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Meanwhile On The Farm: The Final Stretch

The Gulls have 28 games left to solidify their position

NHL: Preseason-Arizona Coyotes at Anaheim Ducks Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to another addition of MOTF! In the weeks since our last update the Gulls lost two 1-goal decisions to the then-floundering Barracuda before venturing north to Bakersfield and escaping with 4 vital standings points. The power play has continued to slip back down to earth while even strength scoring has been a problem of late. Areas that the Gulls will need to turn around if they hope to find themselves in a playoff position come April.

San Diego Gulls 2 - San Jose Barracuda 3

In a game where San Diego did not seem to have the mental preparation set before opening face-off the Sharks farm club thoroughly dominated in all areas. In all they out-shot the Gulls 46 to 29 - San Diego only redeeming themselves and switching momentum ever so slightly in the middle frame by splitting the total shot count. They went 1 for 5 with the man advantage but did manage to kill all 3 penalties they faced. Trailing 2-0 heading into the third Kevin Roy did manage to bring the sell-out home crowd back into it by providing goals within a few minutes of each-other but in a cruel comedy of errors the Sharks pounced on a turnover just 14 seconds after the tying goal to go back ahead. San Diego did appear to tie it later in the 3rd but an accidental quick whistle by the official on an unreviewable play meant the Gulls lost a chance at valuable standing points. It was a devastating twist that left a bitter taste but ultimately a position the Gulls should not have placed themselves in.

San Diego Gulls 1 - San Jose Barracuda 2

Another tight-checking affair that got the better of the Gulls. San Jose kept the Anaheim affiliate to just 1 goal despite putting up 29 shots. San Diego on the other hand tightened up also - allowing 33 shots, 13 less than night before. Boyle was strong in the loss with a 2.07 GA and 93.9 SV%. In what essentially amounted to a goal-tending duel the victor was the upstart Antoine Bibeau (whose name kept making me think of terrible social media platforms of the past). Taking too many penalties was ultimately the Gulls undoing, they surrendered the eventual game winning goal on the Barracudas 4th power-play (they got 5 total). The Gulls on the other-hand were shut out on all three of their chances with the man advantage. Dennis Rasmussen had the Gulls only goal on a backhand wrap-around, Kerdiles was initially given the goal but it was later changed to Rasmussen.

San Diego Gulls 3 - Bakersfield Condors 2 (Shoot Out)

In a must win game on the road the Gulls stormed into Bakersfield and put up 2 goals in the first despite getting out shot 7-9. Corey Tropp got his 10th on the year and Nic Kerdiles his 7th before Bakersfield pulled one back with 6 minutes left in the opening frame. Bakersfield poured it on strong in the second period but Reto Berra stopped all 10 shots faced - and despite the Gulls out-shooting Bakersfield 10-9 in the final 20 minutes he gave up the game-tying goal with less than 2 minutes left. To make matters worse - it was a shorthanded goal. With a shootout required to decide things the Gulls sent-forth Roy, Kossila and Nattinen to start. Only Kossila converted while the Barracuda converted with their first shooter, tie game. In the sudden death rounds Fiore converted with the 4th shot but Berra could not stop the Condors, the 5th round was a miss-miss but then Nic Kerdiles emerged the hero in the 6th round and Berra was able to stop his counterpart for the win. It should be mentioned that noted warrior Corey Tropp took a puck to the face and only missed one shift. San Diego were again shut out on the powerplay for the second straight game.

San Diego Gulls 4 - Bakersfield Condors 2

Knowing that Bakersfield would be desperate the Gulls came out the hunter, peppering the Condors starter with 14 shots and converting on 3 of them. Ryan White, Giovannie Fiore and Eric Fehr had the opening frame tallies. All three goals were as a result of net-front passes and poor coverage from the Bakersfield defense. Bakersfield got one back in the second before Nic Kerdiles regained the 3 goal cushion early in the 3rd - converting a rebound on a drive-by from the right side. The Gulls were given only one power play opportunity but again did not score. On the bright-side they won the even strength battle but the man-advantage is in absolute free-fall right now. Boyle again played a strong game with 34 saves on 36 shots for a 94.4 SV%.

