Apologies! Due to the trade deadline and other life matters I have been out of touch and thus this update has been long delayed. I am so very very sorry. Since we last checked in the Gulls were riding a 6 game win streak on the back of some extremely good play from youngster Kevin Boyle even whilst the roster was seeing a lot of veteran names depart. Since that time they extended that win streak to a total of 8 games before finally ending it with a loss to the friendly neighborhood Reign in Ontario. They then dropped another to the Heat before picking up two more wins but then blew a 3 goal lead on the road in Stockton and then played like nobody cared much for their job against the 3rd worst team in the league. The lack of composure in the recent losses is slightly alarming and does point to a lessened veteran presence potentially affecting morale but overall the Gulls are still in a good position heading into the playoffs with 7 of their 16 remaining games at home.
San Diego Gulls 6 - Bakersfield Condors 0
Riding a six game win streak but also taking the ice for their first game without Rasmussen and newly recalled Marcus Pettersson the Gulls put any doubts to rest by storming out to a 3-0 lead through the first 30 minutes. It was seemingly one of those games where they could do no wrong, every puck on net gave netminder Brossoit fits and even when Mike Liambas was ejected just under 3 minutes into the game - San Diego managed to score a short handed goal during the 5 minute major penalty kill. San Diego got goals from Fehr, Carrick and Hults through the first period. Scott Sabourin - getting his first taste of action in 8 games wasted no time in dropping the gloves just over 2 minutes into the game and netted a goal almost 6 minutes into the middle frame for the 4-0 lead. Carrick got his 2nd less than a minute into the 3rd before Nic Kerdiles finished it off with this 10th on the season just past the midway point of the final frame. Kevin Boyle took first star once again, with the shutout, stopping 37 of 37 shots. The kid now has a 0.97 SV% in his last 4 starts. The Gulls also killed an additional 4 penalties - increasing their streak to 25 straight, one short of the club record and moved within 2 points of first place in the Pacific with the win.
Oh yeah, special mention. Yours truly was given a shout-out during the broadcast for this game because of this tweet.
The Condors with a Duck connection, Ty Loney, son of OG Duck Captain Troy Loney https://t.co/H0FPVqghCc @619sports @SDGullsAHL— Bat Country Clothing (@BatCountryCloth) February 15, 2018
San Diego Gulls 5 - Ontario Reign 2
Riding a high from the 6 goal shutout win the Gulls went straight back to work against the Reign. Getting 3 goals off 13 shots past Reign netminder Jack Campbell through the first period. Tallies were from Carrick, Fiore (netfront clean-up rebounds from the left side ) and Keaton Thompson (wrister from the top of the left circle). Andy Welinski made it 4-0 less than 5 minutes into the middle frame before the visitors decided to get back into it, putting 2 through Kevin Boyle 4 minutes apart after the midway point of the game. Eric Fehr put it out of reach with 3 seconds left in the middle frame.
San Diego Gulls 2 - Ontario Reign 5
In the second game of a back to back the Gulls were unable to match the intensity brought by the Reign in their home building. Tapping into the parent-club rivalry and determined to best San Diego and end their win streak the Reign did just that, unleashing in the middle frame for 3 goals on 16 shots. Reto Berra played a strong game but could not be expected to stop 39 shots - a disturbing stat that the Gulls win streak had managed to cover - shot totals against had been regularly in the post 35 range during that span. Hults and Olesky scored for the Gulls during the third.
San Diego Gulls 2 - Stockton Heat 4
In the first game without the departed Eric Fehr (traded by the Leafs to the Sharks just before the deadline) the Gulls appeared a tad shell shocked and when they fell behind early 2 goals the lack of reliable talisman was evident. Alex Dostie brought them back within one a minute after the 2nd Heat tally but Stockton regained the two goal buffer less than four minutes into the 2nd. Tropp scored his 12th less than 3 minutes into the third but it was too little too late. With his 12th on the year and a short handed tally - Tropp became the all time Gulls goal scoring leader.
San Diego Gulls 3 - San Antonio Rampage 0
In the first game post deadline and determined to get their playoff campaign back on track the Gulls played a determined and well executed performance at home. Corey Tropp started where he finished. Converting a rebound net-front on the powerplay from an Andy Welinski point shot. Kossila netted one 15 seconds into the 3rd - just as play-by-play announcer Craig Elsten was requesting an insurance goal to avoid the final-minute-upset that occured the last time these two teams met when Kalle Kossila pounced on a loose puck in the high slot and roofed it for the 2-0 lead. Kevin Roy finished the scoring 6 minutes later, taking on two Rampage defenders and threading it through all-star goaltender Ville Husso as only Kevin Roy can do. Tropp displayed textbox captaincy in this game, playing hard, punishing opposing team players and answering the bell when taken exception to. He finished the game with a Gordie Howe hat trick.
San Diego Gulls 5 - Ontario Reign 4 (OT)
Possibly the closest fought game between these two rivals thus far this season. Teams were not only deadlocked after the first period. But after the final period also, forcing extra time. San Diego were outshot in all three frames and the final total wasn't even close - 45 to 24. Reto Berra stood tall and San Diego converted on one of 3 power plays getting two goals from Andy Welinski and one each from Sam Carrick and Mike Liambas before rookie Jacob Larsson played the hero a minute and twenty seconds into OT. Carricks goal was as a result of seamless chemistry between his linemates and the hardwork from Kevin Roy in the corner. Larsson’s OT winner was a beauty one-timer from the right circle from a cross-the crease pass from Carrick.
