STOCKTON, Calif. (KTXL) — The Stockton Heat are wrapping up the best regular season in franchise history.
Stockton already earned a playoff berth long ago, but as the season winds down, the Heat are looking for more than just that.
Defenseman Jack McNeely gets to be a part of postseason hockey, in two ways.
“I’ve kind of been in playoff mode here for the last few months. I’m kind of coming into the same situation here,” McNeely said.
The Heat’s amateur tryout player was signed fresh off the Frozen Four appearance with Minnesota State Mankato. Up next is the Calder Cup playoffs.
“You can tell that they’re gearing up for the playoffs here and tightening up some bolts here, but no the group is awesome and just excited for the next few months together hopefully,” McNeely said.
The Heat secured a spot in the postseason back in March, the same time they set a new single-season record for points.
“We’ve checked one of our boxes, which is making the playoffs, but the next one is to get top seed in our division and then hopefully have a good playoffs,” Mitch Love said.
“We’ve worked hard this year to put ourselves in this spot and with our last four games if we can get at least two more wins then we have that bye to the second round, and that’d be really big,” Matthew Phillips said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”
It’s been a while since the Heat have been a part of the postseason. COVID-19 wiped out the last two years and the team hasn’t qualified since the 2016-17 season.
“Guys have probably lost their edge in terms of playoff hockey, looks like including our fan base, and so there’s going to be a lot of excitement,” Love said.
“I mean that’s why you train and that’s what you play for is playoffs, and that’s when hockey is the most fun and when you get the best out of everybody so we’re all super excited to play playoff hockey,” Phillips said.
It’s easy to get carried away in all the different scenarios and expectations that come with the playoffs, so the Heat have just one focus.
“We take this thing one day at a time, so you know you can’t win a playoff series if you don’t win Game One. So that’s our mindset. That’s our goal to win one game at a time,” Love said.