By Thomas Harrington
The San Diego Gulls defeated the Texas Stars 3-1 in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. The Gulls split the first two games in Texas, before winning games three and four in San Diego to close out the series.
In game one, the Gulls were led to victory by Anton Khudobin, who made 28 saves on 29 shots. Khudobin played his best in the first period, when he stopped all 14 shots that went his way. While he was stopping pucks, Antoine Laganiere was busy putting San Diego up 1-0 before the end of the first period. The Stars tied it up when Justin Dowling scored less than a minute into the period. However, the Gulls would fight back and Nick Ritchie put San Diego back on top for good late in the period. In the third, Chris Mueller scored about halfway through the period to cement San Diego’s game one victory.
Texas came roaring back in game two, as they won 5-1 to tie the series at one game a piece. Texas forward Derek Hulak opened the scoring just a few minutes into the first period, but Ritchie tied things up about half way through the period on an amazing goal.
However, the Stars scored twice in the second period, and two more times in the third to salt the game away.
Back on home ice for game three, the Gulls absolutely exploded with offense as they trounced Texas 6-1. After Anaheim was eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, both Shea Theodore and Chris Wagner joined the Gulls and both had huge nights for San Diego as Wagner had a goal and two assists and Theodore had three assists. Mike Sgarbossa also had a goal and two assists. Ritchie scored in his third straight playoff game and Stefan Noesen added his first of the post season.
The Gulls followed up their 6-1 win in game three with a 6-2 win in game four to close out the Stars. Mueller led the way with a goal and two assists, and Theodore scored his first goal of the playoffs. However, Brandon Montour and Khudobin collided early in the first period, and Khudobin did not return to the game. Matt Hackett came in and got the win for San Diego. Montour did return to the game at the start of the second period.
After four games, Mueller and Sgarbossa lead the Gulls in scoring with five points each. Ritchie and Joseph Cramarossa lead the team in goals with three. Two of Ritchie’s three goals were game winning goals. The additions of Wagner and Theodore were huge for the Gulls, as San Diego scored 12 goals in the two games they played in: Wagner has three points and Theodore four in those two games. Theodore is also tied for the team lead with a +5 rating. Of the players who signed ATOs towards the end of the regular season, Andy Welinski had the biggest impact, as he played in every game, picked up an assist, and was tied for the team lead with Theodore with a +5 rating. The biggest disappointment in the first round was Corey Tropp, as he went scoreless in the four game series.
Next up, the Gulls will face the Ontario Reign, in a minor league version of the Freeway Face-off. The second round series starts on Thursday in Ontario at 7PM. The games are streamed online here: https://scorestream.com/
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