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Meanwhile On The Farm: Only Way Is Up

Injured Gulls are slowly returning and so are points in the standings

NHL: Preseason-Anaheim Ducks at San Jose Sharks John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the latest addition of MOTF. When we last left the Gulls they were in the midst of a three game losing streak but about to face the rival Ontario Reign in an unfriendly barn. I had rather wishful thinkingly stated that newly acquired Joseph Blandisi would be assigned - but was proven wrong; as he has stayed with the Ducks - procuring the team injury bug in the process. I also finished the update with the hope that perhaps this game would be the start of a turn around for the beleaguered baby Ducks and I was proven kind of half right.

San Diego Gulls 3 - Ontario Rein 2

This game - as most meetings with the rival Reign go - was fun. The squads traded chances in the first before the Reign amped it up in the 2nd to outshoot the Gulls 18 to 7. Reto Berra weathered the storm, allowing just the one Stepan Falkovsky goal on a brief lapse of concentration. Scotty Sabourin brought the Gulls even 2 minutes later with his first of the season receiving a pass from Olesky at the blue line and knifing through the slot.

San Diego came out stronger in the 3rd, evening up the total shots by topping the Reign 16 to 12. Giovanni Fiore potted his 5th goal of the season on the potent Gulls power play his 3rd on the year with the man advantage. He went low blocker as he cruised down the slot and accepted a pass from Spencer Abbott.

I mentioned this game was fun. Well with less than a minute left in the game, the Reign made their final push and much to the dismay of Gulls nation - Michael Mersch crashed the net and forced the puck past Berra on the Power Play. Sam Carrick was the guilty party in the box for holding. Citizens Business Bank arena had a meltdown, believing they had secured a point or perhaps more. Giovanni Fiore had other plans. Just twenty seconds later he buzzed the left side of the Reign net and potted in a rebound from Abbott to shock the baby Kings and their faithful. Sweet sweet victory.

The goal is the latest game winning goal in the clubs history.

San Diego Gulls 5 - Milwaukee Admirals 2

Kalle Kossila was returned to the Gulls in time for their road trip to the midwest with the return of Ondrej Kase to the Ducks line up. Still high off their last minute heroics and deeming it necessary that they avenge their parent clubs recent result against the hated Nashville Predators the Gulls proved to be a rogue storm that the Admirals could not navigate.

Outshooting the Nashville affiliate a combined 29 to 14 shots through the first two periods. Julius Nattinen started the scoring, using his size to power his way past a check and bang in a rebound off of a nearside shot by Eric Fehr. The Finnish rookie has been streaking with 4 points in his last 4 games.

Sam Carrick doubled the score on the Power Play to close the first, making a smart play to kick a rebound to his left to neatly tuck it in the net after Anders Lindback was unable to control a point shot from Andy Welinski.

Despite a strong 2nd period the Gulls were unable to get another past Lindback and the Admirals came out firing in the 3rd, outshooting San Diego 20 - 8. Berra was the difference and the Gulls closed the game out on further goals from Kossila, Fehr and an empty netter from Keaton Thompson.

San Diego Gulls 1 - Chicago Wolves 3

I had high hopes that San Diego could put together a 3 game win streak given their competition for this game were last in the league. The Gulls perhaps thought that also. Shots were even in the first but the Gulls came out flat in the 2nd and Kevin Boyle gave up one too many dangerous rebounds for the more experienced Wolves. Berra had the night off completely as Boyle was backed up by Leland Irving (remember him?). Tyler Wong and Beau Bennett scored on rebounds that Boyle perhaps should have done a better job controlling. As the 2nd eased into the 3rd the Gulls seem to be sleep walking - Ivan Barbashev boomed a shot past Boyle for a 3-0 lead. Only Scotty Sabourin broke the shutout for goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo (it was fun hearing Craig say this one) with a smart banking play with the netminder out of position (which it sounded like he was a lot).

It is strange that the Wolves are last in the league given their talent level on the roster. Tyler Wong, Beau Bennett, Teemu Pulkkinen, Griffin Reinhart, Jason Garrison and Brandon Pirri are all NHLers or high draft picks.

Corey Tropp also made his long awaited return from a very early season injury and was a welcome addition to the San Diego line up. Nic Kerdlies watched from the team bench, indicating he could be very close to returning to the line up soon also.

San Diego 4 - Iowa Wild 3 (OT)

Just when it looked the Gulls might be reverting back to their old ways they turned it around to earn an overtime victory in Iowa and close out the mid-west road trip. I say earn because they really did have to fight for it.

On the heels of losing leading scorer Spencer Abbott to a bizzare “for Future Considerations” trade to Binghamton (NJ Devils) the Gulls were also without their leading point producer from the blueline Andy Welinski who had been scratched (later revealed to have been recalled). Despite the adversity San Diego held Iowa to just 2 shots in the first and were generally playing a very good road game until Reto Berra had a rare brain fart and gave the puck straight to a Wild player for the games opening goal 6 minutes into the 2nd. The Wild piled on the momentum from there and netted another 2 minutes later for the 2-0 lead and it was looking like the young San Diego squad might be heading for another road-blowout before Eric Fehr got things back on track with a rebound goal. In the third Iowa made it a 2 goal gap again when Justin Kloos pounced on a rebound in front on the powerplay with Kossila still in the box for hooking. Before Eric Fehr again - made it interesting off a rebound and nice tip play in front by Scotty Sabourin. Just 2 minutes later Corey Tropp found Kalle Kossila with a beautiful no-look behind the net pass, Kossila made no mistake for his 4th of the season.

