Stockton Heat wins Game 1 against Bakersfield

STOCKTON – With all the power and momentum as the top-seed for the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs, the Stockton Heat delivered the first punch in Game 1 of the Pacific Division best-of-five semifinals with a convincing 3-1 victory over Bakersfield on Tuesday at Stockton Arena.

Game 2 at the arena is slated for 6:30 pm tonight as the Heat, in the postseason for the first time since 2017, will attempt to claim a 2-0 series lead against the Condors.

On Tuesday, American Hockey League All-Rookie selection Jakob Pelletier scored a short-handed Stockton goal just moments before teammate Emilio Pettersen lit the lamp for a 2-0 advantage with six minutes left in the opening period.

Pelletier, the 26th overall selection by the Calgary Flames in the 2019 Entry Draft, scored his 28th goal of the season immediately after a line change. A steal at mid-stripe by Glenn Gawdin gave Pelletier the one-on-one opportunity against Condors goalie Stuart Skinner.

“After 10 days off it’s hard to get back into game shape,” said Pelletier, whose team earned a first-round bye for the Calder Cup. “The first 10 minutes goes to (Bakersfield), but after that we bounced back. It’s a team win. It was a great play by Pools (Colton Poolman) and then Gaws, who busted me (for a goal).”

It was the 16th short-handed goal of the season, and the 36th assist by Gawdin. However, it was the Condors, coming off a first-round series victory over Abbotsford, who set the more aggressive tone by the midway point of the opening period.

“I thought it was a good battle out there with Bakersfield,” said Pettersen, who added an assist along with a goal. “I think it’s well known around our team that they’ve had our number the past few games. But here at home we feel pretty comfortable we can beat any team.”

During the regular season, the Heat were 6-0-1 against the Condors before Bakersfield won the last three contest, including two straight over the last week of the regular season. First-year Heat coach Mitch Love, the AHL Coach of the Year, knew the Condors flew into Stockton with an abundance of confidence.

“It’s playoff hockey, and our guys know the magnitude and intensity that you need to have this time of year,” Love said. “All year we just talk about a day-to-day process of getting better. We beat a good team tonight, but tomorrow is a new day. We’ll have to make sure our game is even more elevated because they’ll have a response.”

After Stockton’s quick 2-0 lead, a Bakersfield goal pulled it to within 2-1 midway through the second period. Heat goaltender Dustin Wolf, the AHL Goaltender of the Year, kept the Condors scoreless the rest of the way by recording 27 saves on 28 attempts.

“For myself, I was personally really excited to get going (with the playoffs),” Wolf said. “I’m just going out there trying to give my team a chance to win each and every night. To have the fans behind you is huge, and there’s a lot of belief in our room that we can go deep and win this thing. This is one down, but still 13 to go.”

“I think (goalie Dustin Wolf) the best goalie in the league,” Pelletier said. “I’ve played hockey since I was 4, and I think he’s the best goalie I’ve seen so far in my young career. Each night it’s nice to rely on him but I think there’s time we need to help him a little bit more.”

Wolf as selected to both the AHL All-Rookie team and the All-Star team, the first Heat goalie named to either squad in team history.

The Heat increased its lead to 3-1 when winger Walker Duehr crashed the net, scoring his 12th goal following a terrific pass by Pettersen from behind the net.

Games 3 and 4 will be in Bakersfield, while Game 5 (if necessary) would return to Stockton on Tuesday.

Stockton fans likely remember the Heat’s first Calder Cup appearance which ended in an overtime loss against San Jose in a decisive fifth game. The only Heat player on that 2016-17 roster still active on the current Heat roster is Matthew Phillips, who has a team-best 31 goals, 37 assists and 68 season points.

Comments are closed.