On a night in which they would lose their highly-touted prospect and starting netminder, the Stockton Heat’s attempts to avenge a two-goal lead forged by their Central Valley rivals, the Bakersfield Condors, proved to be futile as the AHL affiliate of the Flames fell 2-1 Friday night.
Playing on pink ice in conjunction with the Heat’s breast-cancer campaign promotion, Stockton fought back and forth with the Oilers affiliate throughout the first period. The festivity surrounding Stockton’s homecoming was temporarily diminished in the final minutes of the period when goaltender Jon Gillies stood hunched over in his crease. He would not return after intermission due to an apparent lower-body injury. His status is day-to-day according to team’s head coach, Ryan Huska.
Without Gillies in goal or the first time all season, the Heat played much of the second period in their own zone, mustering six shots in the period. Coming off the bench, goaltender Kent Simpson was immediately tested by Bakersfield and faced a barrage of shots early. Amidst the onslaught, Simpson allowed of pair of goals and the Heat found themselves down 2-0 after forty minutes of play.
A former second round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks who spent time in Calgary’s training camp this year, Simpson is currently on an AHL contract and played a portion of last season in the same building as a member of the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder before the team was moved to Adirondack for the 2015-16 season.
The Heat were stronger in the third period, dominating possession and continually challenging goaltender Laurent Brossoit. They appeared poised to mount a comeback as a one-timer by centre Markus Granlund finally broke through three minutes into the period, but Brossoit continued his governing and disallowed all other attempts on net.
"We didn’t play well in the second period at all. I thought [the Condors] were a much better team than us in the second and we just didn’t have any pushback," Huska said. "In the third, we started to play [better]. You can’t accept being mediocre and we played a mediocre period in the second. I thought we tried to make up for it in third, but it was too little too late."
Centre Drew Shore led Stockton with four shots. Right winger Freddie Hamilton assisted Granlund’s goal to earn a share of the team’s point-lead. He produced three shots and earned second star of the night honors.
It was Stockton's first regular season meeting with Bakersfield. The two markets are quite familiar with each other as the Stockton Thunder faced the Bakersfield Condors 105 times over the course of ten seasons in the ECHL. The Heat (2-4-0-1) return to action tonight as they host the Ontario Reign (Kings affiliate) at 6:30 MT.