San Diego Gulls 4 - Stockton Heat 5 (OT)
A game with vital standings implications (a Gulls win meant a division lead, a loss meant dropping back to 4th) saw the Gulls start with a 3 goal lead in a building that has thus far this season been their voodoo curse. With goals from Roy, Welinski and Fiore all before the 12 minute mark it seemed the Gulls could slate this if they kept up their play for the full 60 minutes. But alas Stockton fought back, scoring 2 before the first ended. San Diego got one back 3 minutes into the 2nd frame on another from Giovannie Fiore on his team-leading 15th but Stockton fought back again 7 minutes later. Then without their newly anointed veteran presence leader Tropp because of a game misconduct given earlier in the game the collapse came when the Heat tied it less than 8 minutes into the 3rd. OT could not produce a hero this time so it was the skills competition that sealed the Gulls fate as only Fiore was on point whilst Boyle was unable to stop Hunter Shinkaruk in the sudden-death rounds. A demoralising loss but perhaps a portent for what was to come..
San Diego Gulls 1 - Cleveland Monsters 2 (OT)
You would think blowing a 3 goal lead in a must win game to a division rival would light at least a moderate sized campfire under the cloaca of our feathered friends but apparently playing terrible hockey against the leagues 3rd to worst team is what the Gulls felt like doing and do that they did. Once again the Gulls allowed an opponent to get 30+ shots and despite having their full complement of roster players (Holzer had missed the last game with a suspension) managed to muster just the one goal in the 2nd from Fiore - his 16th. Jordan Schroeder (woah remember that guy?!) tied it up shorthanded (because of course) before Cameron Gaunce shocked Valley View Casino Center with the winner just 18 seconds into OT.
Thoughts and Observations (Using Blink 182 song titles)
I Miss You
It was inevitable and I predicted it a few months back but losing Eric Fehr still hurts. Particularly because so many other veterans have left also. With White and Rasmussen gone also - the Gulls only have Boll, Tropp and Schultz to look to in terms of lengthy NHL experience and leadership. So far only Tropp seems to be the one keeping things in line - if he can actually stay in the game that is...
Problem is - Corey Tropp stands up for his teammates so much that he sometimes gets tossed from a game before its even 20 minutes old as was the case in the loss to the Stockton Heat. I have no doubt in my mind that had Tropp stayed in that game the Gulls would have maintained their composure and momentum to take that game. Which may have also resulted in a positive result for the recent baffling and embarrassing loss to the Monsters.
That said - and it has been said several times on the broadcast lately; Tropp - what with him now being the all time Gulls scoring leader - should be made Captain. I had questioned on a previous MOTF why the Gulls did not have one and feedback suggested it was as I had surmised - that perhaps due to the transient nature of the league it was not feasible. But now that the team has been established a good 2-3 years and the Ducks prospect pipeline is well established, the veterans committed to the team are clearly Tropp and Schultz with the former displaying all of the right qualities of a captain this season. It’s time. Give the man the C. Tropp the letter on that jersey.
Despite being called up for a few days and missing action with the Gulls for one game Kalle Kossila is still leading the team in scoring with 41 points in 39 games. He is the only player with a positive PPG with 1.05, he also unsurprisingly leads the team in assists with 27. He is 34th overall in scoring but only 6 points shy of the top 10. He is 2nd on the team in goals behind the recently hot rookie Fiore.
A New Hope
With 3 goals in his last 2 games Giovanni Fiore is starting to catch fire again, just as the Gulls need him to. The first year pro out of Laval now leads the team in goals with 16 and is 13th in rookie goal scoring, 8 goals short of the leader. He is finding sustained chemistry with consistent play on the “rookie” line with Mitch Hults and Alexi Dostie as coach Dallas Eakins has been forced to make changes to his bottom six with the sudden departure of Fehr.
Stay Together For The Kids
Now that the trade deadline has passed and barring injury there is likely minimal to no roster change, coach Eakins has finally been able to settle on 4 consistent lines.
Kerdiles - Kossila - Tropp
Provided Tropp doesnt get tossed partway into the game or Kerdiles doesnt go down with some freakish injury; this line has been and is still mostly money.
Blandisi - Carrick - Roy
Should be renamed the Breaking Bad line because it’s all speed and chemistry. These three have been together long enough now that they could surpass the Kossila line as the most threatening; almost all of their goals are as a result of Roy drawing the defence then flicking to a speeding Blandisi who then finds Carrick in space. Fuck yeah science!
Dostie - Hults - Fiore
Ah to be young. The rookie line makes up for inexperience with relentless pressure; forcing opponents into turnovers down-low and capitalizing on mistakes. Their drawback is - again - a lack of experience - in protecting the puck in their own zone.
Liambas/Boll - Nattinen/Sabourin - Sideroff
RIP the “NHL” line, with just Boll remaining the 4th line has now become the “spare parts” line, featuring players on the cusp of the line-up due to largely inconsistent play. Sideroff has been strong mostly all season but is a victim of the way the cards have fallen since the return of Hults and Dostie from the Grizzlies. Nattinen was showing signs of improvement but may have been affected by all of the recent roster upheaval.
As noted in MOTFs earlier this season, the Gulls are going to get a lot of very talented Black Aces to finish this season. Even without getting Sam Steel and Josh Mahura until at least May 27th due to Regina hosting the Memorial Cup, they could see the likes of Max Jones (2nd appearance and last season he stole the show), Jack Kopacka, Tyler Soy (87 points in 62 games currently) as well as most excitingly - the Ducks two most recent 2nd round draft picks. Maxime Comtois (76 points 50 games currently) and Antoine Morand (71 points 61 games currently) .
Its the start of the final stretch - with a visit to the Reign before heading to Bakersfield in the same weekend. Then heading home to face San Antonio, Milwaukee and Bakersfield.