Few things have been more certain than the Stockton Heat finding success at home, as of late. They continued discovering it Saturday night, winning their seventh-straight at Stockton Arena in a 4-2 victory over the Bakersfield Condors.
In his AHL All-Star Classic sendoff, Derek Grant was, once again, the focal point of the Stockton attack. The centre was the first to solve Condors goaltender Eetu Laurikainen to make it 1-0 midway through in the first period before notching his 21st goal of the season via a chip shot over the netminder’s blocker late in the second period to push Stockton’s lead to 3-1.
Grant’s contributions did not conclude with his scoring, however. The Heat’s lone representative in Syracuse played a role in assisting on the team’s other two goals, both scored by left winger Kenny Agostino, in the opening minute of the second period and the final minute of the third.
"The first one was a good defensive play by [Grant] who got the puck to [Emile Poirier]," Agostino said. "Emile made a nice direct pass to me in stride and I was able to put it over the goalie’s shoulder. The second one I just tried to make a pass to Derek – I knew he was gunning for the hat trick, but it ended up getting off the defender’s skate and going in."
Agostino increased his point-streak to three games with the performance. His 27 points are second most on the team behind only Grant’s 36.
Back in net for the Heat after starting four of the last six contests, goaltender Kevin Poulin made 28 saves for his third-straight victory of the season. Both goals allowed by the Québécois were affordable in his team’s effort as the Heat never trailed against their southern I-5 rivals.
The win capped off an 8-2-1 showing in the month of January, by far the most impressive monthly output for the Heat this season. Stockton has jumped up to fourth place in the Pacific Division standings through their current five-game win streak.
"We’re playing more confident and we’re executing a lot more – whether it be coming out of our own zone or around the net at the other end," Grant said. "Right from the backend up we’re executing all the small plays and it’s making the difference in these close games."
Grant performance in Monday’s classic will be broadcast live on several networks, including Sportsnet One, at 5 p.m. MT.