguy).
1. Tuesday’s game against San Jose was WILD, to put it lightly. It’s not every day a hockey game finishes with a 10-1 final. Having been on the other side of that myself (no joke…Rapid City lost to Kansas City 10-1 back in November of 2019), I can honestly say last night’s decision was way more fun to even remotely be a part of.
2. Of the crazy numbers from the 10-1 win, a few stand out:
- There were THREE instances in which goals were exchanged in in less than 2:30 of game time: Matthew Phillips and Glenn Gawdin scored 14 seconds apart in the first period; Eetu Tuulola, Byron Froese, and Matthew Phillips’ second goal lamp ignition came in a span of 2:24 of the second; Byron Froese’s and Glenn Gawdin’s hat trick tallies came exactly 2:00 apart in the third.
- Regarding the hat trick goals, Tuesday’s win was the first time ever in team history that two Heat skaters each registered a hat trick in the same game. For the Captain, Tuesday was his 560th professional game and the first time ever he’s notched a “hattie”, so a long overdue congratulations go to him.
- Of the 18 skaters dressed by Head Coach Mitch Love (excluding goaltenders), a whopping 14 skaters hit the scoresheet. Of those 14, exactly half had 2+ points in the win.
- Okay last one, I promise. Tuesday’s 10-goal total is not only the most in a single game in team history, but it’s the most in a game since the Heat thrashed the Toronto Marlies 8-1 last season on February 26, 2021. In the victory, Martin Pospisil notched a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick”. Speaking of “Gordie’s”…(man, the segues are on fire early!)
3. Connor Mackey is the reigning AHL Player of the Week, and rightfully so with his “Gordie” putting an exclamation point on his stellar weekend. Not only is Connor a phenomenal, humble, and well respected teammate, but he brings such a complete game to the back-end: he can skate, his hockey IQ is off the charts, and his shot, like most of his fellow defensemen on this team, has eyes and gets to the net in virtually every scenario. I’ve made mention of how he quietly put together a great start to this season before last weekend, and now he’s screaming on the scoresheet with points in three straight games entering the weekend against Tucson. He has 7 points in that span (3g, 4a – including two assists in the 10-1 win). By the way, two of those three goals were shorthanded, which is extremely rare for blue-liners.
4. There are two things that Head Coach Mitch Love consistently preaches, as he’s divulged in our pregame interviews on our broadcasts: checking the game and mental preparation. With respect to checking the game, his fourth line received a great deal of well deserved credit for their play over the last few weeks. The line of Ryan Olsen flanked by Alex Gallant and Eetu Tuulola are noticeable because of their willingness to dish out and take a beating against Heat opponents. I’m thoroughly convinced that they turned the tide against San Diego last weekend, the hottest team in the Western Conference heading into the pair of matchups and a solid skating team.
5. Re: mental preparation, it’s easy to say it could be at an all-time high in a 10-1 win, but let’s dissect that. I made a comment on the air on Tuesday after the end of 20 minutes that, if I was a betting man, Coach Love’s message to the locker room would be something to the effect of “keep up the intensity”. The team had a 3-0 lead entering the second period, and instead of getting complacent, the team added ANOTHER four goals for a 7-0 lead through two frames. Just because San Jose was in last in the division and down 3-0 through a period was no reason to pack it in, and clearly the Heat didn’t.
6. One final point on Tuesday: the game could’ve been dramatically different had Dustin Wolf been asleep at the switch early on. Nick Merkley and Jayden Halbgewachs both had near uncontested opportunities in close range of his net, to which he turned aside to keep the game scoreless early. If any one of those chances found the back of the net, last night’s game and score would have a different tone and storyline to be discussed the following morning, regardless of the outcome.
7. Dustin Wolf is now undefeated in regulation in FOURTEEN straight games dating back to his first professional win on February 24, 2021, posting a 12-0-2 record with a 1.91 GAA and a .939 SV%. In those 14 games, Wolf has surrendered 2 goals or less in 12, and only one goal five times. To say he has ice water in his veins is a hilarious understatement. The professionalism and preparation he brings to the rink, and the goaltending position for that matter, speaks volumes to the success this team has rightfully earned through just over a fourth of this season.
8. There have been two main themes, from the outside looking in on this team, that have been identified through the first 18 games: the depth of the Heat, and the response of this team. On the depth side, the Heat truly buy into the “next man up” mentality better than any other team I’ve watched in my career. Lose Kevin Gravel? Juuso Valimaki, Greg Moro, and Colton Poolman step up. Lose Matthew Phillips? Luke Philp, Walker Duehr, and Martin Pospisil factor into games. Power play goes 0-fer in a night? The penalty kill delivers a perfect performance. I can keep going. The second is response. Four times this season, the team has suffered a defeat. Four games following the loss, the Heat secure the win. The common denominators? Outside of Jakob Pelletier factoring on the scoresheet and Dustin Wolf backstopping in all four games, the Heat lead after two periods and scored the first goal in the rebound game in three of the four instances.
9. For the first time since opening weekend, the Heat resume their rivalry with the Tucson Roadrunners, almost an exact two months since their last encounter. Wolf started both games for the Heat, allowing 3 goals on 69 total shots, falling 1-0 in overtime on October 15th and rebounding with a 3-2 victory in the weekend finale. Both teams are now in the full swing of the season, and sit in the top four of the Pacific Division (Tucson in 4th, Stockton in 1st). Look out for Tucson’s rookies, Matias Maccelli and Janis Moser, who as the top two scorers of the Roadrunners have combined for 30 points, 16 of which have come on the power play. In the season opening series, Maccelli had a pair of assists, one in each game.
10. Final hockey thought to leave you on: I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating entering the weekend against the Roadrunners, this is another tough weekend in the Pacific Division. It’s easy to say, especially after the Heat have seen every divisional opponent thus far, but keep this in mind: eight of the nine Pacific Division teams are .500 or better, with last place San Jose as the only sub-.500 team. Nothing is guaranteed, everything is earned. This weekend will be no different, given the toughness of Tucson’s lineup (they’re the fifth most penalized team in the league, tied for second with 12 5-minute major penalties).
Puck drop for both games is 6pm PST, and can be found on stocktonheat.com/live, and watched on ahltv.com, with pregame beginning 30 minutes before. Additionally, Friday’s game will be carried on Fox Sports AM 1280. Four of our next six games will be on Fox Sports AM 1280, with Wednesday, December 15 vs Bakersfield, Friday, December 17 vs Colorado, and Wednesday, December 22 at San Diego to follow this weekend’s opener against Tucson. We appreciate you listening, and we’ll see you from the desert this weekend!