Thoughts And Observations:

We Need To Talk About Kevin

Just as Reto Berra appears to be faltering the 25 year old New Jersey native is coming on strong. He is 4-2 in his last 6 games with a 2.675 GAA and 92.6 SV%, he is now at a slightly more respectable 3.09 GAA and .905 SV% for the season thus far. He sits 27th overall in the league for save percentage and is now 5th among rookies. With the recent recall of Berra he now has full control of the starter position until Berra’s return.

Hey Now Your An All-Star

Andy Welinski represented the Gulls at the All Star Classic over this past weekend. The second year defender jumped on a flight to Utica directly after the Gulls second win over Bakersfield. He participated in the Hardest Shot (7th) competition and the Fastest Skater (3rd) and scored for the Pacific Division in their win over the Atlantic.

The Curse Of K-Roy?

As noted in the game recaps - the Power Play has been.. in need of “Depends” for its nocturnal rest activities for want of a better analogy. The Gulls have converted just once on their last eight opportunities over the last 4 game stretch and their cold run dates back to January 10th against the Wolves where they were shut-out for the first time since their unbelievable run. Since that game they have gone 2 for 25 - that is just 8%. Ice cold. Ironically the only difference in the line-up between then and now is the re-addition of Kevin Roy to the team. This goes completely against my self-annointed nickname for him as being an offense lubricant, but I am sure he is not the main cause...

Meanwhile On The... Back Paddock?

Since the last update Mitch Hults joined Austin Ortega on the Utah Grizzlies in a move that surprised some but in the grand scale of things - makes some sense given both first year pros are likely still adjusting to the heavier schedule as compared to college. The likes of Sideroff, Dostie and Nattinen were exposed to a tougher grind in the CHL. Since their respective reassignments - Ortega has 14 points in 13 games with a -12 and Hults has 4 points in 3 games with a -1. Ortega has 8 goals which is great but when matched with his +/- may or may not be proving his penchant for a lack of defensive conscious is still a matter of concern. Hults meanwhile has taken just 3 games to pass the +1 points per game threshold. He will be back when the next Gulls injury strikes.

Update: The morning after I schedule this to post I see that Mike Liambas has been reassigned and so Alex Dostie has been dropped to the Grizzlies. Hults and Dostie will likely fight it out for the right to be recalled first.

Scratches In All Positions Now

Despite dropping Hults the Gulls are still having to rotate players in and out of the line-up to ensure shared game time. It did make more sense to give Hults the kind of ice time he needs in the ECHL rather than languish in the press box - at the moment that appears to be Scott Sabourins current position. The Orleans, Ontario native has not played since the 15th of January and has just 5 points on the season in 26 games played. Joseph Blandisi and Julius Nattinen appear to be the two forwards currently being interchanged between back to backs (Either that or Blandisi is injured but I cannot find anything on that). Blandisi played in the two San Jose losses and Nattinen played in the two Bakersfield wins with the rest of the forward core remaining the same. On the blue line - the return from injury of Steve Olesky and Nick Shultz’s return from the Spengler Cup has meant San Diego now has a completely healthy and full strength defense core. As a result it appears Brian Cooper, Keaton Thompson and Nick Shultz are taking turns in the press box, while veteran Stu Bickel has not played since mid November. Look for Cooper to likely get dropped to the Grizzlies, potentially followed by Thompson to ensure they both stay game-ready should the injury bug hit again.

Update: Again with the very recent news of Dostie being dropped - I still believe the Gulls send one or two of their excess blue-liners down next.

How Best To Proceed

The Gulls are currently 5th equal in a division where one win can catapult a team to 2nd place and a loss can drop playoff hopes to the cellar. San Diego needs to start stringing wins together and particularly against division foes. For the coming stretch run they face division rivals 22 out of their final 28 games. They face Bakersfield 5 of those games and San Jose 3 - both teams are worse than the Gulls in the standings right now but that does not say much with how tight the division is. The rival Reign have been streaking of late - riding a 3 game win streak; as per usual if the Gulls wish to move forward they will need to go through Ontario. They face the Reign 6 more times before seasons end. Of possibly greatest concern is their final 4 encounters with the division leading Tuscon Road-Runners. The Coyotes affiliate dropped their last game but have been a seemingly unstoppable force since Arizona reassigned the majority of their high draft picks for the stretch-run.

Next Up!

Its a home clash with the aforementioned Tuscon Road Runners for Pink In The Rink Night!

Followed by a date with the visiting Iowa Wild and another weekend away in San Jose.