The 2021 season has been a bit of a rollercoaster for the Stockton Heat, to say the least. They started the season falling in two games against the Toronto Marlies, then did a full 180 in the next eight games and didn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down. Unfortunately, the former Canadian Division-leading Heat took a tumble after that stretch of games. After falling in the season series finale against the Toronto Marlies on March 31, Stockton fell to third in the division and currently sit at that same spot.
Two Season Series in the Books
Some of the toughest competition the Heat faced this year was between the Toronto Marlies and Laval Rocket. In a year like this where the Heat are practically in the Canadian Division as a temporary loan, there is no guarantee these teams will see each other again for the foreseeable future. Stockton was able to scrape by with a split record against the Marlies with four wins and four losses. The Rocket series was almost completely one-sided, with the Rocket taking the wins in six out of seven games. Here are how those games looked.
- 2/21 – vs. Toronto Marlies – Result: 7-1 Loss
- 2/23 – vs. Toronto Marlies – Result: 5-1 Loss
- 2/24 – vs. Toronto Marlies – Result: 4-2 Win
- 2/26 – vs. Toronto Marlies – Result: 8-1 Win
- 3/5 – @ Toronto Marlies – Result: 5-1 Win
- 3/6 – @Toronto Marlies – Result: 4-3 Win
- 3/29 – @ Toronto Marlies – Result: 4-3 Loss
- 3/31 – @ Toronto Marlies – Result: 5-2 Loss
- 3/18 – vs. Laval Rocket – Result: 4-3 Overtime Loss
- 3/20 – vs. Laval Rocket – Result: 4-3 Loss
- 3/21 – vs. Laval Rocket – Result: 4-1 Loss
- 3/23 – vs. Laval Rocket – Result: 4-2 Loss
- 4/2 – @ Laval Rocket – Result: 3-0 Loss
- 4/4- @ Laval Rocket – Result: 4-2 Loss
- 4-6 – @ Laval Rocket – Result: 3-1 Win
Lots of high scoring games. Versus the Marlies, it was heavily reliant on the goaltender’s ability to hold down the game — on both sides. With the Rocket, the Heat needed to play a near-perfect game to win, with the dangerously effective consistency of Laval’s game being their greatest asset. Ultimately, an outrageously good sharp-angled shot from Byron Froese in the dying minutes of their last game led to their first and only win against Laval this season.
— Stockton Heat (Now in Celsius) (@AHLHeat) April 7, 2021
Welcome to the Pros
The nature of the Heat’s very road trip heavy season has allowed for new players to make their way into the lineup to give other regular roster players some well-needed rest. Here the Heat players that got their first shot at the AHL this season, and how they have done in their rookie year so far.
Colton Poolman – Debuted on February 21 against Toronto (13 GP, 1G, 3A)
Noah King – Debuted on March 31 against Toronto (1 GP)
Kris Bennett – Debuted on March 23 against Laval (8 GP, 2A)
C.J. Lerby – Debuted on February 21 against Toronto (19 GP, 7A)
Mark Simpson – Debuted on February 23 against Toronto (18 GP, 4G, 2A)
Dmitry Zavgorodniy – Debuted on February 23 against Toronto (18 GP, 4G, 2A)
Koletrane Wilson – Debuted on March 18 against Laval (4 GP)
Emilio Pettersen – Debuted on February 21 against Toronto (21 GP, 5G, 6A)
Rory Kerins – Debuted on March 11 against Belleville (3 GP)
Hope on the Horizon
The Heat are currently on a week-long break, which would be a lot tougher to swallow had they lost their last game. None of these guys were happy about Laval walking all over them this season. Finally beating the “unbeatable beast” that is the Rocket greatly boosts the confidence and morale and gives the players positive thoughts on their days off from games. Days off that have been few to come by.
Head Coach Cail MacLean spoke on the toughness of the schedule last week, saying: “We haven’t practiced or skated on these between days because it’s a lot to go from COVID times to all of a sudden playing every second day for 40 days is quite a bit.”
MacLean painted the picture of what this week would look like for the guys: pretty much with them practicing every second day with a rest day in between practices. There are things this team needs to clean up, so the break could prove to be greatly beneficial for them this far into the shortened season.
What About Playoffs?
Part of being an athlete is having something to work towards. Unfortunately, that goal is not as clear this year. No confirmation has come from the AHL regarding a Calder Cup Playoffs format, or if a format is even in consideration. Canada is facing pretty much a third wave of COVID-19 with vaccination delays an everyday issue. The Vancouver Canucks team outbreak and the recent suspension of team activities for the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen and Medicine Hat Tigers don’t instill a lot of faith in the possibility of a postseason. However, there has not been any confirmation that it is not happening.
At this point, the Heat skaters can work towards a call-up. The Calgary Flames are slipping farther and farther away from a playoff spot, and depending on what happens at the trade deadline, there could be plenty of opportunities for some AHL players to earn themselves a contract extension or a more regular role in the NHL.
With the potential of the Heat this year, it would be quite entertaining to see how a postseason run would fair. Hopefully, playoff news is released in good time to be sure. In the meantime, you can look forward to the Heat’s next game at home on Wednesday, April 14 against the Belleville Senators. You even may see a new face in net with Tyler Parsons healthy and cleared COVID protocol.