What a week to be a Heat fan!
Stockton continued their current roll, dismantling the San Jose Barracuda on Wednesday night to conclude a six-game road trip, 6-0, and then came home to wipe out the (then) top team in the Pacific Division, the Tucson Roadrunners, by a 5-2 score.
The Heat are now the top dogs in the Pacific!
And what a week for storylines as well! Besides the Heat taking over first place and extending their point streak to five games (4-0-1).
“Our players have worked hard, but you can’t plan a parade route in December,” Heat Head Coach Ryan Huska said after Saturday’s win launched them into first in the division. “We have a lot of work in front of us, but the one positive thing about being higher in the standings is you don’t ever get an easy game from your opponents, and it doesn’t allow your players to take your foot off the gas.”
“They have to be committed to being ready to play every time they are stepping on the ice.”
And funny that on Wednesday night to kickstart this terrific week, the Heat may not even have been at their best.
Despite the fact the scoreline was 6-0, the Heat were not at their best Wednesday should be scary for the entire division. Especially in the first period, Coach Huska was slightly critical of the start of the contest as the Heat didn’t look ready to play in the least.
Of course, Hunter Shinkaruk scored on the Heat’s first shot and Tyler Wotherspoon scored off a nifty pass from Marek Hrivik as the Heat scored on two of the four shots, a shot count that matches the lowest this season in a single period, against San Jose.
— Stockton Heat (@AHLHeat) December 7, 2017
“I thought it was a funny game,” Huska said after Wednesday’s game. “I thought it was a slow, lethargic start for us. You go through the course of the year where you’re going to win some games you aren’t at your best and lose games where you deserve a better result.”
The big storyline to emerge though in the 6-0 drubbing of the AHL affiliate of the San Jose Sharks was Spencer Foo recording his first career hat trick, scoring off a deflection, a nice move down low around the goaltender and then putting a rebound in to cap off a terrific achievement.
Foo had entered Wednesday night’s game with just 1 goal and 7 points.
“It has been a little bit of a grind so far, I have been battling the puck,” Foo said of the start to his season. “You have to just keep working on everything and trying to play a complete game and I have been doing that and tonight it broke through for me so it is a nice relief.”
Jon Gillies made 25 saves for his second shutout of the season, his best coming in the third period off a partial breakaway along with the ensuing three rebound chances, keeping the puck out of the net and preserving his fifth career shutout.
But if Wednesday’s 6-0 result was one where the Heat weren’t at their best, Saturday’s game was the exact opposite as the Heat stepped up their game to take on the AHL affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes.
Again, Shinkaruk scored the game’s first goal on the first shot of the night, this time coming just 12-seconds into the game, shaving off six seconds from the previous record to become the fastest goal to start a game.
Shinkaruk’s goal, just 12 seconds in, is the fastest goal in team history 😍 pic.twitter.com/CDY8MNQf41
— Stockton Heat (@AHLHeat) December 10, 2017
“The puck just got in the offensive zone and I have been focusing on getting to the net a little more and Hrivik made a really nice pass and it went off my stick and in,” Shinkaruk said. “Twelve seconds in, that is as good of a way to start the game as you can and it was good to get on the board and get the boys going.”
And it did get the boys going. The Heat would capitalize moments later for the second of the night while on the power play as Foo would deflect a point shot for his fourth goal in his last two games.
The blitzkrieg continued as the Heat capitalized off a miscommunication behind the net from the goalie and a Tucson defender while shorthanded with Hrivik dishing it out front to Morgan Klimchuk, who shot the puck into a wide-open net as the goalie dove in desperation.
That’s how you build a 3-0 lead in 9:15 to start a game.
Gillies continued to be sparkling throughout the night, and while a shutout looked possible, the Roadrunners would end his shutouts streak at 129:55, as Gillies finally allowed a goal.
Of course, a comfortable goalie in net when his team builds a first period lead like that.
“It is always better to play with a lead than chasing the game,” Gillies said. “We ran into a stretch where we were chasing the game and the other team was taking it to us, but to see the bounce back the last couple games has been awesome and it was a good team win throughout.”
So with the target placed directly on their backs, the Heat have taken over as the best in the Pacific and will now take that moniker back to the road with them, as they’ll head to Southern California this week to kick off a stretch of seven-straight on the road, no doubt getting ready to get the best game from every opponent they face.