The Gulls have only one game over a 10 day period but there is still plenty to report on...
San Diego Gulls @ Ontario Reign
With Kalle Kossila being returned in time for the Gulls visit to Ontario, it meant that not only was Dostie scratched - but also Deven Sideroff as the additions of Steel and Blandisi pushed the Gulls forward depth to an all time high. Sideroff has played very well of late so its a little rough for him to get scratched but thats the reality of how things are starting to look as both clubs get healthy. Kevin Boyle also got the start - to give him some game-time and a chance to redeem himself after getting pulled against Stockton last weekend.
Ontario enjoyed a run of three straight powerplays due to some tick-tacky stick calls against the Gulls before Troy Terry drew a hooking penalty with under five minutes left and Josh Mahura converted with his first AHL goal off a wrist shot from the right point.
The opening period ended with the Gulls out-shooting the Reign 10-7 despite being shorthanded for just under a third of it.
Ontario came out hitting to start the second and the Gulls surrendered a game-tying goal off a broken play just over three and a half minutes in.
The Reign then continued to smother any attempt by San Diego to gain momentum by clogging up the neutral zone and applying a heavy hitting fore check in the Gulls’ defensive zone. I found myself - much like the Gulls - slowly falling asleep (I think the Reign camera operator had a hand in helping that along also, seriously sir/madam - how hard is it to follow hockey action and/or the puck?) - until the Tropp line finally got some shots and pressure on Cal Peterson in the final minute of the period. The middle frame ended with a scrum to the right of the Gulls net with Benoit and Walker in a tussle that didn't quite progress to a fully fledged fight and surprisingly Sustr involved also. Shots were 14 to 6 to the home team.
Chances started out even to begin the third, but momentum soon swung the Gulls’ way as they obtained a power play when Ontario were caught with too many men. They could not finish despite generating a few chances, the most noticeable of which involved Josh Mahura taking the puck from his own end through the entire squad to get his own opportunity. San Diego carried momentum for the next ten minutes, putting Cal Peterson under siege with wave after wave. The “kid” line came close as did the Tropp line but it was the Reign who scored next as San Diego were caught playing sloppy in their own zone, and a turnover by Max Jones resulted in an Austin Wagner tally. A minute later the Reign executed on the exact same play and it seemed like the wheels might be falling off.
San Diego went back to the attack with some form of desperation and got a power play, but again could not finish as Cal Peterson continued to frustrate as the Reign defense continued to clog and suck the life out of the game. With less than three minutes left, Max Jones stormed into the Reign zone, cut to the front of Peterson and sent a shot top corner for his first AHL goal.
San Diego pulled Boyle with two minutes left and had a minute of zone time but were unable to get a clear chance on Peterson other than a wobbling puck for Carrick down low, Ontario then intercepted and got some space before icing the contest with a shot into the empty net.
The disappointing loss sinks San Diego down the competitive Pacific as they are forced to stay idle over the coming week.
San Diego Gulls @ Tuscon Roadrunners
With Sam Carrick and Chase De Leo recalled, the Gulls were forced to recall Tyler Soy from the ECHL but did not insert him into the line-up. Eakins opting instead to go with seven defenders again and putting both Thompson and Oleksy back in.
They were also without Logan Shaw due to illness (again, why couldn't they give Soy at least a chance?)
San Diego started off well, controlling play in parts and getting a good scoring chance off a Simon Benoit fluttering shot that Giovanni Fiore batted down in the slot and the proceeded to throw on net.
The period ended with Tuscon out-shooting San Diego 9 to 4.
The second period began with much the same back-and-forth as the first until the 17:19 mark when an intercepted pass on the Gulls breakout allowed Mario Kempe to come in the left side uncontested and open the scoring. Mahura and Megna were both caught too far up ice on the play.
San Diego had a few chances courtesy of Troy Terry but Tucson poured on the pressure in the remaining five minutes of the frame as momentum swung their way. After what seemed like a minute of being hemmed in their own zone and unable to win any puck battles or get near the puck, Corey Tropp blocked a slapshot that left him writhing in pain and unable to regain his feet.
Tuscon took full advantage and continued to pepper the Gulls net, eventually squeaking one by Correau as the rest of the now shorthanded Gulls struggled to defend while severely fatigued.
Less than a minute later after getting a chance in the Tuscon zone, the Gulls found themselves again on their heels and unable to locate the puck with Mahura again too far up the ice. The Roadrunners found themselves with a two on one down-low that they executed for the 3-0 lead.
San Diego had to kill a Keaton Thompson minor directly after just to add to the adversity but were able to turn some of the momentum back by doing so with ease and getting a couple of shorthanded chances during the course of it. The period ended with Tuscon still holding the most dangerous lead in hockey and shots 13 to 5 in favour of the home team. Note: The Tuscon score counters have always been dubious with shot-count, San Diego did get thoroughly outplayed in the 2nd but I don’t think they only put one shot on net.
San Diego needed to start out well in the third and they did, earning a power play as Jo Blandisi was interfered with as he sped up ice on an odd man rush. San Diego’s power play was 4th in the league heading into this game and Tuscon's penalty kill - dead last. San Diego did not take long to set up, moving the puck around and winning battles before Corey Tropp found himself down low where he completed his patented spin-o-rama blind backhand pass through the crease to Giovanni Fiore who fired home the one-timer.
San Diego had several chances and appeared to be carrying momentum as well as another power-play opportunity but Tuscon were able to kill it off and caught the Gulls short on the back-end to score another outnumbered-attack marker, re-extending their lead to three.
