Much like the big club in the NHL, the Stockton Heat rode a roller coaster of ups and downs during the 2016-17 AHL regular season.
Stockton finished the season on an eleven game point streak, going 7-0-4 to clinch the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division. The Heat ended up with a record of 34-25-9.
This helped the team rebound from a long losing streak in January and February that featured ten straight losses and losses in 13 of 14. Of course there was also Stockton’s amazing 16-6-2 start to the season as well.
Let’s look at last week’s games first:
Wednesday: Ontario Reign 3 @ Stockton Heat 2 (OT)
The Heat got a late tying goal from Andrew Mangiapane but couldn’t clinch a playoff spot by getting the victory in overtime. Garnet Hathaway had the other goal for Stockton in the loss. David Rittich made 25 saves in the loss.
Friday: Bakersfield Condors 1 @ Stockton Heat 2
With Bakersfield having to win in regulation to stay alive, they had to pull their goalie despite a 1-1 tie late in the third period. This allowed Ryan Lomberg to score an empty netter for the game winner. The Heat also got an end-to-end goal from Oliver Kylington in the win. The Heat eliminated Bakersfield and clinched a playoff spot in the victory. Rittich made 33 saves.
Saturday: Tuscon Roadrunners 6 @ Stockton Heat 5
Many regulars sat for this game as Matthew Phillips made his professional debut in the game. He’d get an assist in the game. Mason McDonald also got the start and continued his descent down the Flames depth charts, allowing 6 goals on 33 shots. The Heat were actually down 5-2 with less than 7 minutes to go before mounting a furious comeback to keep their point streak alive. Brandon Bollig, Kenney Morrison, Andrew Mangiapane, Ryan Lomberg, and Mikkel Aagaard all scored.
Now let’s look at how some notable individuals performed for the Heat this year.
Mark Jankowski - 64 GP, 27 G, 29 A, 56 PTS, +19
Jankowski had a really strong first professional season as he led the Heat in scoring and was just edged out for rookie of the year in the AHL. He may have benefited from a high 17.3% shooting percentage but it’s still very impressive. Could be a player who makes the big club next year.
Morgan Klimchuk - 66 GP, 19 G, 24 A, 43 PTS, +9
After a really tough rookie year in the AHL (3 goals, 9 points) Klimchuk came back with a strong year posting 19 goals. He was pretty hot and cold this season but definitely deserves a chance at cracking the Flames in a depth role next year. Another year in the AHL probably wouldn’t hurt either.
Andrew Mangiapane - 66 GP, 20 G, 21 A, 41 PTS, +4
Mangiapane is an interesting prospect in that despite being a 6th round pick, he burst onto the scene in Stockton but was slightly overshadowed by fellow rookie Mark Jankowski. He has a small stature but a strong skillset like Johnny Gaudreau. He may need another year or two in the AHL, but he’s someone to be excited about.
Hunter Shinkaruk - 52 GP, 15 G, 20 A, 35 PTS, +10
Shinkaruk had a tough year, scoring 12 fewer goals than last season and seemed to fall into the shadows in Stockton. He could be due for a bounceback but it’s kind of disappointing that we haven’t seen much of him in the NHL yet, and when we have not much has happened. Hoping for a strong showing in the playoffs.
Oliver Kylington - 60 GP, 6 G, 21 A, 27 PTS, +3
It was a pretty good year for the Swedish sophomore as he more than doubled his point total from last season. Some think he may have a shot for the Flames next season, but if he needs another year with the Heat as a top pairing defender, it’s fine with me.
Rasmus Andersson - 54 GP, 3 G, 19 A, 22 PTS, +13
Despite spending nearly a month in the NHL with the Flames, he still put up fairly good numbers in Stockton. I’m still not sure why the Flames had him called up for such a long time to only have him play the last game of the season, but that’s their call not mine. Could be a good candidate to slot in a bottom pairing role next season.
Jon Gillies - 39 GP, 18-14-5, 2.93 GAA, 0.910 SV%
Gillies had a tough middle portion of the season but managed to pick things back up later in the year to finish with pretty good numbers in what was really his first AHL season after being injured early last year. Could have potential to come up and be a backup next year but I think it would be wiser to make him the full time starter in Stockton for one more year.
David Rittich - 31 GP, 15-11-4, 2.27 GAA, 0.924 SV%
When the Flames signed Rittich last offseason, he was an afterthought of sorts. However he put up an amazing season in Stockton, finishing top 8 in both GAA and SV% as well as 2nd in the league with 5 shutouts. He could be a good candidate for a cheap short-term backup next season for the Flames.
The Stockton Heat will now take on the San Jose Barracuda in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs. The Barracuda finished with the 2nd best points percentage in the AHL and will be a handful. Stockton went 5-5-2 against San Jose in the regular season.
The best of five opening series will kick off on Friday between the two teams:
GAME 1: Friday April 21, Stockton @ San Jose 8:00 PM MT
GAME 2: Sunday April 23, Stockton @ San Jose 4:00 PM MT
GAME 3: Friday April 28, San Jose @ Stockton 8:00 PM MT
GAME 4: Sunday April 30, San Jose @ Stockton 5:00 PM MT
GAME 5: Tuesday May 2, Stockton @ San Jose 8:00 PM MT
We’ll keep you updated on a game by game basis throughout Stockton’s postseason run. Happy Easter everyone and Go Heat Go!