Where we last left our beachgoing feathered fans of the humble fish and chip cuisine (obscure New Zealand seagull reference) they had just completed a four game stint. Having completed 2 dramatic victories over the Ontario Reign and Iowa Wild as well as an emphatic drumming of the Milwaukee Admirals as well as one lackluster loss to the Chicago Wolves. Those points helped move the San Diego squad out of the cellar of the AHL standings into .. not quite the cellar. But as was the theme in the last piece - The Only Way Is Up!
In the week(s) since they have taken on the Stockton Heat in a home-and-home tilt that featured the most fireworks in this brand new rivalry to date as well as a clash with the pre-existing freeway-foes the Ontario Reign.
San Diego Gulls 5 - Stockton Heat 3
In a game that ended with over 115 Penalty Minutes (68 for Stockton and 47 for San Diego) and one suspension for the Heat; the Gulls emerged from the flames victorious. Encounters between these two newly forged rivals have been all kinds of explosive but this one topped the temperature gauge.
Stockton took the early lead on a costly turnover by veteran PTO Ryan White but he made up for his mistake by tying it up less than 6 minutes later. The teams traded additional goals until midway through the second when infamous AHL pest Ryan Lomberg was grabbed in a net-front scrum by ECHL call-up James Melindy, the two then eventually dropped the gloves. Melindy had essentially every advantage and used them - pummeling the hapless Lomberg in a very one-sided contest.
Then as their penalties expired - Lomberg decided he didnt lose enough dignity the first time and challenged Melindy for the rematch. This one was a lot more even but in terms of end-result; it was advantage Gulls. AHL rules stipulate if the same two players fight in the same game, they get game misconducts. So Lomberg was done for the night. Stockton none-the-less took the lead back on an early 3rd period Power Play goal as a result of a late 2nd fracas which the Gulls were on the losing end of. But then Corey Tropp found a loose puck in front for the easy put-in and Mitch Hults gave the Gulls the lead with less than five minutes left in the game. Both goals coming on the Gulls very potent powerplay. Hults goal came from a sacrificial play in front by Ryan White - who made the pass across whilst on his knees in pain from an injury incurred during the scuffle.
Carrick sealed the deal on an empty netter and then things got messy. Luke Gazdic took a huge and unnecessary run at Steve Oleskey who was just running the final seconds down. Strangely only Oleg Yvenko (who had also previously lost his shit earlier in the period) received a suspension from the ordeal. Thanks to reddit user Skeptical_Romulan for this clip of the final melee from prime position.
Full Game Highlights
San Diego Gulls 4 - Stockton Heat 1
The highly anticipated conclusion to the cliffhanger that was the game-ending madness of Wednesday night ended up being a straight-laced tight game of hockey. Penalty minutes were just 8-4 and it was as if both squads had spent all of their excess emotional energy.
It was also Teddy Bear Toss night - against the same foe as last years disastrous ‘toss. The Gulls were not excited about repeating that teasing encounter in which the toss had to be delayed until the very last minute of the game in a losing effort. Last years villain - Jon Gillies - however was not in net. This time it was the just cleared waivers veteran Eddie Lack. Stockton opened the scoring as a result of relentless pressure to start the first but the Gulls refocused and retook the momentum by drawing a penalty and subsequently collecting on the powerplay - another marker for Mitch Hults, his 6th of the season.
MITCH HULTS!— San Diego Gulls (@SDGullsAHL) December 17, 2017
UNLEASH THE BEARS!! pic.twitter.com/8NMhSzEYTZ
The game remained deadlocked through the 2nd and stayed that way in the 3rd until an innocent dump in by Nic Kerdiles took a funny bounce off the end board and fooled Lack - Eric Fehr was able to snatch it as he swung by the net for the easy tap-in on the powerplay. The Kalle Kossila got the insurance marker, again on the powerplay from a battle in front. Corey Tropp finished the scoring with the empty netter with a minute and half remaining.
San Diego Gulls 4 - Ontario Reign 3 (OT)
Riding a 3 game winning streak and having received the newly sent down Joseph Blandisi - San Diego was looking to #BeatBabyLA and overtake their position in the Pacific.
To make room for Blandisi the recently assigned veteran Jared Boll was scratched along with the usual scratch of Austin Ortega.
The Gulls opened the scoring on a very pretty feed from Corey Tropp to Nic Kerdiles, the 3-man rush resulted in Tropps initial bid being blocked but he regathered the puck and flicked a deft behind the back pass to Kerdiles who flicked in the wrist shot past the goaltender Campbell.
