It has been a short minute since the last MOTF owing to San Diego having a game during the week to pre-empt this past weekend’s home-stand against the Colorado Eagles, but there is still a lot to cover in this update. The Ducks are almost back to full health (with the exception of Corey Perry of-course) and that means the Gulls roster is now almost at capacity with some sense of normalcy.
Update: And then Cam Fowler broke his face and Patrick Eaves is out again, so that was fun while it lasted.
San Diego Gulls vs Colorado Eagles
The first meeting between these newly-minted division rivals promised to be a high scoring affair and it delivered. Logan Shaw had been announced by the club on game-day as being released from his agreement; catching some by surprise - including myself. His reasons - as per the broadcast - for being absent in the most recent game was due to illness. So to see he had been released seemed odd.
Boyle got the start and scratches for the Gulls included Keaton Thompson, Steve Oleksy, Luke Gaznic and Tyler Soy - as I mentioned in a previous MOTF; Eakins elected to go with the speedier forwards over Gaznic against a more skilled, less heavy opponent in the Eagles.
San Diego came out and dominated play for much of the first period, holding possession for minutes at a time and leading the shot total until a rare breakdown in the San Diego zone resulted in Colorado firing home a hard shot from the point for the 1-0 lead. Colorado took control of momentum for the remainder of the period but Kevin Boyle turned aside the slowly growing onslaught. The period ended with shots 12 to 13 in favour of San Diego.
The Gulls came out charging to start the second, generating several high danger scoring chances and although Colorado attempted to stem momentum by creating traffic in the neutral zone, the Gulls finally broke through on a slaphot from Simon Benoit that was neatly redirected by the passing Ben Thomson. The Thomson, Dostie, Sideroff line had been the best most consistent line thus far and it was only fitting that they got the first Gulls goal.
Colorado appeared to answer right back but the goal was overturned on a high stick. The replay was hard to really tell from the AHL TV camera view I had as the camera was a tad behind the puck speed, but from the broadcast it sounded like San Diego caught a huge, much-needed break.
Two minutes later San Diego earned a powerplay on some strong drive from Jo Blandisi. San Diego spent almost the entire two minutes in the Colorado zone and at one point had a pseudo 5 on 3 as a Colorado player was without a stick, but Troy Terry had a shot blocked and the visitors were able to survive the adversity. San Diego kept the pressure on and were rewarded with a Sam Carrick go-ahead goal on the very next shift, finding himself alone in front with a puck that bounced fortunately his way.
With five minutes left, San Diego received another power play but were unable to get set and as the Eagles fore-checked a sloppy play by Giovannie Fiore in which he turned the puck over- not once but twice- resulting in a short-handed equalizer for the visitors. Fiore did not look good on that shift, at all.
The teams traded power-plays toward the end of the second period - with the Gulls thoroughly embarrassing the Eagles with their “keep-away” heavy possession penalty kill and would start the third with the man advantage for a further minute.
Colorado killed the remaining Gulls power play to start the final period but San Diego kept up their strong play, with all four lines rolling in sync. They broke through again at the 13:23 mark with the Kossila, Terry and Jones line buzzing the net and Terry finding a loose puck by the right hash-marks which he buried with an absolute lazer of a shot to retake the lead.
A few minutes later with San Diego still seemingly in control, the Eagles drew a penalty on a rare foray into the San Diego zone and on the ensuing power play were able to convert to tie things up once again.
With under six minutes left and just as I was verbalizing out loud “come on Gulls, you deserve to win this one, please win this one,” Corey Tropp went Eagle hunting and turned the puck over with an earth shattering open ice hit, the puck squirted free to Sam Carrick who moved it quickly to Chase De Leo in the slot to then fire it home to give the Gulls a 4-3 lead with five minutes left.
Gulls win 4-3
San Diego Gulls vs Colorado Eagles
With the announcement earlier in the day that Max Comtois would be assigned on a long-term 3 game conditioning loan and the Gulls riding the victory of the previous night, excitement levels were high.
They stayed high as Sam Steel drew a high sticking penalty and his shifty play down low in the Colorado zone resulted in an easy first goal for Max Comtois just two and a half minutes into the game.
