By Thomas Harrington
Over their last six games, the Gulls had a record of 3-1-2. San Diego is still going through some struggles but managed to win half of their games since the Christmas break.
San Diego started with back to back home games after Christmas, with Tucson and Ontario coming in to visit. The Gulls and Roadrunners played an entertaining game that was tied at four after regulation, with Kevin Roy, Ryan Garbutt, Jaycob Megna, and Brandon Montour lighting the lamp for the Gulls. That was Garbutt’s first goal since being assigned to the Gulls and Megna’s second of the season, a new career-high for him. Neither team was able to score in overtime and the game went to a shootout. Roy, Nick Sorensen, Kalle Kossila, and Chris Wagner all shot for the Gulls in the shootout, but none of them were able to score and Tucson won 5-4. The Reign came in the next night and once again, the game was tied after 60 minutes of play. Montour had San Diego’s only goal in regulation, but Ontario scored in overtime to take the win. Ontario goalie Jack Campbell stopped 38 of 39 shots to steal the win for the Reign.
After dropping those two games at home, San Diego went on the road and played back to back games in Texas. Andy Welinski opened the scoring for the Gulls in the first period, and Stefan Noesen doubled the lead before the first was over. No one scored in the second, but the Gulls scored two more in the third, from Jordan Samuels-Thomas and Kossila, and Kevin Boyle stopped all 22 shots as San Diego won 4-0. It was Boyle’s first career win and shutout in the AHL. The Gulls and Stars faced off again the next night, and San Diego came out on top for the second night in a row. The Stars got the first goal of the game, but Wagner and Noesen both scored before the period was over to put the Gulls on top for good. Wagner tied the game less than 20 seconds after Texas had taken the early lead. Keaton Thompson scored his second goal of the season in the third, giving San Diego a 3-1 victory.
After that brief two-game road trip, the Gulls returned home for a two-game matchup with San Antonio. The first game was a high scoring affair that San Diego lost 5-4. Halfway through the third, San Antonio held a 5-2 lead, and the Gulls made a furious comeback attempt but fell short. Nate Guenin, Samuels-Thomas, Antoine Laganiere, and Shea Theodore had San Diego’s goals. Theodore’s goal was his first of the season and it was in the first game since his most recent assignment to the AHL. San Diego had now lost six games in a row overall at home and were determined to stop that losing streak in the second game against San Antonio. The Rampage opened the scoring early in the second, but Nick Tarnasky tied things up just over a minute later. Noesen put the Gulls on top halfway through the second, but San Antonio tied things up at the end of the period. Five minutes into the third period, Corey Tropp scored a powerplay goal, and it ended up being the game-winner as San Diego won 3-2 and snapped their home losing streak.
Up next, San Diego will host the Stockton Heat this Wednesday. The Gulls will then go on the road and travel to Rockford and Iowa, before returning home to host San Jose and then traveling to Ontario for one game.
For now, Theodore and Montour have traded places, as Montour is being given a chance to show what he can do in the NHL and Theodore is being given plenty of ice time in the AHL. You can expect Theodore to make his way back to Anaheim. The question really is, will Montour stay up with him or will he return to the Gulls when Theodore is called up? That decision will have major ramifications on the Gulls’ season going forward, as San Diego can still win games without one of these two future stars, but could struggle mightily if both are in the NHL together for a lengthy period of time.
After falling to seventh in the division before Christmas, San Diego has climbed back into sixth place over the last six games. They also rank 10th overall in the Western Conference. San Diego, like Anaheim, is still searching for consistency this season. They’ve had an eight-game winning streak and lost six of seven at one point. The Gulls are going to need play more like they did during their long winning streak if they want to make the playoffs for the second season in a row.
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January 9, 2017