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Heat off to hot start after many disappointing years

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From: SportsNet.ca > Hockey > NHL

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Stockton Heat off to hot start after many disappointing years

Patrick WIlliams
December 16, 2016, 10:41 PM

Success at the American Hockey League level has been elusive in recent years for the Calgary Flames, both in player development and on-ice accomplishments.

The Flames went through four AHL affiliates in a decade before landing with the Stockton Heat to start the 2015-2016 season, a year they went 32-32-2-2 and failed to qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs. It was the seventh time in 11 seasons that a Calgary AHL affiliate had failed to reach the postseason.

The issues went far beyond on-ice success. Flames management had a trail of top picks – Matt Pelech, Greg Nemisz, Mitch Wahl, and Leland Irving, most notably – stall at the AHL level. That failure to develop top picks went on to hamper the organization at the NHL level.

That, however, has changed this season.

Much like their parent club in Calgary, the Heat have emerged as an impressive early-season story. They lead the Pacific Division with a 14-6-1-1 record ... .  They are fourth in the AHL with 3.50 goals per game despite not having a player among the top 20 AHL scorers. ...

Last season the Heat cycled through seven goaltenders, but that has not been an issue this season. Undrafted Czech goaltender David Rittich has been on one of the best early stories in the AHL this season. The 24-year-old signed a one-year deal with Calgary after his first full season in the Czech Extraliga and has created a crease competition with prospect Jon Gillies, who missed most of last season with a hip injury.

Rittich’s .941 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average each lead the AHL. Stockton’s 2.45 goals allowed per game is tied for second-best in the league, and they have been relatively stingy in front of the Gillies-Rittich tandem, ranking 14th with 29.0 shots-against per game.

The Heat have the third-best penalty kill in the AHL (86.0 percent), and their power play has come alive recently, picking up four goals on their past 17 man-advantage opportunities. ...

 

Read more at: http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/stockton-heat-off-hot-start-many-disappointing-years/

 

Edited by JMC-STL

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