Interestingly, Boyle was given the back-to-back start - perhaps suggesting that Eakins is ready to ride the hot hand. Far less surprising was the fact that Giovannie Fiore was scratched for Comtois rather than say Dostie or Sideroff, based off of his play the night before. It was wholly deserved and it wouldn't be fair to scratch Dostie or Sideroff due to how well they have been playing.
Colorado managed to slow the Gulls’ torrid momentum to begin the game and generated a few chances on Boyle before Jo Blandisi drew another call, but the Gulls could not repeat their success of earlier and gave up a short handed chance that Boyle was equal to with the help of Jo Blandisi, clearing the puck off the line from behind him.
The teams traded power-plays to finish off the period (including two very questionable calls against the Gulls) and the period ended with the Gulls out-shooting the visitors 16-11.
The middle frame was deceptively uneventful in terms of scoring. Colorado continued to get chances with the man advantage - one of which San Diego got back to back breakaways on from Blandisi and Dostie, but the score remained 1-0 San Diego for the remainder of the period. Colorado were gaining momentum as time wound down, despite sloppy play by the Gulls in their own zone. Only fast work by Kevin Boyle kept them in it.
The third started with Colorado pressing once again, and even when the Gulls got a power play on what appeared to possibly should have been a five minute major elbowing penalty (but was only assessed the two). The Eagles took advantage of a haphazard San Diego power play and finally got one through Boyle to tie the game.
Max Jones took the lead right back on the following shift, diving and back-handing a rebound shot all in one motion for his second of the season.
MAX JONES!— San Diego Gulls (@SDGullsAHL) November 11, 2018
Answers right back! @Jones_Max19 gets his second of the season to put us back on top, 2-1! Tropp Kossila with the apples three minutes into the third! #LetsGoGulls pic.twitter.com/R34cFMS9mj
Just over a minute later, the Gulls faced adversity when the officials elected to give the Eagles a five on three power play when Ben Thomson was deemed to be too physical protecting his net-minder. They wasted no time in bouncing a puck past Boyle off a skate in front to tie it back up again.
Four minutes later the Kossila, Terry, Jones line was buzzing in the Eagles zone again, with Kossila almost generating his own chance alone in front. The puck found itself to Jones, who put a shot on that the Eagles net-minder was equal to, but the rebound dropped below the goal line where Terry quickly pounced on it and threw it past the stranded goaltender.
San Diego controlled play for the remainder of the game, clinically disallowing Colorado the opportunity to add the extra attacker and finished off the victory.
News & Observations
With the weekend sweep the Gulls went back above 0.500 and moved to two points back from the Eagles and Condors - placing them in 5th position in the Pacific.
Perhaps I should call them out for being outshot more often. They outshot the Eagles in the Friday game 38 - 29 and shots were even for Saturday’s game at 43 a piece.
As of today (with all of the other games that have happened since the weekend), the Gulls have dropped back down to 2nd to last in the Pacific in points but are 4th in points percentage which is what determines a playoff spot.
With his goal Saturday, Troy Terry now has two game winning goals on the season, which has him tied for seven other players for first among rookies. His 11 points has him tied for 4th with five other players in rookie scoring. He is fifth among rookies in points per game.
Looking Back On That Trade
It’s more than a month into the season now, so it’s a perfect opportunity to see how that Kerdiles for De Leo trade is looking. Thus far Kerdiles has one assist in three games and when I did some digging I found he is - wait for it - injured. The quote from the beat writer who covers the Moose “Upper-body injury. No timeline on his return.” Sounds like our Nic!
In the meantime, Chase De Leo has 7 points in 10 games and has been called up to the Ducks twice, but has yet to see a game with them.
Ups and Downs Continue
There has - again - been a lot of movement back and forth between Anaheim and San Diego over the past week. The re-insertion of Kase back into the lineup meant a player had to come down but then at almost the same time - Patrick Eaves was sidelined with a mystery upper body injury to negate the shift. Kalle Kossila was recalled again - as Ben Street still appears to be injured and it has been a while since we had an update on Carter Rowney.
Sam Carrick has made his way back up the Freeway, only to be sent back down with seeing a game. Unfortunately, the additional talent overall has meant sending Tyler Soy back to the ECHL once again.
