Heat Playoff Recap (5-1)
Round 1: Bye
Round 2: Heat Win Series 3-0
May 10: W- Heat 3 vs. Condors 1
May 11: W- Heat 3 vs. Condors 2
May 13: W- Heat 6 @ Condors 4
Round 3: Heat Win Series 3-1
May 23: W- Heat 5 vs. Eagles 0
May 24: W- Heat 1 vs. Eagles 0
May 27: OTL- Heat 5 @ Eagles 6
May 29: W- Heat 1 @ Eagles 0
Kirkland 7GP (5G, 2A, 7Pts), Phillips 7GP (3G, 4A, 7Pts), Pelletier 7GP (3G, 3A, 6Pts)
Wolf (6-0-1, 1.82 GAA, .941 Sv%, 3 SO)
Sometimes things are good in moderation. Sometimes your goaltender pitches three shutouts in a four-game playoff series. Despite all the sparkling accolades Dustin Wolf acquired over the course of his fantastic rookie AHL season, the one thing that bizarrely eluded him through the regular season was a shutout. Well unlike his NHL counterpart, Wolf was saving his best hockey for the postseason. Sunday night in Loveland, Colorado marked the third blanking Dustin Wolf recorded in a six day stretch, as the Stockton Heat advanced past the Colorado Eagles and into a Western Conference Final matchup against the Chicago Wolves.
The Eagles entered this series as the second highest scoring team in the regular season, but could generate no solution to the rookie netminder other than in Game 3. The Heat set an early tone in this series that the Eagles simply could not rebound from, beginning with a 5-0 drubbing in Game 1. Wolf stopped all 23 he shots he faced, while the Heat skaters exploded for a three goal second period, and added two more in the third. Undeniable MVP of this series Justin Kirkland recorded two goals and an assist, while veteran defenceman Andy Welinski scored the 2-0 powerplay goal and also added an assist.
Game 2, still in Stockton, offered half of that same storyline, as Wolf stopped another 27 shots to earn back-to-back shutouts and win the Heat a very low scoring game. Justin Kirkland scored early in the second period and that would be all they would need, as the 1-0 victory put them on the verge of their second straight sweep and was their fifth consecutive playoff victory.
A return to Colorado would prove huge for the Eagles in Game 3. After finally solving Wolf to open the game’s scoring midway through the first period, the Eagles had to battle back from 3-1, 4-3, and 5-4 deficits to force overtime where Jean-Luc Foudy played hero and gave Colorado a breath of life. Stockton just could not contain the lethal offence they faced, and wasted multi-point efforts from Matthew Phillips and Jakob Pelletier. Wolf made 32 stops in an anomaly game.
Game 4 would be a near carbon-copy of Game 2, as Justin Kirkland scored the game’s only goal and Dustin Wolf threw up an incredible 40 save shutout to give the Heat the series win, and send a Flames affiliate to an AHL conference final for the first time since the Saint John Flames won the Calder Cup in 2001. Kirkland finished the series with 4 goals and 2 assists, and had the game-winner in all three victories. The series against the Carolina Hurricanes-affiliated Chicago Wolves begins on Friday night, as the two best teams in the AHL regular season are set to meet each other and advance to the Calder Cup Final.