After a well fought but ultimately disappointing slow start to the season due to missing some key pieces - the Gulls got things back on the right track thanks to an instant star-power injection in the form of Troy Terry.
Just as Fan Fest was set to begin, speculation was rife when it was discovered that Terry and his gear were absent. It was also reported that Max Jones had been assigned to the Gulls - meaning that he must have been cleared to play after recovering from his arm injury.
Swapping places with Terry was Pontus Aberg, called up on the back of his strong play in the previous two games.
San Diego v Milwaukee Admirals
With the addition of Max Jones and Troy Terry but the subtraction of Pontus Aberg, the excitement level for this game was very high. Coach Eakins resolved the dilemma of who to scratch on the blueline by icing 7 defenders and 11 forwards. Dotchin however was still not game-ready, and so Oleksy and Benoit shared spots with Larsson. Interestingly Jake Machment was re-inserted - again over Soy - but one has to assume that this was due to the presence of a few heavyweights on the Admirals.
Jones and Terry made their impact almost instantly as the Gulls controlled play for the first five minutes, generating several scoring chances and seeing a power play opportunity. But, the rest of the period failed to really flow as we saw seven minor penalties dished out in total, several of which were during the other team’s power-play. The period ended with the Gulls outshooting the visitors 11-8.
San Diego started out strong in the middle frame and finally broke through - Troy Terry made a clean and easy zone entry on a three on two rush, then proceeded to draw the defense before neatly dishing to Logan Shaw who did not hesitate to bang home the one-timer for the lead.
Two and a half minutes later Terry again found himself with the puck between the hashmarks where he calmly toe dragged around the defense and almost lazily roofed a perfect backhand shot for the 2-0 lead.
From the next five minutes the Gulls had their way with the Admirals. It was as if the sheer presence of Terry and Jones elevated the game of everyone else in a white sweater.
Then - much like a couple of the goals in the last game by the Reign - a breakdown in the Gulls zone and an unlucky bounce resulted in an Admirals strike.
San Diego had a few more good shifts in the Admirals’ zone, including some brilliant passing by the Sideroff, Tropp and Carrick line, but unlucky bounces meant players fanning on shots at the moment of truth and just generally being unable to get the puck to go.
In the final 20 seconds Yakov Trenin came into the Gulls zone with speed and put a shot up high short side that Boyle probably should have had. The period ended 2-2 and shots 12-8 in favor of the visitors.
The third was almost an exact mirror image of the first - highlighted by choppy play and penalties. Neither team capitalized with the man advantage until Troy Terry took a drop pass from Sam Carrick, made some deft moves to get more space and time, then powered a shot by the Admirals goaltender for the Power Play goal and 3-2 lead with two minutes left. His post goal celebration was pretty great too.
Giovanni Fiore grabbed the empty netter to ice it and the Gulls came away 4-2 winners - putting an end to the Admirals 5 game win streak.
Postgame Notes: Sideroff played one of the best games I have ever seen him play, Ben Thomson was good also, Alex Dostie saved a goal late with good hustle on the back-check and Simon Benoit was somehow even better again. Keep an eye on Benoit - he is going places.
Bonus: If you love hearing Felix and Jake breakdown Ducks’ games on the podcast, I think they may be covering this game on a Patreon podcast episode. Check out their patreon for more.
San Diego vs Bakersfield Condors
With Luke Gazdic making his season debut playing on the newly refurbished top line alongside Tropp and Carrick, the Gulls rode the momentum of their victory of the previous night to an early lead when Corey Tropp dug out and forced home a rebound less than three minutes into the game.
San Diego enjoyed the run of play for the next ten minutes, including a short 5 on 3 which they failed to capitalize on. Then with six minutes remaining, the Condors sped into the Gulls zone, losing Benoit then cutting to the net and firing a shot that went in off Logan Shaw for the tie. Another unlucky bounce and the 3rd to go against the Gulls in as many games.
Just as momentum appeared to be sliding the Condors way - thanks in part to their relentless forecheck and tight neutral zone transition - Troy Terry took it upon himself to regain the lead when he played pass with Jones entering the Condors zone before pulling up between the top of the circles and sending an absolute bullet by Al Montoya.
The second period opened with relentless pressure from the Condors, at one point keeping the 2nd line hemmed in for at least two minutes before Terry finally intercepted pass and was able to skate it out himself. The 1st line was starting to look just as badly outplayed, until Corey Tropp drew a boarding penalty. On the ensuing power-play, San Diego wasted no time in making crisp one-touch passes that resulted in Chase De Leo finishing off the play for the 3-1 lead and his 2nd on the season.
The Condors fought right back, gaining the Gulls zone and pressuring the net to immediately get one back as the in-arena announcer was still calling the Gulls’ previous goal. Megna and Oleksy had a complete brain-fart on the play, failing to prevent passes to the slot and not getting to the rebound.
A few minutes later the Condors took advantage of a Gulls miscommunication when Correau left the net to play the puck to Oleksy, who did not receive the pass and the visitors quickly capitalized: tie game.
