Six game win streak, count em! It has been a fruitful few weeks for San Diego - stringing together another four wins, all but one of which were by 3 goal margins. Whilst their parent club have watched much-needed points slip from their grasp, the Gulls have quietly built themselves a tidy points streak to sit 2nd overall in the Pacific Division and in a playoff spot.
But let me preclude this celebration with a tentative addendum of potential caution, there have been some roster changes that mean an adjusted roster will take the ice for their next game - but this humble Gulls writer does not think it will affect their current momentum.
Without further adieu.
San Diego Gulls 4 - Tuscon Road Runners 1
The ultimate test for San Diego coming out of their two game snatch from Bakersfield, the Gulls came home hoping to test their mettle against the division leaders. Looking fierce in Pink for Pink In The Rink night, they dominated the first - playing almost the perfect period until Tuscon capitalised on an odd man-rush after a Gulls power-play had ended to take the lead into the first break. San Diego did not panic, keeping up the pressure in the 2nd and tying it on a custom Kossila “shot from the slot” off a nice dish from Kerdiles. Corey Tropp took the lead with a tip on a Welinski power-play point shot 8 minutes later. The third remained a stalemate - with the Road Runners peppering Boyle with 13 shots to the Gulls 9 until they pulled goaltender Miska Hunter in the final 2 minutes. It should be noted that San Diego - much like their parent club created their own adversity by having to kill a 4 on 3 and then a 5 on 4, while also losing veteran Eric Fehr to a game misconduct. Thankfully Kalle Kossila was able to intercept a pass near his blueline and hit the empty net for the 2 goal cushion, then less than a minute later Sam Carrick did the same to finish it off. Kossila and Kerdiles were first and second star with 2 goals and 2 assists apiece but Boyle was the difference in the 2nd and 3rd periods to earn the win and 3rd star.
San Diego Gulls 5 - Iowa Wild 1
In a game that might be remembered by seasons end as “Stick Gate” for reasons that will be made clear by the end of this recap, the Gulls played an almost opposite game to their more recent encounter with Tuscon. Getting out-shot by the Wild 13 to 6 in the opening frame they took a 2 - 1 lead into the first intermission thanks to goals from Kossila and Blandisi, Kossila from his usual spot hunting for pucks between the circles and Blandisi off a sick tip from a newly recalled Mitch Hults slap shot. With Kerdiles recalled to the Ducks - Fiore found himself on the top line with Tropp and Kossila whilst Hults slotted back in on the 4th line with Sideroff and returned from Ducks/Injury Mike Liambas. San Diego poured it on in the middle frame, out-shooting the visitors 14 to 6 but both goaltenders stood tall and the score remained 2-1 Gulls heading into the 3rd. Just as in their previous game the Gulls found themselves fighting an uphill battle in the final frame, facing a 14 to 6 shot disparity and just as in that game, Kevin Boyle was the difference. Turning aside all 14 shots while the Gulls capitalised on 3 of theirs through goals from Megna (Yea Boiiiii), Fiore and an empty netter from Olesky. Right after the Fiore goal the Wild goaltender decided to test the strength of his stick against the iron posts, proving that it took 3-4 whacks to break it. Goaltenders gone wild. Several other Wild sticks would also be sacrificed to goal posts and/or the boards/glass before games end, resulting in a misconduct to one player in the process (who for some reason thought the empty net goal should not have counted). Kevin Boyle was rightfully named 1st star, stopping 32 of 33 shots.
hey guy it's not the net's fault pic.twitter.com/dy6davVGm5— San Diego Gulls (@SDGullsAHL) February 7, 2018
San Diego Gulls 3 - San Jose Barracuda 2 (OT)
Riding a four game win streak but entering a building that has not been so kind, it seemed like the script might remain the same when the baby sharks lead 2-0 after 2 periods. I was about to chalk this one up to another of those damn sneaky matinee game-times that the Barracuda are-used-to but other-teams-are-not type of losses when the Gulls suddenly exploded in the final frame for two goals to even things up by end of regulation. What do you do when you need offense? Use some K-Roy to loosen up the defense of course! Kevin Roy got the Gulls back in it off a fake-shot wrister rush down the left side. Eric Fehr got the game tying goal, tidying up a rebound in front less than a minute later. As seems to be the norm - the Gulls had to face adversity to steal the extra point, killing an almost 2 minute 4 on 3 to start OT. Again Boyle was the difference and as the penalty expired Dennis Rasmussen broke in with Eric Fehr, looking him off and going to top shelf for the come back win.