But the Reign answered a minute later on the Powerplay and then again later in the period to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. The score remained static through the middle frame as the Gulls valiantly killed four seperate penalties - the last of which were back to back. But Ontario broke through again 14 seconds into the 3rd on a Brett Sutter slapshot that proved too much for Kevin Boyle. Four minutes later Joseph Blandisi drew multiple Reign players in and dished a soft pass to Steve Olesky - the veteran defencemen drove the lane and roofed it over Campbell to cut the deficit to 1. Two minutes later the equalizer came from some great hustle and puck retrieval from the “rookie line” of Alex Dostie, Mitch Hults and Deven Sideroff. Dostie flipped the puck back to Sideroff above the right circle where the former Kamloops Blazer one-timed a shot that made its way through Campbell.
As per usual between these two division rivals, overtime was needed and just as the last time overtime was needed, it was not without drama. Corey Tropp took a tripping penalty just 12 seconds into the 3-on-3 frame and was given a misconduct for some choice language to the officials. A minute into the kill Nic Kerdiles drew an interference minor on the Reign to balance the scales. As the Tropp minor expired Marcus Pettersson made a great play to keep the puck in the Ontario zone, getting it downlow to Kossila who in turn flipped across to Eric Fehr. Fehr made no mistake - potting the game winner with a minute in a half left in the extra frame. His 7th goal in 12 games.
It should be noted that Joseph Blandisi took a nasty tumble into the boards near the end of the game which appears to have caused a concussion.
Full game highlights
San Diego Gulls 4 - Ontario Reign 3
Heading into the inland empire to do battle in “the vault” on a back-to-back the Gulls had recent success on their side - having gone 3-0 in that building thus far this season. With Blandisi officially out with an upper-body injury, Jordan Samuels-Thomas drew back into the Gulls lineup to fill in on the 3rd line. The also healthy-again Reto Berra got the start.
Nic Kerdlies started the Gulls off less than 5 minutes in on a battle in front, winning a rebound off of a Keaton Thompson shot for the put-in. The Irvine native has 3 goals in 8 games and is on a point per game pace.
Recently acquired brother of PK, Jordan Subban evened things up with less than 4 minutes left in the first. The Gulls deadly powerplay unit retook the lead 2 and a half minutes into the 2nd on a pretty between-the-legs goal by Corey Tropp. The Reign then capitalised on a lapse in concentration from Reto Berra (again) to knot it up again less that 3 minutes later and then took the lead just 18 seconds after that. The dependable Scott Sabourin steadied the ship and squared things up again 7 minutes later on a great follow up shot as he was falling.
The third stayed scoreless and Berra was called upon to make up for his previous miscues with some timely saves before Kalle Kossila wrote the epilogoue on yet another last minute Gulls win. Taking a feed from Tropp from just below the left circle and roofing it right side over Cal Peterson with just 38 seconds remaining in the game.
KALLE KOSSILA!— San Diego Gulls (@SDGullsAHL) December 24, 2017
WITH 38 SECONDS LEFT!!!! pic.twitter.com/UVLNRY5yVU
Thoughts and Observations:
Dont Fehr The On-Loan Leaf-er
Don’t look now but the on-loan Eric Fehr has 10 points in 12 games and has a 0.233% shooting percentage. He is already 7th on the team in scoring and his tied for the lead in Game Winning Goals with Mitch Hults with 2. With the additional healthy bodies now returning to the line-up you would assume Fehr would be returned to the Leafs to make room but the Gulls cannot afford to do that right now with the leadership and timely scoring he has been bringing.
Giovanni Fiore still leads Gulls rookies in scoring but has been quiet of late. He has 15 points in 24 games. Mitch Hults is creeping up behind with 14 points, Hults also leads Gulls rookies in man-advantage tallies and game winning goals. The former Lake Superior forward is quickly proving he has a knack for special teams and clutch scoring. Austin Ortega is holding down 3rd despite being absent from the line-up of late. Dostie and Pettersson have 8 points each, Nattinen has 7 while Sideroff and Larsson have 6. Larsson has played just 12 games. All of the Gulls rookies are sporting subpar +/- but for Jacob Larsson who is second on the team with +3 Julius Nattinen who is a +1 and Austin Ortega who is even. Deven Sideroff is a team worst -11. Sideroffs poor showing can likely be correlated to the Gulls league worst penalty kill and his regular use on the unit.
Cant Stop The Tropp
Since Corey Tropps return to the lineup the Gulls have gone 4-1 and the new-old top line of Kerdiles-Kossila-Tropp has become an unstoppable force. They have been responsible for 4 of the last 7 even strength goals. The Michigan native is almost at a point per game and is red hot with 7 points in his last 5 games.
