By Thomas Harrington
The San Diego Gulls continued their winning ways over the last two weeks, winning four games in a row before being shutout on Saturday night. Overall, the team won a franchise-record eight in a row before their most recent game.
The Gulls started the last two weeks with a short two-game road trip that took them to Bakersfield and Ontario. It took more than 60 minutes for San Diego to get the 3-2 win against the Condors. Nick Sorensen opened the scoring with his second goal of the season, and the game was scoreless after that until the third period when Bakersfield scored two unanswered goals to take a 2-1 lead. Kevin Roy tied things up soon after that with his sixth goal of the season. San Diego had a power play in overtime and Corey Tropp scored the game-winner in the extra session. The Gulls followed their overtime victory up with another close one as they defeated Ontario 4-3. Both Chris Wagner and Shea Theodore had been assigned to San Diego to play in this game, and both came through in a big way, Wagner especially. Wagner opened the scoring the game and assisted on another goal. The Reign tied things up in the second but Roy put the Gulls back on top. Ontario tied the game again early in the third, but Antoine Laganiere and Kalle Kossila scored a couple minutes apart to give San Diego a two-goal lead. Ontario scored one more time in the final minute of the game, but the Gulls were able to hold on to the 4-3 lead.
After those two close wins, the Gulls returned home for one game to take on Tucson. The Roadrunners scored the first goal of the game, but San Diego took over things from there as they scored five unanswered goals to cruise to a 5-1 victory. Scott Sabourin tied the game in the first and Roy put the Gulls up for good before the opening 20 minutes was over. Before the game had started, the Gulls had signed Kenny Ryan to a professional tryout agreement, and in his first game back with San Diego he picked up a goal. Laganiere and Kossila scored San Diego’s final two goals in the game.
After their lone home game, San Diego traveled to Stockton, looking to get revenge after being embarrassed there twice earlier in the season. In San Diego’s first game against the Heat, it was a tight contest throughout, as Austen Brassard and Stefan Noesen scored San Diego’s goals. The game went to a shootout where the Gulls ultimately prevailed, as they got shootout goals from Roy, Kossila, and Sorensen. The shootout win was the team’s eighth in a row, a new franchise record. Dustin Tokarski was brilliant in net as he stopped 41 of 43 shots. The next night, Stockton ended the Gulls’ winning streak, picking up a 4-0 win. Despite not scoring and losing by four, the Gulls actually played a good game for the first 40 minutes, as the game was 0-0 going into the third. Unfortunately, Stockton scored twice in a 35-second span early in the period and San Diego was never able to recover. Stockton’s goalie David Rittich made a number of high quality saves throughout the contest and stopped all 37 shots he faced. He was the difference in the game.
With their eight-game winning streak at an end, it’s time for San Diego to start a new one. The Gulls start things off by hosting Bakersfield before traveling to San Jose for two games. After that, they return home for a while as they host Ontario once and then Stockton twice. The second game against Stockton will be San Diego’s Teddy Bear Toss Night.
With Michael Sgarbossa gone and Logan Shaw in Anaheim, Noesen has taken over as San Diego’s top line center, and he’s flanked by Roy and Tropp. Together, the three of them have been San Diego’s offensive leaders this season. Tropp leads the team with 19 points, Roy leads the team with eight goals, and Noesen’s 10 points have him fifth in team scoring. Brandon Montour continues to be a force on the blueline and is second on the team with 14 points. He also leads the entire AHL in shots with 83.
On the injury front, the Gulls have two long term injuries as both Emerson Etem and Matt Hackett recently had surgery and will potentially be out for several months. Hopefully these two will return in time for the playoffs, but for now, San Diego’s depth on the wing has been tested and they’ve shown that they are up to it. Kevin Boyle is serving as San Diego’s backup and has only played in one game so far this season, but expect him to get more starts as the season goes along.
After going 2-5-1 to start the season, San Diego now finds itself with a record of 10-6-1 thanks to their winning streak, good enough for third in the Pacific Division. At home, San Diego continues to play very well as they have a record of 7-2-0, but it’s the road where San Diego has really improved. They are still under .500 with a record of 3-4-1, but that’s a significant improvement over the 0-3-1 road record they had two weeks ago. If San Diego wants to make the playoffs, they need to continue to have a strong home record while continuing to improve their play on the road.
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