The San Jose Barracuda determined early on in the second period that there would not be any sort of a reprise to the Stockton Heat’s opening night fireworks, besting the Flames’ AHL affiliate 4-1 Thursday night at Stockton Arena.
San Jose’s three unanswered goals in a little over fifteen minutes of play after the first intermission comprised a lead that proved to be insurmountable for the Heat, who managed twelve shots in the first two periods.
"They were better than us in the second period," Heat head coach Ryan Huska said. "We were not sharps with the details. We gave up two goals off of face-offs, which should never happen."
The Heat got on the board at the 13:29 mark in the third period on the third goal of the season by centre Derek Grant only to have San Jose answer a minute in a half later to increase the scoring margin back to three and, ultimately, seal the victory.
Grant’s goal came on a display of puck-handling ability as he quickly moved it up the ice past two San Jose defenders before finishing the play off with a backhanded shot into the net. His play earned him third star honors.
"I think anytime you get a goal, then the other team scores quickly afterwards it takes a little out of your sails," Grant said. "I think we kept playing well in the third and that’s something we’ll have to build off of moving forward."
Defenceman Jakub Nakladal, was credited with the lone assist on Grant’s goal. The only Stockton skater to finish with a positive +/-, Nakladal continued to display his dangerous slap shot from the point on power plays.
Barracuda goaltender and Airdrie native Aaron Dell complimented a San Jose defence that snuffed out Heat opportunities throughout the evening. 14 of Stockton’s 26 shots came in the third period.
"We played well in the third period," Huska said. "That’s the lesson for us after this game - there’s a style and a way we have to play. We have to be prepared and on-task for 60 minutes. But if we’re trying to play the game improperly, we don’t necessarily give ourselves a chance to win."
Centre Garnet Hathaway dressed for the first time this season, filling the void left by the recently-recalled Markus Granlund as he played alongside wingers Kenny Agostino and Drew Shore. Hathaway earned one of Stockton’s five penalties on a high-sticking call in the second period.
Heat netminder Jon Gillies’s first goals allowed of the season came through an effort of 21 saves.
Stockton (1-1-0) will begin their first road trip of the season, traveling to Texas for a swing of two games, the first of which will come Wednesday evening at Dallas’s affiliate, the Texas Stars.
"It’s early in the season and we want to make sure that the mistakes we made tonight don’t repeat themselves again," Huska said. "We have to all make sure we’re committed and we have to be sharp."