Kerdiles Is Clicking
Nic Kerdlies and Corey Tropp coming back into the frame could not have come at a better time for the Gulls. Mirroring Tropps hot-streak, Kerdiles is rolling on 5 points in 4 games. His blazing speed has proven very useful - helping to draw penalties, disrupt opposition zone entries and knock on wood he hasnt been hurt again? You could be forgiven for celebrating every period he gets through without some freak season-ending body-blow. Stay safe Nic!
The Hottest Gull
But with all of that said - Kalle Kosilla is carrying this team right now. He now holds the team lead in scoring with 18 points in 15 games. He is rocking a 1.2 points per game ratio and is also 3rd in +/-. He is also now is tied for first on the team in Game Winning goals. His 18 points now leads the team.
Injuries and Unsolved Mysteries
As of right now the Gulls have two confirmed injuries. Recent veteran signing Ryan White - who sustained some sort of lower body injury on a net front scramble and Joseph Blandisi. The Blandisi injury is extremely unfortunate - it was his first game down with the Gulls and he went sliding into the boards hard for what is likely a concussion. Austin Ortega has not played since the 9th of December in Iowa. He is listed as having played in the most recent Reign game but I am pretty sure he didnt. Right now it looks like he is the odd one-out and finding it hard to get a regular spot in the line-up probably due to both powerplay units now having a full complement of regular roster players. This is likely what the Ducks anticipated happening with the smaller Tyler Soy. Jacob Larsson has not seen action since the 26th of November and to date has played just 12 games thus far. All we have heard is that he had a nagging lower groin injury to start the season but have had no update since.
Another mystery - touched on last week with “the most confusing trade” header; apparently Spencer Abbot was not happy with being shipped to the Devils. He has failed to report to Binghamton and has been suspended by the club and has now signed to play in Switzerland.
Making Good On Those Expiry Dates
Remember when I wrote a season-preview regarding which prospects were getting dangerously close to being in the fridge too long? No? Lets look back at some choice quotes and update shall we?
- So in hindsight - nobody could have predicted the Vatanen trade though the idea that it would be him that was moved was the more likely scenario. Because of that and the Lindholm injury - Welinski finally got his call. He has fared ok - right now it looks like the Ducks are giving him a long look and if he plays his cards right he could be a permanent mainstay next year with the departures of Bieska and Beauch.
- This still applies for the oft-injured Kerdiles. Going on a tear as soon as he is healthy indicates he is more than ready for the NHL but the next time he gets called up; he really needs to prove it. Otherwise - with his lack of waiver exemption status - he will either be lost to waivers or have to be dealt; possibly at the deadline.
- We all know how this story is progressing. Roy got his injury-cover call-up and has made it extremely difficult for the club to send him back down. To the point where we might be finally at the zenith of correct coaching choices - as Eric Stephens tweeted today that Rasmussen and Grant look to be the healthy scratches.
- At the time of my writing that piece Cooper hadn't even inked a deal yet. He did eventually - signing a one-year contract with the Gulls. He has played 15 games with the Gulls this season, missing 10 or 11 to injury and is proving to be a hard-nosed dependable blue liner. There isnt anything flashey about the way Cooper plays but 5-10 197 lbs Alaskan native uses his skating to close on opponents quickly, taking away space. Given his deal is with the Gulls - my original thoughts of his shifting from prospect to journeyman AHLer appear to be correct - but he has surprised me with his play this season. The Gulls would be smart to hold onto him for years to come and perhaps make him the first captain of the reborn franchise.
- Pretty much all of that has come true - Megna spent time with the Ducks to start the year as a 7th defenceman, giving Beauch and Holzer a rest every other night and getting consistent play when the blueline was hit by injuries. His being snuck through waivers was a very risky manouever and I still cannot believe no other NHL team took a flyer on him but I am glad they didnt. I still firmly believe that he will take Bieskas spot next year with the Ducks.
- Of all my predictions I was probably most off-base with this one. Kossila was the Ducks first recall this year but didnt make a big an impact as Roy as and so did not manage to stick. To be fair to Kossila - he was put alongside checkers and grinders because the Ducks were completely ravaged by injuries at the time of his call-up. Whilst Roy has been spending time with Vermette and Getzlaf. Kossila is a pure playmaker through and through - for him to be effective he needs to be on the ice with wingers that can keep up with him and get in the right scoring areas. It is a far off possibility but a line of Kossila, Steel and Jones would be...insane.
The Gulls are facing the Tuscon Road Runners today at home before leaving on yet another Texas swing where they will face the Stars twice and the Rampage once over the new year. If the Gulls beat the Road Runners today they can pass them in the Pacific division standings to jump into 3rd place and a playoff position.