Cam Fowler is the most recent semi long-term casualty which has prompted Andy Welinskis recall but one has to wonder - given how bad Schenn and Sustr have played out as depth - if a potential move is on the cards..
2 Max’s 1 Conditioning Assignment
Announced just prior to the second Colorado game, Max Comtois has been assigned to the Gulls on a long-term conditioning loan. He can play a maximum of three games before he must be returned to the Ducks. His last two remaining games will be this Friday against the Condors and Wednesday against the Reign. It will be interesting to see what happens after he heads back up to Anaheim. The Ducks definitely miss his speed, and he had some good chemistry with Silfverberg, but with the way things are going this season up there, it might not be the best environment for him. He is clearly too good for Junior, but being thrown into a constantly losing/negative environment can stunt a rookie’s development (see: Knutsen, Espen or Chistov, Stanislav).
New Kid On The Block
Possibly the most exciting news of the week has to be the announcement that 2018 23rd overall pick Isac Lundestrom would be joining the Gulls. The 19-year old Swede is the first Duck draft pick to make the instant jump from Europe to the NHL/AHL since Hampus Lindholm and Frederik Andersen in 2012. He will likely take Kossila’s spot on the top line with Terry and Jones, playing is natural position of Center. His choice to come to San Diego indicates that his first taste of NHL action has whetted his appetite for more and sees that playing with the Gulls is his best shot at getting more. His speed, play-making ability and sheer reckless care for making the predictable “safe” play on the attack should prove an exciting watch.
Where Is Roy?
I wish I could give an answer to this - but the last time I asked Eric Stephens he said he would look into it and I hate to bother him again. It has been two months now, and the last news we had that it was some sort of upper body ailment - potentially an arm. Here is hoping that we hear some news over the coming weeks.
Potential Moves Coming?
As previously stated, the Ducks are having an historically bad season that is so awful that even the national media is noticing. The slowly growing rumble that is the impending storm appears to be reaching a crescendo that will result in either a firing, a trade, or both, and with Cam Fowler now out longer than the Ducks’ current depth can allow for it would appear that Bargain Bob might start making some drastic moves. Rumors of late have indicated players on other teams the Ducks could be looking at, but in terms of their own only the names of Montour and Manson have come up. One has to think that if Anaheim were involved in a deal for William Nylander that it would take more than one of those two and we would likely see another name from the Gulls or potentially still in Junior. Hang on to your butts Gulls fans!
When Your Mistakes Result Goals That’s Fiore
As noted, in the first game against Colorado Giovanni Fiore had several goal-resulting brain farts and because of that he was scratched to allow Max Comtois to enter the lineup as opposed to Deven Sideroff. I don’t anticipate this to be a long term thing, but Comtois’ and now Lundestrom’s addition does make it tricky to determine who should be scratched to make room of late. No forward had a particularly bad game in that second game so it should be interesting to see who Eakins leaves in and who he scratches. You can guarantee that Gaznic will be in for the Ontario game, so one of Dostie or Sideroff will likely need to sit for that one.
Meanwhile On Defence
Pairings are constantly shifting week to week and with the recall of Andy Welinski it means poor Simon Benoit has yet another new defense partner this weekend. With two of their usual blue-liners (and three if you include Pettersson in that mix) up with the Ducks - the Gulls blue line depth is starting to get tested. I believe Eakins will keep the other pairings together and assign one of Oleksy or Thompson to play with Benoit for this weekend’s game, and hopefully the young rookies’ stellar play will glare over any potential mistakes either of those two might make.
How The Lines Look
As stated, Lundestrom will likely take Kossilas spot on the “Kids” line and I anticipate most other lines remain the same excepting a return for Giovanni Fiore to the line up, so if you prefer visuals - here is how it will probably look.
Steel started out the last game on a line with Blandisi and De Leo but eventually ended up with Comtois where he had much better results due to their pre-developed chemistry from rookie camp.
The Thomson, Dostie, Sideroff line continues to be a consistent force game in and game out which is why I am always loathe to scratch either of the trio but when Roy eventually comes back it’s going to mean some tough calls will need to be made.
Its a date with the Condors and Reign this Friday and Wednesday respectively. Including a special Willie O’Ree tribute bobblehead and Jersey night!