San Diego Gulls 4 - San Jose Barracuda 1
In an another odd-time-of-day game, the Gulls kept their momentum rolling with a convincing 2 goal per period split. Reto Berra, playing his first game since a brief call up, kept the baby sharks to just the one tally, a 24 seconds in score that could have potentially spelt doom but San Diego kept their composure and tied it with less than 4 minutes left in the first from a Kerdiles tip off a (guess who) Welinski point shot. Then Kalle Kossila showed off some moves by entering the zone burning past his cover and driving by the San Jose net to sneak one five hole with ten seconds left in the first period.
Then it was the veterans turn to show some skill, a nice give and go between Steve Olesky and Dennis Rasmussen resulted in a 3-1 lead just over 6 minutes into the second before Eric Fehr finished the scoring with his 15th with less than 3 minutes left in the middle frame, another give and go play, this time with Roy.
Thoughts and Observations
Comings and goings, well mostly goings
In the last two weeks the Gulls have seen the departures of two veteran players, the call-up then reassignment of two and the recent call-up of another. This is going to get complicated so bare with me. Mike Liambas was assigned on the 2nd of Feb, the Gulls subsequently had to drop Alex Dostie to Utah to free space. On the 6th Nic Kerdiles was recalled to the Ducks, freeing up a roster spot, which the Gull used to recall Mitch Hults. On the 9th they released Ryan White from his PTO, freeing up another roster spot. This was filled by the reassigned Nic Kerdiles. Berra came back also but the Gulls had been carrying 3 goaltenders already so that seems par-for-the-course. Then Dennis Rasmussen, who appeared to be embracing his role with the Gulls, was put on waivers for contract termination. While Marcus Pettersson earned a call-up in a move that hopefully rejuvenates the ailing and out-of-ideas Ducks defense. This resulted in Dostie being called back up. So as it stands today, only Austin Ortega, Angus Redmond, and Zach Saar (shit I forgot about that guy) are the only Gulls with the Grizzlies
Fare thee well Whitey and Moose
I feel kind of bad for White, he gave his heart and soul for the team and helped get the Gulls back into some semblance of a team before both clubs got healthy again. I also admit that I questioned in a previous piece why he was kept around given that Ducks prospects were now enjoying less ice time and development. Good luck Ryan, I hope you can help another team as you did the Gulls. As for Rasmussen, bit of a shitty situation for him. He had to think he was jumping ship from the cap-hell Hawks to the new hottness contender Ducks whilst still getting a paycheck but ended up a victim of Bargain Bobs annual free agency foray of veteran backup plan reclamation projects. God speed Moose, I hope you get that title in Sweden.
So how do the lines look now?
The first line should remain unchanged, with Kerdiles, Kossila and Tropp.
The second - “NHL” line has now lost Rasmussen, but he could/should be replaced by Liambas.
The third “Speed” line of Blandisi, Carrick and Roy is unchanged.
While the fourth “Rookie” line can now be reunited with Sideroff, Nattinen/Dostie and Fiore.
On defence it will likely be:
Megna and Larsson
Thompson and Olesky
And now Cooper/Schultz with Welinski, at least until Holzer clears waivers.
Even with all of this upheaval, the Gulls still boast depth at both forward and defense.
Oh Hay Scotty
Scott Neidermayer was sighted at practice during the week. Perhaps he had a hand in Petterssons call up? Or was he there to scout and/or source a cure for the lackluster Ducks blue line?
Changing of the guard?
