When you consider how long the latest incarnation of the San Diego Gulls have been around, you might be surprised at how quickly they have managed to develop rivalries among their new Pacific Division siblings. It makes sense that the Ontario Reign would be a natural and ready-made “love/hate” relationship, but the Stockton Heat have emerged as another of those match ups that the Gulls seem to enjoy intense affairs with. This most recent 3 game match-up accentuated that.
The first of the three games saw the Gulls go down by two goals early. Rookie Spencer Foo had his first career AHL goal on the power play and added a second on a shorthanded breakaway steal from former Ducks property Joseph Cramarossa. The Gulls had languished during 3 consecutive power plays before Crammer gave the Heat the 2 goal lead.
Kalle Kossila (before his call up) pulled the Gulls back in the 2nd with a power play marker of his own off a nice dish from Austin Ortega. However, the Heat regained the 2 goal cushion when Mark “Hall Pass” Jankowski sniped one on a Stockton power play whilst Andy Welinski sat in the box for the Gulls’ 4th slashing penalty.
Boyle was replaced by Leland Irving to start the 3rd in an effort to jump start a comeback and Kossila repeated his power lay efforts to pull the Gulls back within one again. But San Diego could not keep out of the box and penalties to Kossila, Ortega, and Carrick killed any chance of gathering the momentum required for the tie. The Heat sealed the win on an empty net goal in the final minute.
The second game saw Irving get the start and Austin Ortega replaced by Jordan Samuels-Thomas as coach Dallas Eakins swapped offense for some defense in the forward core against the high-scoring Heat. The first period was wide open with the Heat getting on the board first before Spencer Abbot tied it back up on a breakaway, only to have Garnet Hathaway regain the lead just 10 seconds later. Abbott managed to tie it up in the last 5 minutes of the first on the power play off of a feed from Kossila before the Heat took the reins in the remaining two periods. Stockton scored another 2 goals per frame. Only Jacob Larsson’s first AHL goal part way through the 2nd made it a slightly less embarrassing loss.
Penalties were the theme of those first two games in Stockton. It seemed that whenever the Gulls were on the cusp of extended zone-time or increased scoring chances their forward momentum would be killed by an ill-advised minor slashing or high-sticking penalty.
Somehow between the 2nd and 3rd game, defenseman Jacob Larsson and forward Corey Tropp sustained injuries. I didn't hear about them on the broadcast so I am assuming they must have occurred during practice in the week.
In the 3rd and final game at home in San Diego, the officials seemed to award calls more favorably toward the Gulls. Giovanni Fiore opened the scoring in the 2nd period with a sweet wrist shot from the top of the circles, set up by linemates Carrick and Abbott. Mitch Hults then got two in a row, the first on the power play and the other from a weird broken down play where a bouncing puck found his in-motion swatting stick.
Current AHL leading scorer Andrew Mangiapane got the Heat on the score-sheet with 4 minutes left in the 2nd. The Gulls then proceeded to allow the Heat to score 2 more unanswered goals in the 3rd to send the game to overtime. Nobody could capitalize in OT, although Kevin Boyle did make a game-saving stop on a 2 on 0. In the shootout Dallas Eakins made the very bold move of putting struggling OHL convert Julius Nattinen as the 3rd shooter, and when Boyle failed to stop the Heats first two shooters, it was a must-score shot for the rookie. Thankfully for his fledgling pro career confidence, he put one five-hole on Jon Gillies before Fiore sealed it in the 4th round, with Boyle stopped the Heat’s final shooter for the win.
Notes & Observations
Oops I might have jinxed things
It wasn’t even a week after I stated that so long as the Gulls still had Tropp, Roy and Kossila they could probably withstand some call-ups and injuries due to their depth that they lost Kossila to call-up and Tropp to a lower body injury. Now with just Roy to keep things pumping they will need to look to some of the rookies for offensive support. Which leads me to...
Straight Outta College
Austin Ortega and Mitch Hults have both had very good starts. They each have 4 points in 5 games and as of right now look to be stepping up to cover for the absent Kossila, Tropp and now Kerdiles. Speaking of which...
Kid Cant Catch a Break
Nic Kerdiles went down in a scary moment in last nights game. It looks to have been a mid-ice collision at high speed where his head made contact not only with the opposing player but with the ice after the clash.
Scary moment: Nic Kerdiles went down hard near blue line. After few moments, skated off with help. Appeared to be momentarily KO'd— Ivan Carter (@IvanCarter9) October 26, 2017
Appeared totally accidental. Knee to the head from my view. Just caught him in bad spot. Then he hit head on ice when falling back, I think, https://t.co/sTisRam10y— Ivan Carter (@IvanCarter9) October 26, 2017
Not to be melodramatic but I think this is the start of the end of Kerdiles with the Ducks. He just appears far too injury prone and when he does get called up - he hasn't had too good a showing for himself. Kossila has surpassed him on the depth chart and who knows how long this (likely) concussion will have him out for. He has a knack for scoring goals but he also appears to be haunted by the ghost of extremely bad luck.
Jacob Larsson was enjoying a fairly good start until his lower-body injury, he had 4 points in 4 games with a +2 paired with Brian Cooper. Hopefully whatever ails him won’t keep him out too long. Tropp likewise was carrying a fair chunk of the Gulls offense (albeit without the stats to show it) before he went down. Get well soon fellas!
Record Setting Rookie
When you score points in every one of your first AHL games that’s a club record setting Fiore. Gio is the first Gull to have a 5 game point streak to start a career and is turning out to be a very smart pick-up out of the Q. The undrafted 21 year old is second on the team in points with 2 goals and 3 assists.
Smarten Up Welinski
Andy Welinski has been quietly producing on the offensive side of the puck. Like Fiore, he also has 5 points to start the season. But he has also made some costly defensive plays. He is a team worst -6 and his partner Keaton Thompson is 2nd worst at -5. As noted by Gulls play-by-play Craig Elsten, he has not made very smart clears in recent games, many of which have led to costly turnovers. Now with Larsson out, perhaps Eakins should put him with a veteran like Bickel.
Blueline Depth Test
Just as I am writing this the Ducks have recalled Steve Oleskey to cover for the Kevin Bieska “not because of the Superman Punch” injury. The Gulls have subsequently recalled James Melindy from the Utah Grizzlies. Melindy signed as a PTO last season and saw some game time. He should be able to handle himself but it remains to be seen how the pairs will work out now.
The next Gulls weekend action is a Texas swing this Friday and Saturday where they face the Texas Stars and the Pacific Division leading San Antonio Rampage.