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Meanwhile On The Farm: Let’s Try That Again

Just as the Gulls started to fly, injuries to both the parent club and themselves set things back

Troy Terry (19) leads a rush in a game against the Stockton Heat - Credit San Diego Gulls - _DSC6091
San Diego Gulls - _DSC6091

Apologies for the slight delay in update - my other part-time life-venture took a more dominant role in the last week.

The Gulls currently find themselves once again at the bottom of the Pacific in terms of points but are doing a tad-better in points per percentage; floundering at fifth.

San Diego Gulls v Bakersfield Condors

The Willie O’Ree celebration night began with the Gulls skating out in throwback jerseys that looked straight fire.

San Diego dominated from the opening, Sam Steel speeding through the neutral zone and splitting the defense, getting a shot on net while drawing a penalty - his third drawn in two games. San Diego seemed to setup in an umbrella and Troy Terry attempted to feed Lundestrom three times for the one timer but the 18 year old could not convert.

Bakersfield generated a couple of chances including an odd man rush that resulted in a penalty shot but on the immediate shift after the Gulls opened the scoring on a pretty passing play between Blandisi and Tropp after a perfect breakout pass from Sam Steel.

The period ended with shots 14 - 13 in favor of the Gulls.

Jaycob Megna was supposedly injured during this period, but I did not see the play that it happened on.

The second period began with some sloppy back and forth play that was mostly restricted to the neutral zone, until Chase De Leo drove into the Bakersfield zone with speed and was first to a loose puck that he then put a shot on net, and Max Comtois coralled the rebound to make it 2-0 Gulls.

Less than a minute later and San Diego’s speed proved troublesome for Bakersfield as they drew yet another penalty on a slash from an odd man rush, and Corey Tropp wasted no time in providing the 3-0 league, shoveling in a net front chance after a shot from Lundestrom landed neatly in the crease.

San Diego controlled play for much of the rest of the period, but Bakersfield kept things interesting with one or two chances of their own, and it seemed the game would remain at 3-0 until the Gulls drew yet another penalty. The first unit of Terry, Tropp, Lundestrom, Mahura and Jones refused to let Bakersfield get possession for almost the entire two minutes, until Troy Terry walked in from the point and ripped a wicked wrist show by the Bakersfield goaltender for the 4-0 lead and his 3rd goal in as many games.

The period ended with the exact same shot totals from the first, San Diego again narrowly out-shooting the visitors 14-13.

Words must have been delivered with high velocity between periods because the Condors came out with determination to start the final frame, drawing a penalty when the Gulls were forced to prevent a scoring chance in front. Just as the puck was touched to stop play, Jesse Puljujarvi made the the mistake of drawing Corey Tropp into a fight and well... - that didn't last long.

The worst possible news occurred as Troy Terry was forced to leave the game five minutes into the third on what appeared to be an arm injury; he fell awkwardly into the boards just prior to limping to the bench before heading to the locker at the next break in play.

Bakersfield appeared to control play for much of the rest of the game, overtaking the Gulls in shots but only generating maybe four high danger chances in a span that included a power plae. The Gulls retook momentum briefly when Corey Tropp was hooked on a partial breakaway. Terry was replaced by De Leo on the top unit and the Gulls came close when Max Jones used silky smooth hands to move in from below the goal line to directly in front but was denied. Simon Benoit also came close when he made a move to get in scoring position between the hash marks, but was also stopped. I estimate San Diego had even scoring chances despite being outshot 43-38 at this point.

Bakersfield got one back when a wrist-shot from the point appeared to be accidentally deflected by Keaton Thompson past Kevin Boyle but San Diego finished things off for the 4-1 win. Things got more than a little chippy in the final five minutes with misconducts being handed out to Tropp and Poleo for the Condors, and again when Jake Dotchin challenged the entire Condors bench then blew them kisses as he was led out to the locker room (I love this kid).

Meanwhile...

Up in Anaheim Hampus Lindholm was quietly put on IR, prompting a call up for both Josh Mahura and Jake Dotchin, while Luke Schenn (who was placed on waivers earlier in the week) cleared and was sent down. Kevin Boyle was also briefly recalled and served as backup to Ryan Miller while John Gibson missed a game with flu-like symptoms, but was sent back down for the next game against the Reign.

