It has been another week of uncertainty on the blue line as the Ducks continue to shuffle among Sustr, Mahura and Welinski; leaving the Gulls to work with what they have and attempt some semblance of defensive core.
San Diego Gulls vs Manitoba Moose
I have been unable to watch this game, again due to AHL TV magically not having the game on their On Demand file for some reason. But in brief summary - a visit from the Moose and very recent former Gull - Logan Shaw.
The Gulls were out-shot 13 to 6 in the first and the Moose had the lone score of the period - a tally from Shaw. San Diego came back in the second and out-shot the visitors 16 to 8, but surrendered another 3 goals - leading to Kevin Boyle getting the hook, having allowed 4 goals on 21 shots.
San Diego would continue to pour it on in the 3rd and got one back in the final minute from Luke Schenn, but they were ultimately outplayed, out-hustled and doomed by Logan Shaw’s revenge natural hat-trick.
San Diego vs Manitoba Moose
The rematch and one in which the Gulls were looking to avenge their disappointing performance from earlier in the week. They had to do it without both Mahura and Welinski, as Mahura was called up while Sustr was sent down. It was assumed Mahura was called up just in case Lindholm could not go, but as it was he ended up sitting, along with Welinski.
Kalle Kossila was also announced as being sent down but did not appear to make it in time for the game.
The game started out with a simmering tension owning to the outcome of the previous meeting, and Manitoba drew first blood scoring with just under five minutes left in the period. However, Max Jones answered less than a minute later on an individual effort, bullying his way from below the goal line to the front to tie it.
In between periods it was announced that Kevin Boyle would leave the game due to illness.
The second was full of fireworks as the slowly simmering chippiness and resentment suddenly boiled over and resulted in three separate fights within a five minute span - the most memorable of which was Logan Shaw somehow forgetting that it is never a good idea to take on Corey Tropp. Tropp one-punched him to the ice with minimal effort.
Sam Steel was involved with Marko Dano for much of the night and there was one scrum behind the Moose net that seemed to incense the young rookie. Jones, Terry and Lundestrom were also involved in another scrum on the very next shift.
Among the 72 minutes in penalty minutes handed out in the middle frame alone, a match penalty was given to Sam Carrick for a dangerous elbow hit to the head.
The second concluded with no further scoring but plenty of promise for the third as the bitter distaste for each other was more than made evident through the first forty minutes.
The third began with much the same tone as the second - the subtle chippy and physical play, clutching and grabbing at every opportunity as well as plenty of whistles made for disjointed viewing, and when Marko Dano made a nuisance of himself by slashing Tropp in the back of the legs behind the play, Tropp made sure to get away from the ref holding him in the ensuing scrum to attempt some street justice. But Dano was too slippery and inadvertdely pile-drived Tropp as he was swinging and off balance.
Max Jones was feeling it all night - making a beautiful spinorama move as he entered the zone to shake off three Moose defenders but lost the handle at the final point of the spin.
With five minutes left and with Sideroff in the penalty box serving the roughing penalty assessed to Tropp- in addition to his game misconduct- Jo Blandisi found a loose puck near the blueline and sped up ice with Giovanni Fiore, moving on the left to create a 2 on 1 shorthanded. Blandisi looked off Fiore and fired a wrist shot short-side to take the lead.
San Diego killed off the remaining time on great team effort - particularly by Steel and Jones on the fore-check, winning puck battles and killing off one final penalty to Oleksy.
It was a gutsy win... and one that the Gulls needed for some much needed character building.
Sam Carrick was assessed a three game suspension for his match penalty assessed in the Manitoba game.
Anaheim traded Marcus Pettersson to the Penguins for Daniel Sprong, meaning that left-shooting Josh Mahura is guaranteed to stay in Anaheim at least until Cam Fowler can come back from injury.
San Diego Gulls @ San Jose Barracuda
The division leaders were always going to be a tall task (particularly in their own building), but the Gulls were riding high from their well fought victory just a few nights prior.
Jaycob Megna made his much needed return to the line-up, and the Gulls defensive core looked a tiny bit more steady without the need to ice an ECHL call-up.
San Jose took the lead early after a rush from Kyle Wood that drew the lackluster attempt at a defensive play from Andrej Sustr. Jaycob Megna tied up his man on the far side, but Max Jones - the closest forward back in support - failed to pick up Alexander True, who easily received the pass from Wood in front and put it high over Correau for the opening score just four minutes in.
The newly formed Kossila, Terry, Jones line had a golden opportunity a few minutes later, but a diving San Jose defender prevented Kossila from converting a rebound into what would have been a wide open net.
Lundestrom was centering De Leo and Fiore - taking Carrick’s spot while he was out serving a three game suspension assessed for the elbow to the head in the last game. His line and Thomson’s generated the best offensive zone pressure for the Gulls. San Diego finished the period generating 5 shots to the baby-sharks 16.
Notes on the opening frame: Sustr was bad on the first goal and almost gave up the puck for a 2nd. The Kid line was largely absent - they had two offensive zone opportunities and were invisible for the rest of the period.
Perhaps owing to the Kid Line being uncharacteristically silent - Eakins began the 2nd period by swapping Lundestrom for Kossila. The Kid line responded right away - getting a chance in front but could not convert.
