Welcome to the new season of Meanwhile On The Farm - or MOTF for short.
Apologies for my absence - I had hoped to have an update to you sooner but due to ahem technical difficulties; I have struggled to lets say - take in Gulls games visually.
Now reluctantly opting for the poorer cousin in broadcast - ye olde wireless commentary; I shall attempt to keep you informed throughout the season on how the baby ducks are doing down the road. (Sidenote: if you so happen to come across a stream - please PM me on twitter: @batcountrycloth - I will be forever grateful).
The Gulls are 3 games into the 2017-2018 season and are 2-1 to start. They took a wild, high scoring affair in Tucson before splitting a home series against the Texas Stars.
I cannot comment too much on the opening game due to hoping to catch the replay of it somewhere but then failing to find it. The highlight of the game seemed to be the Gulls erupting for 5 unanswered goals in a span of 10:51. Kevin Roy had 2 goals to continue his trend of strong season starts, Nic Kerdiles had a 3 point night (earning him a call-up) and Kevin Boyle was strong in the later stages of the third to preserve the lead but would probably like to forget about allowing 6 in the first place.
In the home opener against the Texas Stars the Gulls appeared to let the anxiety of appeasing the raucous Valley View Casino Center sellout crowd get the better of them as they allowed the Stars to stifle and grind out a 3-1 result. Austin Ortega made it interesting when he popped in a Power Play marker part way through the third but the Stars held on and slipped the empty netter in the final minute of play.
The next night the Gulls got back to basics. Coach Dallas Eakins - blessed with the problem of too many forwards and not enough spots; juggled his lineup to add some more spark. Inserting Alex Dostie who immediately scored his first AHL goal off of some hard work by Corey Tropp. The Stars tied it up toward the end of the opening stanza on a broken play but the Gulls let loose in the middle frame with a barage of three goals. Steve Oleksy off a great feed from Kalle Kossila and Mike Liambas short-handed - again setup by Kossila. With less than a minute left in the 2nd Deven Sideroff sped into the zone and shifted to Roy who let Sideroff draw the defence before hitting the corner through traffic for his 3rd goal in 3 games. Giovanni Fiore closed it out in the third with his first pro goal on a 5 on 3 - taking a pass from the side of the net on a smart heads up play by Jacob Larsson.
Notes & Observations:
Roy has started out strong just as he did last season and is controlling play well - Coach Eakins appears to be looking to either he, Tropp or Kossila to provide a spark whenever the Gulls need it. In this very early season I would say those three have been the best Gulls thus far.
The makeup of this team is so deep that losing Kerdilles to call-up so early on is barely noticeable. They could probably stand to lose 2-3 more forwards to call up or injury before it would really start to hurt. So long as one of Tropp, Kossila or Roy are in the line-up - they will always have a good chance of winning.
The Gulls are so deep at forward that Jordan Samuels-Thomas, Julius Nattinen and Alex Dostie have taken turns as a healthy scratch. On the Nattinen front - he hasn't impressed thus far. He has the size to be an effective center but he doesn't appear to be using it.
Changing Of the Guard:
On Defence - its not quite the flashy charisma of years past with the departures of Montour and Theodore. But late Duck cuts Larsson and Pettersson are holding their own. Pettersson is on the top pairing with Oleksy and Larsson is on the 3rd with Cooper. Second year Gulls Keaton Thompson and Andy Welinksi round out the blue-line on the middle pairing. Of note - Larsson is sporting #34 due to Kossila already having #14. Fiore is in his more familiar #13 jersey.
Spreading The Offence:
Roy leads the team in scoring with 4 points in 3 games - a 1.33pt per game click, but after that the scoring is very evenly spread - a strong indication of how deep this team is. Small sample size and all that but as it stands today there are 10 players scoring at a point per game or greater and 3 of those are from the blue line.
Chemistry Starting To Form:
Coach Eakins has mixed and matched with his forward lines between games - switching players in and out of the line-up - but from what I can hear, certain pairs seem to be doing well together. Ortega and Fiore are clicking; both are shoot-first type players on a line driven by a pure playmaker in Kossila. Dostie’s goal was a beauty from Tropp - I would like to keep an eye on that tandem if Dostie stays in the line-up - which he should. Sideroff and Roy were great on the rush - both are able to create chances with their speed and used it to great effect on Roy’s goal Saturday night. That leaves the 4th line - which appers to be a rotation of Liambas, Hults, Sabourin and Jordan Samuels Thomas. Liambas sees time on the Penalty Kill and Hults appears to be used on the 2nd Power Play unit, leaving Sabourin to ride the pine a lot - which is dissapointing given he was one of the late cuts from camp. I’d still put money on it that he is one of the first called up if Boll is injured.
Boyles Net For Now:
The Ryan Miller (and god forbid John Gibson too) mystery injury situation has unexpectedly handed the number one spot to Boyle sooner than anticipated but he has handled it well enough. Allowing 6 goals doesn't do much for his initial season stats but if we can forget that first game he has a 1.53 GAA and a .93 Save Percentage through two games. Ditching Tokarskis NHL contract for AHL vet Leland Irving creates cap space for the parent club whilst ensuring Boyle has a somewhat temporary safety net should he ever falter. When Berra eventually gets sent down the battle for the Gulls net should definitely be interesting. Angus Redmond has not fared well in Utah thus far - 3.61GAA and .87 SVS through 2 games.
The Gulls next do battle against the Stockton Heat - a three game series which starts in Stockton this Saturday. The Heat are tied 2nd with the Gulls in the Pacific with a 0.667 points percentage and are led by “drafted out of high school” Mark Jankoswki who has 5 points in 3 games.