San Diego Gulls vs Ontario Reign

With no news on Terry during the week - it was a relief to see his name featured on the top line for the pregame line up. But the Gulls had more than his potential absence to worry about as they were suddenly down three blue-liners. Chris Forney and Scott Moldenhauer were recalled from Tulsa, but with Schenn coming back only Forney was required and he slotted alongside Keaton Thompson while Schenn played with Oleksy. Other line up changes made by Eakins included swapping out Sideroff for Fiore. Perhaps to the Gulls advantage - the Reign had the freshly signed to a PTO Michael Leighton in net, owing to the Kings losing both Quick and Campbell to injury and forcing the recall of Peterson.

To start the game, the Gulls haphazardly pieced together defense had noticeable difficulty getting out of their own zone for parts of the first four minutes, and it was looking like Kevin Boyle might have a long night ahead of him- until Jo Blandisi and Sam Steel executed a cross ice pass on the rush with Corey Tropp driving the net. Steel scored his first AHL goal to put San Diego ahead 1-0.

At the twelve minute mark, the top line had a golden opportunity as Lundestrom made a nice move around the net to get a shot on Leighton that the veteran goaltender was forced to scramble to keep out, but Terry and Jones could not get the rebound.

With seven and a half minutes left, Max Jones made some deft moves from the right circle and almost got a decent chance alone with the goaltender, but over skated the puck.

Four minutes later, Sam Carrick was tripped coming through the neutral zone, and a ho-hum Gulls power-play was seemingly going nowhere when Max Jones received a pass coming off the left boards, made a quick toe drag to use the defender as a screen, and flipped a low wrist shot by Leighton for the 2-0 lead.

The Reign attempted to respond with heavy hitting, but only succeeded in giving the Gulls another power-play as Imama was sent to the box for boarding Oleksy. San Diego had good movement with the man advantage and used wide open passing lanes with ease until Troy Terry was given too much space and waltzed in from the right side to easily beat Leighton five hole for the 3-0 lead.

San Diego began the middle frame on yet another power-play, but failed to convert on this one. They did control play for much of the first five minutes until a Reign rush into the San Diego zone ended with an outnumbered attack on Boyle down low as Keaton Thompson over committed to the right side and the Reign got one back.

Ontario carried momentum for the next four minutes and generated chance after chance on Boyle- mostly off of uncharacteristic mistakes committed by the seemingly now half asleep Gulls. A puck battle by the left point drew Sam Steel away from his assignment and when the puck got free it made its way to the open Sutter who sent a hard wrist shot by Boyle.

San Diego regained a semblance of momentum with back to back power-plays, but with only Benoit available as a quarterback Eakins’ risky use of five forwards on the first unit came back to bite him as a breakdown lead to a Reign equalizer short handed.

San Diego had some chances to start the third, including some close ones on a power-play, but a bad turnover by Chris Forney in the Gulls’ zone allowed Ontario to pass back to the open man who sent a hard shot over Boyle’s left shoulder for the lead.

Ontario then proceeded to choke the life out of the game - playing the most boring hockey imaginable.

There was one last hope when San Diego had a final chance with the man advantage, but it was not to be as Ontario- in their typical slumber inducing style - lulled the Gulls to sleep with zero octane all defense hockey, ending San Diego's seven game home point streak.

Meanwhile Pt 2...

Andy Welinski was returned to the Gulls on game day for the Stockton game - Black Friday; giving back a much needed Powerplay presence and slightly better semblance of normality among the defensive pairings.

San Diego Gulls v Stockton Heat

Maxime Comtois played in what would be his last game with the Gulls and Sideroff drew back in for Dostie. The newly returned Andy Welinski replaced Forney among the blueline and was paired with Sustr.

San Diego controlled play for much of the first three minutes and were rewarded when Thomson and Fiore came in on a two on one, with Fiore firing a hard wrist shot by the Heat goaltender for the opening score.