Just when it seemed the Gulls may have fallen completely asleep, the grind line came out and regained possession in the Condors’ zone, outnumbering down low and finding open space for a tic-tac-toe play between Dostie, Marchment and Thomson to regain the lead.
San Diego held momentum for the next twelve or so minutes until Olesky was forced to take a penalty to prevent a Condors scoring chance on the rush, and Bakersfield retook momentum, keeping the Gulls hemmed in after the penalty had expired.
After the TV timeout the Gulls came back out and generated two chances: one - a shot from Larsson that hit the post, and a few seconds later a nice behind-the-back pass by De Leo that found Sideroff alone in front but he fanned on it.
San Diego started the third with possession and generated a few chances on net while holding the Condors zone. In one sequence of events a net front scramble resulted in Al Montoya staying down and looking hurt (while play went on) and then Logan Shaw looking to tweak a groin as he tried to keep the zone. As he limped off, Terry retrieved the puck to dish to the open slot. An oncoming Sam Carrick easily potted his .. goal and the 5-3 lead.
The Gulls ground out the remainder of the final frame, diligently clearing the puck from their zone and clogging up the neutral zone to frustrate the Condors. With five minutes left, a broken play lead to a Condors’ chance and Andy Welinski air-mailed the puck over the glass for the delay of game. On the resulting Condor power-play an unlucky bounce off the back boards confused the Gulls downlow and the Condors were quick to pounce, bringing the score to 5-4 with four and a half minutes left.
Post Game Notes:
Megna did not have his best game. In fact it was a bit of a nightmare for the newly minted Gulls captain.
Dallas Eakins must have read my update last week - particularly my comments on who to scratch on defense because Keaton Thompson was scratched for this game. Dotchin however, was still not inserted. So it remains to be seen who sits when he is finally ready.
The Gulls were out-shot 49 to 23, another embarrassingly lopsided total and there were sequences where it seemed all the Condors needed to do was gain the zone, win puck battles and they would have a 50% chance of scoring. San Diego - much like their parent club - needs to work on their defensive systems and break-out plays with the upmost importance.
News and Observations:
As mentioned; Troy Terry was assigned as a confidence booster and Max Jones made his season debut after recovering from an arm injury suffered in prospect camp.
Terry has made an immediate impact and it’s noticeable that whenever he has the puck he is head and shoulders above his peers. It’s like watching a smaller, skinnier, younger, less folliclely challenged Ryan Getzlaf with the way he is able to slow the play down or dictate the pace. He is already 15th in scoring among rookies with 5 points in 2 games and is first in points per game - not just among rookies but league wide.
Max Jones - although yet to score a goal - is keeping pace, with 2 points in 2 games. Just from watching him play I do worry that he is either not entirely 100% or not quite in game-shape yet, or the accumulation of injuries has caused him to tone his game down a little. He is not the same player we saw speeding around with reckless abandon at the end of the 2016-2017 season. Hopefully he can return to that after a few more games.
Terry - despite my request in the title of this piece - won’t be long for San Diego but have heart. When he does eventually go up, someone must come down. With Ondrej Kase returning to the line up any day now and given Carter Rowney cannot be too far away - the Gulls should be receiving two or three more forwards back soon.
Jake Dotchin is still yet to be seen as is Tyler Soy. Dotchin can be explained by acclimatizing and learning the new system, while also getting into game-shape. But Soy has been with the team since the start. I was afraid he might get Ortega’d (Ortega’d: to become a consistent healthy scratch due to your size) but thought he might at least get a chance to prove himself early. It could also be an injury, so I don’t want to speculate too much.
Thanks to a three game win streak the Gulls are fourth overall in the Pacific with 6 points and a 3-2-0 record. Tucson and new-entrants Colorado are tied for 2nd with 9 points and San Jose leads with 11. Stockton and Ontario sit just behind with 5 points and Bakersfield are now last. San Diego is also now 8th overall in the conference and 19th in the league.
Eakins has shown that he is not shy about going with 7 defenseman when pressed, but once Dotchin is deemed game ready it is going to be very interesting.
Right now he seems to be rolling Welinski with Mahura, Megna & Oleksy (though they had a terrible game against Bakersfield so that might change) and the very good pairing of Larsson and Benoit. If I had to guess I would say Oleksy draws out and Thompson goes back in for the next game - and if Dotchin is ready, he probably goes with 7 again.
Bonus: Welinski leads the team in blueline scoring with 5 points in 4 games, Mahura - in his pro debut - is 2nd with 3 points in 5, Benoit sits 3rd with 2 points in 5. Welinski is 14th overall in the league for defencemen.
Kevin Boyle sits 17th overall in the league with a 2.53 GAA, his 0.924 SV% has him 13th overall.
Jared Coreau has a more painful 4.86 GAA and 0.890 SV% - that GAA has him good for third worst in the league, ouch.
How The Lines Look
Here are how the lines looked for the last game. Soy and Thompson were scratches.
It’s another weekend home stand against the Stockton Heat and Tuscon Roadrunners - Friday and Saturday night. Puck drops at 7pm.