Raley Field served as host over the weekend for the first-ever outdoor American Hockey League game on the west coast. The Stockton Heat faced off against the Bakersfield Condors in a game that was scheduled to be played on Friday, Dec. 18 but was postponed to Saturday because of rain.
An enthusiastic crowd of 9,357 enjoyed an exciting night of hockey amid a festive and chilly atmosphere. The 52 degree weather at game’s start did not discourage fans from occupying the lower Raley Field seats and taking in the rare chance to watch professional hockey in Sacramento.
Russell Parker, a Heat fan, made the trip to Sacramento from Stockton on Friday and Saturday. “I wouldn’t miss this game for anything,” said Parker. “This reminds me of growing up in Wisconsin and playing as a kid on frozen ponds where I grew up.”
The Tower Bridge and the Sacramento River served as a great backdrop for the game. The picturesque venue that can acoomodate up to 15,000 for a River Cats game was nonetheless loud when the Heat players were introduced. The enthusiasm continued throughout the game.
The Condors seemed to have adjusted to the environment a bit quicker than the Heat as they took an early lead at 5:12 of the first period when forward Kyle Platzer took a shot that richoched off a Heat defender and into the goal.
Nearly 30 shots were taken on goal during the first period by both teams. That number dropped to 20 during the second period but the Heat tied the game as forward Derek Grant took a shot that got passed the Condor’s goalie Ben Scrivens at 11:35 during a Stockton power play.
The Heat took the lead when 18-year-old Swedish forward Oliver Kylington skated past two defenders and scored at 7:26 of the third quarter. The Heat seemed to have cemented the win as Drew Shore scored at 10:59.
After falling behind 3-1 Bakersfield put the heat on Stockton during a power play and at 16:22 forward Kyle Platzer took a shot past goalie Joni Ortio.
The Condors continued to put on the pressure until the last second and ended up taking twice as many shots on goal during the period but were unable to tie the game.
The Heat won the exciting match by a 3-2 final score.
At a post-game interview, Heat coach Ryan Huska summed up the feeling of playing at Raley Field. “It was different for sure, but I think that’s what made it awesome,” said Huska. “Yeah the people were a little bit further away from you and the glass was all misted up. But it had a different feel to it. It was supposed to. I think that’s what makes this event so cool. We’re thrilled we got an opportunity to play in it here this year. Hopefully our fans enjoyed what they saw.”
Photos by Steve Martarano