Last season the Stockton Heat opened their inaugural season on home ice and treated the raucous crowd to a 7-0 shellacking of the Rockford IceHogs. If the Heat plan on repeating that performance to kick off their 2016-17 season, then they’ll have to do it against the one team that simply had their number a year ago – the San Jose Barracuda.
Without a doubt the toughest opponent statistically for the Heat in 2015-16, San Jose skated to a 9-1-1-1 record against Stockton and outscored the Heat 56-30 over 12 games. Even worse for the Heat, Stockton was outscored 32-11 when visiting the SAP Center and only once held San Jose to fewer than four goals in 12 games.
Returning to the Barracuda lineup are the top two scorers in their head-to-head matchup with the Heat in Nikolay Goldobin and Barclay Goodrow, as well as newly minted captain John McCarthy who finished just behind the others for fourth in scoring against the Heat. Also returning is goaltender Troy Grosenick, who went 3-0-2 with a 2.93 goals-against-average and a .913 save-percentage in his five games against Stockton.
Perhaps the bigger story though, are the players that are not back this year for San Jose. Forwards Jeremy Langlois and Trevor Parkes have signed elsewhere (Langlois to Rockford and Parkes to Augsburger Panther (GER)) while goaltender Aaron Dell is currently backing up Martin Jones with the Sharks.
All three were key members for the Barracuda last season, especially Dell. The goaltender put up an impressive 1.85 goals-against-average and a .948 save-percentage while posting a 5-1-0 record through six starts.
As far as Stockton is concerned, Kenney Morrison leads all returning members with 5 points (1 goal, 4 assists) and also is the only returning player for the Heat to have finished last season with a plus rating against San Jose (plus-1).
Also back in the Heat lineup is goaltender Jon Gillies, who presents a tough test for San Jose between the pipes for the Stockton. Gillies only appeared in one game last season against San Jose and allowed four goals in a loss, but he didn’t receive much help from the offense, scoring just one goal that night.
Surely opening the 2016-17 season against San Jose is a tough draw, but it’s a new season for the Heat and frankly every night in the Pacific Division is tough.