Oleksy took a silly penalty on a failed hipcheck attempt that turned into a tripping call, but San Diego had no trouble killing it. Blandisi almost had his second shorthanded goal in as many games during the successful kill. The Thomson line followed that up with another good shift, but San Jose would convert again after the next TV Timeout off a broken play in which John McCarthy got to a loose puck down near the bottom of the right hash marks and threw it on net, where it deflected by Coreau.
The remainder of the 2nd period was mostly unexciting, but it should be noted that the Thomson line once again was the only one playing consistently. Every other Gull did not seem to be on the same page: passes were way off the mark, players made uncharacteristic mistakes and everyone seemed to be generally half asleep.
The third began with speed from the Kid’s line and San Diego attempting to gain some semblance of offensive pressure. San Jose was doing a very good job of clogging up passing lanes in the neutral zone and generally blocking any good entries - causing further frustration for the Gulls. It was only right that the Thomson line should be the first to get one - as Dostie took a pass from the corner, found open space and out-waited the goaltender to tuck one in for his first of the season after a Barracuda player lay prone after a collision earlier in the play.
Less than twenty seconds later after a face-off win and dump in, Joseph Blandisi intercepted a pass from the Barracuda goaltender from behind the net and swung it out to Chase De Leo for the quick conversion, and all of a sudden things were tied up.
San Diego failed to carry this momentum however, and San Jose hit back five minutes later - out muscling and winning puck battles to feed their blueline for a point shot that found its way through Coreau to retake the lead.
San Jose got another quick score five minutes later on an odd man rush, for which Oleksy seemed to be upset, and took a shot at a Barracuda player after the goal. He and the Baby-Sharks Viel were assessed matching roughing minors.
With five minutes left Eakins rolled the dice and put out four forwards with Benoit - essentially the first power play unit and then as time wound down - pulled Coreau and added a fifth forward. But San Jose won a puck battle in the neutral zone, gained the offensive zone, won a puck battle again and fed the puck to an open man in front of the empty net for the 5-2 lead in a play that pretty much summed up the Gulls’ night.
Troy Terry restarted his point streak with a snipe in front off a feed from Blandisi with a minute left but it was too little too late. Gulls fell 5-3.
Post-game: Eakins didnt mince words in calling his team “listless, soft and slow” and bag-skating them immediately after their return flight to San Diego the next day. Deservedly so.
Thoughts and Observations:
How The Pettersson Trade Affects The Gulls
With Pettersson traded to the Penguins, it means that Jacob Larsson has won the battle of the left-shooting Hampus Lindholm clones for the 3rd pairing spot on the Ducks’ blueline. It also means Josh Mahura has earned a spot as cover while Cam Fowler is out. Given Andy Welinski is still up in Anaheim also, I am assuming this means the Big Club is still deciding which of the two to give the starts to (indications from practice reports are that it is Mahura), so hopefully the Ducks send Welinski back soon and call up Sustr to sit in the press box as the spare injury cover.
Welcome Back, Megna
Megna could not have come back at a more perfect time. I can’t say for sure if the timing of his return had any effect on Murray finally pulling the trigger on the above move, but I am thankful that he waited. At least now the Gulls have AHL regulars and over-the-hill NHL veterans to work with, rather than the former with an untested ECHLer thrown in the mix.
Expect A Forward Or Two
The Pettersson trade also means an extra forward has been added to Anaheim. On the surface it looks like an obvious replacement for the oft-injured and possibly done Patrick Eaves, but it still means they will now have a healthy scratched Ben Street and now Brian Gibbons. Street was once again placed on waivers last week, so I would expect him down and he could be closely followed by potentially Kiefer Sherwood. It should also be noted that although nothing has been heard on Kevin Roy or Jack Kopacka - until something is announced we can expect either one- if not both- back at some point this season. This makes things interesting for the already deep forward ranks for the Gulls. The fourth line is always the obvious choice to start the healthy scratches, but they were by far and above the best line in the most recent loss to San Jose, and are in no way deserving of any such treatment. Eakins is going to have some tough calls on his hands in the very near future.
Meanwhile In The ECHL
Tyler Soy has gotten hot all of a sudden, and now has 11 points in 13 games. He is fifth on the Tulsa Oilers in scoring and leads the team in +/- with a +10. Amorosa and Moldenhauer have 6 points each. In Reading - Angus Redmond has had 7 starts and has a 3.37 GAA with a 0.897 Save Percentage picking up one regulation win, three regulation losses and three shoot-out losses.
Terry Leading the Way
Troy Terry now co-leads the team in scoring with 17 points and is 61st overall in the league (along with Corey Tropp). His 11-game point streak is still tops, though Cory Conacher has now tied him with an active streak. If Conacher manages to notch another point in his next contest he will overtake Terry. Troy is tied 5th overall in rookie scoring.
Standings and Special Teams Update
San Diego are unsurprisingly dead last in the Pacific in points with 18 and are tied last in points percentage with Stockton with an even .500. They along with the Condors have played the least games in the division with 18. They sit 23rd overall in the league in points percentage. On a positive note - the PowerPlay is ranked 8th at 21.5% and the Penalty Kill sits at 14th with 82.1%.
The Gulls return home to face the Tuscon Roadrunners yet again with the face-off tonight at 7pm Pacific Time. They then head out on the road for a two-game series in Colorado over the weekend.