By Thomas Harrington
After losing five games in a row, San Diego turned things around over the last two weeks, winning all four games they played. The big difference in the Gulls’ turnaround has been their defensive play, as they gave up only seven goals in the four games they played. Their offense was also pretty good, as they scored 16 goals in those four wins.
After losing both games in Manitoba, the Gulls welcomed the Moose to San Diego with revenge in mind. In the first game, the Gulls got a goal in every period, as Brandon Montour, Kevin Roy, and Jordan Samuels-Thomas all scored. It was Samuels-Thomas’s first game this season since being called up from the ECHL. Shea Theodore recorded two assists and Dustin Tokarski stopped 21 of 23 as the Gulls won 3-2. The very next night, San Diego got goals from six different players as they defeated Manitoba 6-3 and swept the weekend series. Montour, Roy, and Samuels-Thomas all scored again, and they were joined by Corey Tropp, Nick Tarnasky, and Zac Larraza in the offensive explosion. Matt Hackett was in net for this game and he stopped 39 of 42 shots in the win.
The following weekend, San Diego hosted San Jose twice, winning the first game by a score of 3-2 in a shootout. Stu Bickel and Ondrej Kase scored in regulation and Stefan Noesen scored the only goal in the shootout. Tokarski stopped 22 of 24 shots and stopped all four shots he faced in the shootout. On Saturday night, San Diego defeated San Jose 4-0, as Tropp, Kalle Kossila, Larraza, and Austen Brassard scored for the Gulls. Hackett stopped all 37 shots he faced and recorded San Diego’s first shutout of the season.
Originally, the Gulls were going to play seven games over the next two weeks. Following the collapse of Tucson’s Craig Cunningham over the weekend, San Diego’s two games in Tucson have been postponed with makeup dates yet to be announced. So instead of a four-game road trip, San Diego will next have a two-game road trip where they will travel to Bakersfield and Ontario the weekend after Thanksgiving. The Gulls will return home for one game against Tucson before heading back out on the road for two more games in Stockton, two games that hopefully go much better than San Diego’s first two games in Stockton earlier this season.
With Michael Sgarbossa traded, the Gulls now have Logan Shaw in their lineup. Hopefully, he’ll help San Diego going forward, but with Sgarbossa gone for good, things are looking a little thin for the Gulls up the middle. Their top center is Kossila, and he’s been very good for them this season, but until Nic Kerdiles returns to action, their depth at center will be tested. Joseph Cramarossa currently has a lower body injury and Kase has been recalled to Anaheim to fill his spot. For now, it’s unclear how long Cramarossa will be out and Kase will be up. Losing one of their top wingers could hurt the Gulls, but San Diego’s offensive strength is definitely on the wings, as the team still has Noesen, Shaw, Roy, Tropp, Emerson Etem, and Nick Sorensen.
With the season about a month old, it’s time to start looking at the AHL divisional standings. As it gets closer to the start of the playoffs, I’ll broaden the view to the entire Western Conference, but for now, the focus will be on the Pacific Division. With the win over San Jose, the Gulls currently have a record of 6-5-1 and are 6-2 at home this season. San Diego has a winning percentage of .542 and are in sixth place in the Pacific Division. Going forward, San Diego will need to continue their strong play on home ice, but more importantly, they need to start turning around their record on the road where they are 0-3-1. As long as their defense and goaltending can continue to play well, the Gulls should continue to push their way back into the playoff race.
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November 21, 2016