Playing their first back-to-back at home this season, the Stockton Heat dropped their second game of the weekend as the AHL affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, the Ontario Reign, routed a Jon Gillies-less squad 4-0.
Reign defenseman Jordan Samuels-Thomas was able to complete a hat-trick early in the second period, causing Heat head coach Ryan Huska to replace starting goaltender Kent Simpson with Eric Hartzell, who was signed to a tryout contract hours before the puck dropped.
Stockton was down a goalie following Jon Gillies's exit after the first period of Friday's loss to the Bakersfield Condors due to a lower-body injury. Hartzell had spent time with the Heat in training camp and started the team’s first preseason game.
Defensively, the Reign relied on NHL veteran goaltender Peter Budaj, who saved all 38 shots he saw to deliver the Heat their first shutout of the season.
Tempers flared throughout the evening with Colton Orr, Hunter Smith, and Dustin Stevenson all earning five minute major penalties for fighting. Despite the scoreline, Huska was appreciative of his players' efforts.
"We didn’t get a save early on tonight," Huska said. "It might sound strange when you lose a game 4-0 but we played well tonight. We really did. I thought we did a lot of good things in regards to putting pucks to the net. I thought we were physical. It’s tough when you get yourself behind the 8-ball to a very good hockey club, but we competed and battled and played the way we want our guys to play."
Garnet Hathaway, Freddie Hamilton, Aaron Johnson, Ryan Lomberg, and Bill Arnold led the Heat with four shots.
The Heat (2-5-0-1) will next make their second trek to Texas this season to face the San Antonio Rampage on Friday.