TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: Stockton Heat at Bakersfield Condors
LOCATION: Mechanics Bank Arena | Bakersfield, Calif.
TIME: 6:00 p.m. PST
TUNE IN: While the game will not air on AHLTV, Heat fans can tune in to the radio call on Fox Sports 1280 AM and online on Spreaker.
Let’s drop the puck.
The Heat and Condors meet Friday in Bakersfield in the teams’ lone tune-up ahead of the 2021-22 season, with Stockton heading down highway 99 to Mechanics Bank Arena. The traditional rivals have not faced off since Saturday, March 7, 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic halting the 2019-20 season and forcing a temporary move to Calgary for the Heat last year.
Mitch Love runs the Heat bench for the first (unofficial) time on Friday, the coach signing on to run the AHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames ahead of the 2021-22 season. Love, 37, comes to Stockton after serving as head coach of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades for the previous three seasons and guiding the Blades to the playoffs in each of the last two.
ROOKIES ON THE RADAR
Netminder Dustin Wolf and winger Jakob Pelletier highlight an exciting group of rookies who will lace up the skates for Stockton this year, the duo in their first full professional season. Wolf, back-to-back WHL Goaltender of the Year, played in three games last year with Stockton as the WHL’s start was delayed due to COVID-19. Pelletier is getting his first taste of pro hockey, the forward having wrapped his junior career in the QMJHL last season with Val d’Or. The pair met in the gold medal game of the World Junior Championship, with Wolf and the USA emerging victorious over Pelletier and Canada.
Among notable returners for the Heat at the onset of 2021-22 are forwards Matthew Phillips, Adam Ruzicka and Luke Philp as well as second-year pro Emilio Pettersen. Phillips and Ruzicka teamed up with Connor Zary to form a lethal top line to start off the 2020-21 campaign, with the veteran pair each running off four consecutive multi-point outings. Philp and Pettersen each look to earn their first career call-ups this year.
BLUE LINE, ‘NEW’ LINE
Much of the blue line is made up of fresh faces, with veterans Nick DeSimone, Kevin Gravel and Andy Welinski joining the Flames’ organization to go with rookies Yan Kuznetsov and Ilya Solovyov.
BACK TO THE BEST COAST
The 2021-22 season is a return to the Pacific Division for the Heat, who were forced to temporarily relocate to Calgary and join the temporary Canadian Division in 2021-22 due to cross-border travel complications caused by COVID-19.