Nov. 10, 2017

The Stockton Heat scored 27 seconds into the game and never looked back, cruising to a 6-3 win over the San Diego Gulls on Friday night at Valley View Casino Center. Garnet Hathaway paced the Heat (8-4-0-1) with two goals and two assists on the night.

Sam Carrick, Steve Oleksy and Julius Nattinen contributed goals for the Gulls (5-6-1-0), who wore camouflage jerseys to honor the military on the opening night of Military Weekend in front of a sellout crowd of 12,920.

Stockton defused the raucous atmosphere quickly, as Brett Findlay knocked home the rebound of a Tyler Wotherspoon point shot from left circle at the 27-second mark of the opening period. It was the quickest goal allowed on the season by San Diego, and the second-fastest goal to open a game against the Gulls in the club’s history.

“I think our inexperience shows right now,” said Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins. “There are a number of players in the room that need to know they are battling for a spot.”

A kneeing minor to the Gulls’ Sam Carrick was converted for a Heat power play goal minutes later, as Hunter Shinkaruk drifted inside right circle before lifting a wrist shot over goalie Leland Irving, who was crouched on right post. Morgan Klimchuk and Cody Golubef assisted on the Stockton goal at 6:00.

The Heat’s neutral zone trap paid dividends with a 2-on-1 break from the blue line down, finished by Hathaway for the first of his two goals at 8:52 of the period to build out a 3-0 Heat advantage.

The Gulls would mount their comeback with a physical effort, as both Mike Liambas and Scott Sabourin took fighting majors in the final minutes of the first period. The team responded with a spirited start to the second period, as Giovanni Fiore’s wrist shot from left circle turned into a back dasher rebound, poked home by Carrick at :29 of the second period for his third goal of the year.

“We battled, but then again, we didn’t battle enough,” said Fiore, who recorded the first multi-point game of his AHL career with a pair of assists. “Everything we’re doing, it’s just not enough. We need to do a lot more, regularly.”

David Rittich’s most important save of the night came just seconds later, as the Stockton goalie was able to drop his pads on a Julius Nattinen rebound backhand try that would have led to two Gulls goals in the first minute of the period.

Steve Olesky’s turning shot from the right point ricocheted off a Heat stick and into the upper right corner of the net at 8:14 of the second to bring the Gulls back within a goal at 3-2. Andy Welinski (two assists) and Austin Ortega received helpers on the score.

Stockton stunted the comeback with a second period goal at 12:41, with Morgan Klimchuk accepting a pass from Marek Hrivik behind the net, and netting his fifth goal of the season. An early third period power play goal by Garnet Hathaway, his second of the night at 1:22 of the third, put Stockton back ahead by three.

The Gulls’ final tally came on the power play, with Julius Nattinen knocking home his third goal of the year and first power play score, on assists from Fiore and Welinski. San Diego scored their 17th power play goal of the season, the most in the AHL. Stockton’s Andrew Mangiapane concluded the scoring with a wrister from left dot at 8:46. The Heat out-shot the Gulls 39-26.

The Gulls continue a five-game homestand when they host the Ontario Reign on Saturday night to conclude Military Weekend. The faceoff is scheduled for 7pm on The Mighty 1090-AM.

Three Stars:
1. Garnet Hathaway (STK)
2. Tyler Wotherspoon (STK)
3. Morgan Klimchuk (STK)