Stockton enjoyed the run of play for the next few minutes but the Gulls came close to scoring again when Devon Sideroff made a nice in and out move on the left wing to setup Blandisi but the pass was deflected at the moment of truth.

The visitors again regained momentum and held the Gulls’ zone, keeping San Diego hemmed, until a point shot eventually made it through Coreau to tie things up.

San Diego struck three minutes later after Simon Benoit lead the rush - getting the puck deep where Tropp recovered and got it to Steel, who drew the defense and fed Tropp in front of the net.

San Diego poured it on again under two minutes into the third when Max Comtois drew a roughing penalty from Prout with some strong puck protection in the Stockton zone. The Gulls wasted no time in converting with a perfect cross crease pass from Terry to Tropp at the back door for the easy 3-1 score.

On a seemingly innocent zone entry four minutes later, the Heat got one back as a low wrist shot from the top of the right circles got through Coreau, who had traffic from two rushing Heat forwards in front.

Less than a minute later the Heat scored again to tie things up via a hard wrist shot from the point that again Coreau could not see through traffic.

San Diego responded ferociously and retook the lead on a 3-1 on breakaway where Steel held the puck for the entire rush and delayed long enough for the Heat defenders stick to move out of the lane where he then fed Blandisi for an easy tip in goal.

On the very next shift Luke Schenn intercepted a breakout pass and fed to the slot for Sam Steel, who hammered a one timer by the Heat goaltender for a quick 5-3 lead.

The third began without much charge, but Stockton quietly began to generate momentum until they drew a penalty on the Gulls and converted to bring the lead back to 5-4.

The Gulls’ top line attempted to respond but were unable to convert and play was back and forth until the final four minutes when Stockon converted - again from a wristshot from the point. Tie game.

With a minute left, Troy Terry drew a penalty and on the ensuing power-play. The Heat scored a heart breaking short handed goal with 11 seconds left to take the game 6-5.

Meanwhile Pt 3...

Josh Mahura was returned whilst Andy Welinski and Andre Sustr were puzzlingly called up. Mahura had played very well over his brief NHL introduction but perhaps this was a move that indicated Hampus Lindholm was close to returning.

Max Comtois was also reassigned to his Junior team given his long-term conditioning loan was up and- despite a hot-start- he had not performed quite to expectations in the AHL.

San Diego Gulls @ Stockton Heat

Kevin Boyle got the start and Luke Gazdic made his way back into the line-up after being a healthy scratch since the Gulls played in Tuscon - Alex Dostie sat for a second straight game. Recently recalled Scott Moldenhauer also got into the line-up.

AHLTV has defecated the boudoir for this game and I have been unable to watch, so I don’t have a recap, sadly. But just know that the Gulls won by a score of 6 to 3. San Diego were again out-shot by games end 44 to 33 but did open the scoring - leading 3-0 by the end of the first. Goals came from Benoit (his first), a natural hat trick from Sam Carrick and two empty netters from Steel and Blandisi. Carrick finished with a five point night. Troy Terry’s league-leading 11-game point streak was snapped.

News and Observations

Steel Showing Signs

Sam Steel had a quiet introduction to the AHL, or at least quieter than the flourish that was Troy Terry’s arrival in San Diego, but he is starting to settle in and has been showing more and more just what he is capable of. There have been at least two or three instances in the last few games where has sped from the defensive zone through to the offensive zone, slicing by opposing team’s neutral zone traps in the kind of plays that he was known for in his time with the Pats in the WHL. He is also displaying an over-tendency to pass first - something that can make Ryan Getzlaf so frustrating to watch sometimes. He is currently averaging a point per game with 8 points - he has 4 goals and 4 assists through 8 games.

Terry Goes Streaking

Troy Terry still holds the longest point streak in the AHL with 11 games and- up until the most recent action in Stockton - had scored a goal in every single game he has played in thus far. His 11-game point streak is a new San Diego club record. He has 16 points in 12 games for a 1.33 Point Per Game average.

