Last we checked in the Gulls were about the face the Reign in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs.
That series went the full distance - culminating in a game 5 decider (AHL playoff first round series are best of 5) that the Gulls were able to pull out thanks in part to some last minute bad-luck for the Reign goaltending tandem.
The Gulls dropped this one at home. They looked out of sorts and just plain nervous throughout but seemed as if they would send it to overtime.
In the most heart breaking of twists - Reign forward Adrian Kempe stole the puck from an idle Andy Welinkski from behind the goal-line and fed linemate Jonny Brodzinski to take the lead with 11.7 left in regulation.
The Gulls came roaring back - taking a commanding 2-0 lead within 31 seconds when Nick Sorensen potted two even strength goals. The Gulls were all over the Reign for the first period and controlled momentum. Sorensen relished his opportunity on the top line with Kalle Kossila and Antoine Laganiere with Gulls regular season scoring leader Corey Tropp out with an injury suffered in the first game.
Meanwhile 2016 first round pick Max Jones saw time on the 4th line in his pro-debut and did not look one bit out of place, setting up several nice scoring plays for both Sabourin and Samuels-Thomas. The Gulls eased momentum in the 2nd and allowed the Reign back in but managed to hold on for the 2-1 win.
This was must-win for both clubs - with the victor taking the choke hold lead. Back at home at Valley View Casino Center, goaltender Jhonas Enroth stood tall and made 38 saves while Kalle Kossila opened the scoring in the first period. The Reign tied it later in the period while the rest of the game became a duel between Enroth and Campbell. The game was seemingly headed to overtime before Onrej Kase laid a neat drop pass in the slot for Nic Kerdiles to load into and drive past Campbell for the lead. Laganiere later sealed it with the empty netter.
San Diego had an opportunity to wrap up the series in Ontario, but the Reign had other plans. They forged a 4-1 win through hard work and prevented the Gulls from getting any kind of puck movement through the neutral zone. Ontario goalie Jack Campbell was injured late in this game. Jack Kopacka (a kid drafted by a pick acquired in the Maroon trade) made his professional debut.
The do or die game began in dramatic fashion. The aforementioned Jack Campbell was too hurt to start and so the Reign intended to start backup Jeff Zatkoff. However, Zatkoff was hurt in warmups and could not start. This caused a last minute start for 3rd string ECHL goaltender Jack Flinn who was subsequently shelled by the Gulls for an early 3-0 lead in the first period before being relieved by Campbell who decided to play hurt.
The Reign regained their forecheck and did not allow too many other high danger scoring opportunities on Campbell but for those he did face (a breakaway from Max Jones among one of them) he was able to stop. With 5 minutes left and the Gulls leading 3-1 it did seem closer than the score indicated as the Reign held relentless pressure and waves of attack before an odd man rush saw Sam Carrick flick a nice cross-ice pass over to Jordan Samuels-Thomas to seal the win past a sprawling Campbell.
The Gulls now face the San Jose Barracuda in a best of 7 in the 2nd round starting tonight in San Jose. The Cuda have home-ice advantage for this series and have had the Gulls number at home this season. Things may be slightly different this time round however. The majority of those regular season games were played as midday matinees due to sharing the ice with their parent club (who are no longer playing). The Sharks also traded away the Barracudas 5th leading scorer Goldobin at the NHL trade deadline.
Ryan Carpenter leads the AHL playoff scoring race with 4 goals, 3 assists and 7 points in 5 games. While Nic Kerdiles is 3rd with 3 goals, 3 assists, and 6 points in 5 games. Kerdiles will not be playing for the Gulls tonight as he will likely make his NHL playoff debut with Anaheim.
Enroth is 3rd among starting goaltenders with a 1.82 GAA. The normally frustratingly brilliant Troy Grosenick has a 2.54 GAA thus far for the Barracuda. Enroth leads the AHL playoffs in save percentage with a huge 0.945 through 5 games - where again Grosenick is floundering with 0.907 through 5.
This one will come down to depth and goaltending - the Barracuda without a parent club in the playoffs have the advantage of not being disrupted by recalls, whereas the Gulls will be down one of their top skaters with Kerdiles recall with the big club.
The Gulls however do have some black-aces waiting in the wings such as late season college signings Hultz and Ortega. Not to mention Sam Steel may make an appearance after the WHL finals have concluded - if the series lasts that long. (Note: WHL Champs start tonight also with game 7 being played on the 15th).
San Diego Gulls Playoffs Round 2 Schedule
Game 1: Friday, May 5th @ Barracuda - 7pm
Game 2: Saturday, May 6th @ Barracuda - 7pm
Game 3: Wednesday, May 10th @ Gulls - 7pm
Game 4: Friday, May 12th @ Gulls - 7pm
Game 5* Saturday, May 13th @ Gulls - 7pm
Game 6* Tuesday, May 16th @ Barracuda - 7pm
Game 7* Wednesday, May 17th @ Barracuda - 7pm