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 speaks to depth across all three phases, the microscopic nature of hockey, and the early stages of the NHL season.
- Hey Heat fans! I hope you’re enjoying the beginning of the 2021-22 AHL Season as much as I am! I hope you find this column fun and insightful as the year progresses. I hope to bring a unique perspective of the team and its happenings as we venture on into the year. We’ll cover a multitude of topics, and if you’d like specific opinions/thoughts/insights, be sure to comment on our social media and I’ll see what I can do for you! You can also reach me directly on Twitter (@BinettiPxP) or Instagram (@JustTheRadioGuy) with any topics you’d like covered.
- Let’s start off with the most obvious: this team is HUMMING. Points in every single game, wins in three straight, and the team’s only loss thus far was a 1-0 game that took 61:56 for a goal to finally come into existence. It’s been great hockey to watch, and the best part is Mitch Love, his staff, and the team aren’t getting too high or too low. Coach Love operates under the notion that there’s always work to be done and something to learn, which speaks volumes to his maturity as a coach.
- I LOVE statistics. You’ll never see a shortage of mathematical calculations in my prep and on my broadcasts. Math is fun, and when you combine it with hockey, its art. In this case, let’s talk about five-on-five hockey. The Heat are outscoring their opposition 9-2 when the game is full strength five-on-five in a 60 minute game. While special teams have been a factor in each game thus far (for and against the Heat), it’s still good to know that the Heat are flat out dominating the game the way that it’s meant to be played.
- Another scoring stat that you might have heard me drop with Coach Love in Saturday’s pregame show is goals scored and allowed in the first and last five minutes of each period. For those who missed that, it’s a trend that I’ve gained an immense amount of appreciation for. A dear friend of mine, Rapid City Rush Assistant Coach Jeremy Gates, has kept track of this for each of his now three years in that role with that squad, and the logic behind it is brilliant: the first and last five minutes of each period are crucial swing periods, totaling 10 minutes. Over three periods that’s 30 minutes, which is exactly half of the hockey game. Thus far, the differential in that category for the Heat is 9-3. The Heat have made a habit of starting off each frame on the right foot, and putting their foot down in the closing moments of a period.
- The additions of Glenn Gawdin and returning Captain Byron Froese from the Flames has paid off immediate dividends for the Heat. Gawdin has three assists in two games, while Froese also has three assists to his credit. Coach Love says their major contribution is their leadership, which is apparent given how they’ve played a simple, intelligent, cool/calm/collected game and been rewarded for it handsomely in a short amount of time.
- With the return of the aforementioned gentlemen, it’s additional firepower to an already potent lineup. If the top line of Jakob Pelletier-Adam Ruzicka-Matthew Phillips isn’t scoring, then it’s Justin Kirkland-Froese-Walker Duehr. If not them, then it’s Martin Pospisil-Gawdin-Luke Philp. And if not that line, then it’s the d-corps, particularly Connor Mackey, Kevin Gravel, and Nick DeSimone that are finding their way onto the scoresheet. Hockey is so beautiful because it’s the quintessential “next man up” sport. In this case, the Heat have fielded (skated?) 24 different players through four games, and 13 have at least a point. The fact that we have 64 games left and this team has bought into that so consistently means the future for this team is very much a bright one.
- There is so much to love about hockey. For me, as much as I love every physical and intellectual aspect of the game and the exhilaration you feel when you skate like a bat out of hell around the ice, it’s how microscopic the world of hockey is. Someone knows someone that played against someone that’s related to a teammate that coached his son who is the god father of this player and skated in the summers with another teammate and his uncle…and the list of scenarios goes on and on. As the year goes on, I hope to share many stories of our players and staff about how interconnected everyone is.
- The first such instance of the above goes back to opening weekend against Tucson. For four of my eight years in Rapid City, the Rush were affiliated with the Arizona Coyotes, with three of those years featuring Tucson at the AHL level. Tucson’s Equipment Manager, Eric Bechtol, worked with me in Rapid City for the 2015-16 ECHL season. His son, Gavin, held the same post two years later for three seasons and is now with the Iowa Wild. On Tucson’s roster, Dysin Mayo, the Roadrunners Captain who just scored in his NHL debut last week with Arizona, played in Rapid City in 2016-17 and I got to watch his first pro goal scored. Garrett Klotz was in Rapid City from 2018 to present, and Gabriel Chabot and Tyson Empey turned pro with the Rush last year (Klotz and Chabot didn’t play, while Empey fought Alex Gallant on the home opener). Ivan Prosvetov, the goaltender, played five games for the Rush in 2019-20 before never looking back. It was only fitting that my AHL debut weekend showcased some old friends of mine, and was definitely a special touch to see them on a special weekend in my career.
- The NHL is officially off and running, and right now the Flames are ROLLING with three straight wins. However, no other team has taken the cake more than the expansion Seattle Kraken, who just celebrated their home opener last weekend. The hype in the building and surrounding the team for what seems to be years leading up to this point is indicative of how much more popular hockey is than people give the sport credit for. Also, I’d like to give a special shout out to another dear friend, Everett Fitzhugh, for making his NHL debut as the “Voice of the Kraken”. Arguably one of the best guys in the business, Fitzy absolutely nailed Vincent Dunn’s goal as the first ever in Climate Pledge Arena. I can’t wait to see where he goes with that organization.
- These next three weeks feature a ton of home ice action, with six of our next eight games coming to Stockton Arena. Please come out and support this squad as they look to keep rolling in the right direction against the Colorado Eagles (Saturday, October 30th at 6pm) and San Jose (Halloween, 5pm) to kick off this stretch. You won’t want to miss these rivalries!
Like every game, we’ll be on AHL TV and stocktonheat.com/live via Spreaker beginning with the pregame show 30 minutes prior to puck drop. Thanks so much as always for tuning in, and I’ll see you on next week’s edition of “’Mark’ My Words”!