Max Jones Quietly Finding His Game

As I suspected, Jones began the season under some rust and a seemingly tentative nature that I noted at the time. This gave him the appearance of not quite the same player we saw at the end of the 2015-2016 season, but things have definitely changed lately - he is playing faster, harder and finding himself in the middle of net-front scrums and generally any other chippy moment of the game. He has been a tad snake-bit, but I feel the goals are going to start coming in bunches - it’s only a matter of time. He has 8 points in 12 games thus far.

The Case for Comtois

Felix did a good piece over at the Elite Prospects blog on why the QMJHL should be very afraid of his return, and Eric Stephens briefly touched on the Ducks’ reasoning for sending him down - indicating that the Ducks’ preference was to keep him with the Gulls. But with just the one goal in four games (it did appear that he scored another marker in his 2nd game of action but it was eventually credited to Chase De Leo as it was deemed Comtois did not touch it on its way into the net), it was starting to become clear that he would do better with a more prominent role back in Juniors with the added bonus of extra experience at the World Junior Championships.

Defensive Depth Test and Future

Just as the Gulls were really looking to dominate, more injuries hit both the Ducks and - in the case of captain Jaycob Megna going down with a lower body ailment - San Diego. Three games and two losses later, the defensive core looks less shaky with Mahura back but still misses Dotchin, who looks like he will be up with the Ducks for good now. Hampus Lindholm looks close to returning, so I imagine Andy Welinski will be eventually returned to give San Diego at least a 75% sense of normalcy on the pairings. The last two seasons have really put the Ducks’ blue-line depth under the microscope and if anything good has come out of this, it’s the fact that Simon Benoit has been a stellar pickup and that the Lightning’s willingness to move on from Dotchin was another stroke of good luck. Without these two players, the Gulls would be stuck with untested ECHL call-ups for a third of their blue-line and the Ducks would have to choose between Welinski, Sustr and Scheen for two of out of three spots available. The lesson to learn here is something Benny and I re-iterated ad nauseam in this past year’s draft coverage - the Ducks much vaulted blue-line pipeline has dried up. This past year’s 6th rounder Hunter Drew currently has 16 points in 19 games in the Q which is promising, but he was also drafted over-age, so will be making his pro-debut at the conclusion of this season, and after that there is nobody else. Bowen Byram is currently ranked 7th in the draft rankings, but if the Ducks manage to inadvertently tank enough this season to end up in the same picture as a generational talent like Kaapo Kakko, they should perhaps take what they can get for the blue-line in the later rounds. Either way- more “D” picks and less “G” picks next year please Mr Murray.

We Need To Talk About Kevin - Pt 2

Kevin Boyle is now 9th in the league for Save Percentage with a 0.917 in 9 games. His GAA of 3.03 has him ranked 25th. He has quietly been putting together an impressive run of strong starts, and you can just tell that the team feels more confident when he is in net. If San Diego can get back to a 100% healthy blue line, watch him challenge for the top five in Save Percentage; you heard it here first.

Shot Metrics - Pt 2

It is now 15 games into the season and San Diego have amounted 476 shots while surrendering 577. Of their 7 total wins so far - 5 of them have come while being out shot by their opponent, and again 5 of them have come when the Gulls have scored first. Breaking it down even further - the Gulls have out-shot their opponents in the first period 7 times and have been out-shot in the 2nd period 11 times out of 15. The “2nd Period Experience” hex is well and truly a rash that has spread from parent to development club. They have managed to only be outshout 6 times in the 3rd however, which bodes well for the team either finishing strong or at least attempting a comeback. They are currently averaging 31.73 shots per game and allowing 38.47; of their 15 games played so far they have allowed over 40 shots in 7 of them. Coreau was in 4 of those games and Boyle in the other 3, which is interesting given Coreau has only seen 6 games of action. For whatever reason Coreau seems to get absolutely shelled whenever he is in net.

Next Up

San Diego is back home where they face the incoming Manitoba Moose - Chase De Leo’s former team and the new home of Logan Shaw, who currently has 7 points in 6 games. Nic Kerdiles - as mentioned last week - has only managed 1 point in 3 games and is currently out with an injury. Games are Wednesday at 7pm and Friday at 7pm respectively.