Back to back wins OT forces game six

The Stockton Heat have returned to a 3-2 record with back-to-back-night overtime wins despite an early 3-0 deficit against the Chicago Wolves. On Saturday night they went goal for goal with Chicago to see them through regulation and in overtime it was Connor Mackey who was the hero leading the Heat to game six and hopefully beyond.

Special teams count

It was a night where Josh Leivo stayed calm on the goal side of things so that’s a good night for the Heat. The stakes are high with every game for the rest of the series, especially for the Heat. They played through 20 minutes to start the game and neither team could find the back of the net.

In the second, Wolves scored the kind of goal that digs a little deeper when you’re outnumbered this far into the postseason with an early goal. 3:28 in the second third, the wolves took a 1-0 lead.

A little later in the period, Walker Duehr got one back for the Heat with a deflection goal front and center to Wolves’ net. Nick DeSimone and Connor Mackey collected assists.

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They ended 40 minutes in a tie and Wolves led 25-16.

In the third, Jakob Pelletier scored his first series goal and fourth goal of the playoffs 3:27 into the half. Pelletier parked right in the slot and waited for a timely rebound to give the Heat a 2-1 lead in the game. Martin Pospisil and Byron Froese got helpers for this starting signal.

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Just before the middle of the third, the Wolves scored their second goal of the evening on the power play. This saw them through regulation and into overtime again for the second straight night. Not very good for heart rate when you’re still on the verge of elimination.

In overtime, a particular play could have ended this game about two minutes earlier than it actually ended. Chicago goaltender Alex Lyon massively misplayed the puck and coughed up a rally to Justin Kirkland to bury the game winner in a wide open net. So what happened? Instead, Lyon threw his stick at Kirkland to stop the game. The worst part? Not even a penalty was called for the game.

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Thankfully, that wasn’t a turning point for the Heat and their playoff run as they know it. They were able to work through obvious frustrations from that horrendous miss and scored with a blocker side wrist shot from Connor Mackey’s stick about two minutes later. Byron Froese and Justin Kirkland collected assists for the game winner.

The Heat won 3-2 in overtime with Dustin Wolf stopping 37/39 Chicago shots.

The mystery of a certain missing player

There’s a noticeable absence from the lineup. That is, Adam Ruzicka. Ruzicka came back from his Flames call-up just as the Flames season was ending, and he was expected to be a series regular for the remainder of the Heat’s postseason run. As long as this ends. However, he has not been spotted in a Stockton uniform since the first game of that Wolves series.

There were no announcements or confirmations from Heat, which is the reason for Ruzicka’s absence. Given the season and nature of the playoffs, the logical explanation is that he is struggling with an existing or recurring injury that occurred in one of the two Heat playoff games he was able to participate in.

Since a player like Ruzicka got such a hot start for this team in the regular season until he spent practically the rest of the year with the NHL parent team, it doesn’t make much sense for him to be scratched and healthy when that team is producing the most needs. Teams in the NHL and AHL are typically silent when it comes to postseason injuries and typically don’t provide updates until their season is over. Usually the reason is that there is an opportunity for that player to participate in some games even if he is not fully healed. All signs point to that being the case for Adam Ruzicka.

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Back to Chicago

The Heat have wrapped up the Stockton side of that series and headed to play games six and seven in Chicago for two midweek games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. They have yet to win a game in Chicago this series and can’t lose sight of the fact that they still find themselves in a potential elimination position. They have two more games left to do their best to make it to the finals and fight for the Calder Cup.

They are behind one game in this series after five games, 3-2. Their next Tuesday night game begins at 6:00 p.m. MT.

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