Just over a minute into OT Giovanni Fiore was sprung on a breakaway but was stopped/tripped by the Hasek-style flying poke-check from the quite literally Wild netminder Niklas Svedberg, the puck richoeted to the left board where Ryan White (what was he doing on the ice in OT?) scooped it up and fired it in for the win.

Full highlights for the game can be found below.

Notes and Observations

Opposite Ends Of The Special Teams Spectrum

It doesn't seem like it should be possible but the Gulls are tops in the league on the Power Play, clicking at 23.1% whilst also being dead last on the Penalty Kill, killing at an abysmal 73.8% rate. It’s hard to pin point exactly why the PK has been failing but it is likely a combination of the ever-changing erratic roster. It’s hard to kill penalties consistently when you are missing some of your best players to injury or call-up. Particularly your goaltender. Which leads me to...

What Is Up With Kevin Boyle

Something is up with Kevin Boyle this season. He came in as a rookie last year and surprised many by putting together a nice little hot-streak. Making big-game saves and keeping his team in it when called on. This year we have seen none of that. Something has shaken his confidence and the young netminder seems unable to get his groove back. He is 3rd worst (50th) in the league in GAA with 3.57 and is 42nd in SV% with .886. To put things in perspective he has seen 370 shots, good for 16th in the league but he has also allowed 42 goals, 5th in the league. Lucky for him Angus Redmond isn't faring much better in Utah with a 3.95 GAA and .874 SV%. It is looking like the Ducks have struck out with their recent college goaltending signings but given Redmond still has 2 more years left on his deal, Kevin may find himself out of the job next year when his deal is up.

The Most Confusing Trade

As noted in the Wild recap - the Gulls traded leading scorer Spencer Abbott this week to the Binghamton Devils for “Future Considerations” in a move that had Gulls fans across the web screaming out in dismay and confusion. I too was among those initially confused but then I wondered back to the last time this happened; when Dustin Tokarski who was on an NHL contract was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for “future considerations” and the Gulls in turn received Leland Irving from the Flyers affiliate for “future considerations”. Why the use of “future considerations” in two seemingly separate deals that were actually a one-for-one? Because Tokarskis contract was an NHL one while Irving's was AHL. So I waited with baited breath for whom the Ducks/Gulls might get back from the New Jersey organization, noting with glee that they are overstacked on LW while the Gulls could do with perhaps one more.

But nothing came of it and we are all still as perplexed as the moment the trade was announced. Generally when teams “dump a salary” it indicates they are giving up on the season but it doesn't make sense to do that in the AHL, there is no draft lottery, you don’t get rewarded for failing here. It’s not like Binghamton are gearing up for a playoff run either, they are 3rd bottom in the league right now. So perhaps further down the line the Devils help the Gulls out with something but for now - all I can put on this is it clears a RW spot for Tropp to get more significant minutes while ensuring the likes of Ortega or Sideroff are not healthy scratched every other night.

Where’s Larsson?

Given how often the young blue liner has been in and out of the line-up all season you have to wonder whether Ducks management decide to call it a day and just sit him until he is completely healed. Whatever it is that ails him seems to flare right back up again as soon as he plays more than a game or two. It has been a frustrating season for anyone that put a lot of stock in him being the next best hope for the Ducks blue line. But like I said last piece - I think he needs another year; mainly because he has hardly played in this one. Much like the Gulls season it has been an uncontrollable roller coaster of changes on the blue line but despite all that - things seem to be holding together relatively ok of late. Some players in particular have stepped up...

No Welinski/Larsson No Problem

What was most impressive about that last Gulls victory was that they won without both Andy Welinski and Jacob Larsson. It was just the second time Welinksi had been out of the lineup all season so the likes of Marcus Pettersson and Brian Cooper were forced to step up and step up they did. Cooper in particular finished the game with a team high +2 whilst Pettersson was a +1.

Stats Update

With Abbott gone and Welinski called up, the new Gulls leading scorer is Giovanni Fiore with 14 points in 21 games. Fiore is also 21st overall in rookie scoring for the AHL.

Standings wise the Gulls sit 3rd to last in the Pacific, ahead of the Barracuda and Condors - much like their parent club, they are keeping afloat and are tantalizingly close to an even .500. In relation to the rest of the league they currently sit 21st out of 30 teams.

Subtle Plug

If you are a fan of Kevin Roy - realistically, who isnt? I kind of made this T-Shirt design that may or may not be slightly offensive (pun) - but please know that I made it to show my undying love for the good Kevin.

Next Up:

Its more fun with the Stockton Heat and Ontario Reign. Stockton comes back to town for a Wed and Sat night affair - be sure to head to the Saturday game if you can, its Teddy Bear Toss night. The Reign come in the following Friday before the Gulls visit them in turn the night after.