Petterssons call up has a lot of us at Anaheim Calling extremely excited. For one - because we have all been very vocal about how bad the blue line has been lately, but also because it sounds.. like.. they might.. actually be... doing something about it? We realise that Carlyle is old school and not likely to do much different from the status quo even if that means playing certain veteran players who make game deciding mistakes on a nightly basis like Saturday Night Live make Fox News jokes, but just the move to place Holzer on Waivers and call up Pettersson? Hope. It is a beautiful thing. No pressure Marcus, but it is on you to single-handedly turn the parent club around so that perhaps Megna or Larsson get a call up too. Then maybe, just maybe, we never have to see Bieska or Beauchemin on the ice again this season. Hey a guy can dream right?
So how was your trip to Utah?
Dostie had 5 points in 5 games with the Grizzlies, 2 goals in 3 assists with a -3.
While Hults had 7 points in 5 games, 2 goals and 5 assists with a -2.
Austin Ortega meanwhile has 22 points in 18 games and is a -15.
On the note of Utah - Max Jones older brother Mitch tried out with the Gulls and was assigned to the Grizzlies to start the season, he has 12 points in 45 games and is a -6. The Grizzlies are 6th in their division with a 17-23-6 record and have 176 goals against and 149 goals for, so I guess I should quit quoting +/- because their defense is clearly terrible. Speaking of terrible, Angus Redmund has a 4.07 GAA and .870 SV% through 18 games. Ouch.
Lets Go Streaking
As mentioned, the Gulls are riding a 6 game win streak. But they are not the hottest team in the AHL right now. The Toronto Marlies are riding a 15 game win streak while the Utica Comets in the same division are on a 10 game streak. The Gulls could match the Utica streak but the baby leafs are looking like the easy Calder favorites this year.
Power Play Still Tops
Despite its very sharp descent, the power play is still tops in the league at 23.7%. The Moose are still right behind at 23%. The Penalty Kill - which has been on an insane shutout streak of late is now 22nd overall at 81.%.
Kalle Killin It
Kalle Kossila has jumped out to the team lead with 36 points in 32 games. Overall he sits 30th in the league and is the only Gull currently enjoying an over point per game clip. He hasn't made a good showing of his call ups but he definitely deserves the next one.
Trade Deadline Looms
The NHL trade deadline is just two weeks away. Last season San Diego fans were spared any anxious fretting when the Ducks only acquired depth for their team in the form of Sam Carrick and Spencer Abbot. But this year will be different. The writing is on the wall that the pipeline is full and with the likes of Jones, Steel, Mahura, Kopacka and possibly Terry coming in next season it means some names will likely be moved. The Ducks currently sit in a a limbo of buyer/seller but from an organizational stand point it is clear the club needs to get some blue line help, even if in the form of a re-sign-able rental. With an excess of players for both forward and defense, any one of the Gulls could be moved.
One player who could go is veteran Eric Fehr. He leads the Gulls in goals with 15 in 31 games and is tied 3rd in points with 24. He is on loan to the Gulls so that he could showcase his talents to other NHL teams whilst getting decent ice time so the deadline is essentially his last chance to get back into the NHL, he has been a most valuable asset and it will be interesting to see if Toronto's gamble pays off (thanks again for picking up the pay check Toronto!).
Here is hoping that whatever other deals are made, both the Ducks and Gulls are able to benefit.
Kevin Roy has been noticeably fiery since his reassignment. Getting into goal front scrums, laying the body at almost every opportunity and generally seeming slightly annoyed. Not entirely sure what his deal is, whether he is unhappy with not being recalled so soon after his reassignment or just trying to emphasize his desire to get back to the big club - watch this space.
Kevin Boyle has continued his strong play, picking up star of the game honors (3rd and 1st) in two of his last 3 starts. Berra took the second game of the most recent back to back but I am pretty sure the net is Boyles right now.
A date at home with the Condors followed by a visit from the friendly neighborhood Reign, followed by a trip to Ontario the following day. This will be the last game before the deadline. The Gulls close out the month facing the Heat and Rampage.