Desperate to get the comeback push, San Diego again came out with numbers and speed. After a few shifts with some great opportunities, it was the kid line - led by Steel winning a puck battle and getting a puck in front to Terry whose shot ricocheted to Megna at the point where the Gulls’ captain walked in an slammed home their second goal of the night.
With five minutes left, San Diego kept the pressure on, running shift after shift in the Tuscon zone. At the 3:05 mark Mahura had a clear shooting lane with traffic in front. The rebound sat neatly for Corey Tropp, who put a backhand on and then collected the rebound from that and swiped it home to make it 4-3.
Then Sustr gave the puck up from his own zone on a terrible pass and Tuscon pounced to go back ahead by two. They added an empty net marker to that and it was all over.
The comeback was fun while it lasted, but ultimately costly mistakes early earned the Gulls their fourth straight defeat.
News and Observations
Even with all of the upheaval and roster shifts, there have been a few constant combinations that Coach Eakins has managed to stay true to.
Dostie + Sideroff + Thomson: When Dostie and Sideroff are in the lineup they play their best when they are together; add Thomson to that mix and the trio have generated a good amount of scoring chances - Thomson has been the only one able to convert so far but given time to develop further chemistry I would like to see what these three can do.
Jones + Steel + Terry: It is a combination that is only two games old but Terry and Jones have had a few games more to gel already as pair. The balance of size, speed, skill and play-making ability across this line should be giving opposing teams fits, but it hasn't been wholly consistent just yet. Terry and Jones are more often than not doing something to create a chance but Steel has yet to find his rythmn - he was coming on toward the end of the most recent game so I would say watch this space-- this line is just waiting to break out.
Want to know why Jacob Larsson was called up? He still leads the team in +/- despite being with the Ducks for the Gulls’ last four games.
Sample size is still too small to get an accurate read on shooting percentage (for example, Luke Gazdic currently leads the team with 33.3%) but I do find it interesting that Jack Kopacka sits tied for third with Terry with 20% - having tallied 2 points in 3 games before going down injured.
Corey Tropp now leads the team in points with eleven while Kossila and Fiore are tied first in Power Play goals with two each.
As mentioned in the last game-wrap, San Diego is fourth in the league in Power Play percentage with 26.3 - only one other team in the Pacific is above them (Bakersfield - third with 26.8).
They sit tenth in Penalty Kill with 84.8% - the Barracudda are just above them with 85% and Colorado are 5th with 86.7%.
Not surprisingly but eerily similar to their parent club, the Gulls sit last in Power Play opportunities with 38.
Troy Terry is still hanging in there in the rookie scoring stakes - he has 9 points in 6 games and is only 4 points behind the leader. His points per game has dropped to 1.5 which is still good for tied third place.
Josh Mahura is tied for fifth in rookie scoring among blue-liners with 6 points in 9 games.
In The Net
The recent losing streak has plummeted the numbers for both Kevin Boyle and Jared Correau. Boyle has a GAA of 3.66 - putting him 44th and Correau has 4.09 - placing him 49th. Jared Correau has a (in the grand scheme of things) slightly respectable 0.900 SV% good for 26th and Boyle is sporting 0.887 which has him 39th.
Correau has jumped up in the Shots Against category. He currently sits 9th in the league having faced 240 shots through 6 games - averaging 40 shots a game. For comparison, Eric Comrie of Manitoba has also played 6 games but faced 195 shots for a slightly more normal average of 32.5 shots per game average. So what does that say about the way thing are trending? Well, much like their parent club the Gulls are giving up too many shots. This sounds like a broken record owing to the stats I kept on how many shots the Gulls faced last season vs how many games they won but here we go again...
Shot Disparity Take Two
It is getting hard to find the motivation to keep saying the same thing over and over again. The early season outcomes thus far are eerily familiar to last year and harbor some worrying signs for the season in terms of shot statistics. San Diego has been outshot 349 to 271 thus far, that’s 349 shots over 9 games, which averages out to 38.78 shots per game. You can speak to allowing only the perimeter and minimal danger shots all you like, but allowing almost 40 shots per game to fall on your goaltender is going to result in a higher percentage going in - than say - allowing 20 to 25 shots.
When your team is generating an average of 30.1 shots per game but allowing 38.78 against, you are relying far too much on your goaltender and spending too much time in your own zone.
The statistics do not lie but it is hard to place exactly what in Eakins’ system is causing the year to year disparity; San Diego for the most part are looking better than the Ducks in terms of moving the puck on the breakout and executing a speed system that emphasise quick puck movement. Potentially where they are falling down is positional play once the opponent has gained the zone. If memory serves, the goals allowed have mostly either been from broken down plays and men being open, or odd-men rushes due to defense men activating too quickly.
One final point: of the three San Diego wins thus far - two have come with them scoring first. The sample size is too small to tell a tale just yet but it could indicate that this year’s team isn’t quite as good at coming from behind as in years past.
It’s military appreciation weekend! With a home-stand with the new-comer Colorado Eagles - the Eagles sit 3rd overall in the Pacific with 6 wins in 10 games and are lead by the undrafted Andrew Agozzino. They also feature Martin Kaut - the guy I picked that the Ducks might have selected in this past year’s draft. He currently has 5 points in 10 games as a rookie.
Fri, Nov 9: 7pm vs Colorado Eagles - get a free Camo Hat!
Sat, Nov 10: 7pm vs Colorado Eagles - Gulls rocking specialty Camo Jerseys.