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Meanwhile On The Farm: S2 Ep2 - It Will Come

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The Gulls have yet to get a win but their play has been slowly getting better.

Simon Benoit (5) celebrates a goal over the Ontario Reign.
San Diego Gulls

Welcome to Episode Two of Meanwhile On The Farm for the 2019-2020 season. This might sound familiar but.... I still don’t have any good news.

The game recaps are as follows:

Game 4: San Diego Gulls vs Stockton Heat

Game 5: San Diego Gulls vs Ontario Reign

Game 6: San Diego Gulls @ Ontario Reign

Redeploying the D

The Gulls are now 0-6 to start the season and have been outscored a league-worst 26 to 10. This has resulted in Anaheim attempting to outsource some help for the under-performing San Diego blue-line. Over the last week they have signed veteran defender Luca Sbisa and placed him on waivers with a view to assigning him to the Gulls but the injury ravaged Winnipeg Jets snapped him up before they could do so.

On their second attempt to provide support, they acquired the right shooting Ryan Johnston from the Toronto Marlies for future considerations. Don’t get hung up on that last part; the Sudbury, Ontario native has yet to see a game with the Marlies this season so this is more like a loan. He has seen time in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens, playing ten total games over two seasons and going scoreless. He has also seen time with the former Montreal affiliate - St John’s IceCaps - playing in a total 87 games over two seasons and scoring 30 points over that span. He spent the last two seasons in Sweden split between Lulea HF and Mora IK, scoring 33 points in 86 games.

As pointed out to me on Twitter by Samantha Potter, this gives the Gulls five right-shooting defenders, with three on the left side. A stark contrast to the parent clubs imbalance of left-shooters to those who can shoot right.

Pairings and extras now look like:

Guhle - Drew

Benoit - Moldenhauer/Johnston

Sieloff - Wideman

* Hakanpaa, Johnston

One has to think that Ducks’ GM Bob Murray will eventually find his coveted righty (if the Gudbranson reclamation project does not work out) by seasons end. But while on the subject of defense...

Swapping youngsters

Josh Mahura was called up this week and impressed in his season debut, netting three assists in a single period. Going back the other way was Brendan Guhle in a move that puzzled many in the Ducks fandom. Comments made by both Eakins and Murray suggest that the move is only temporary and to allow the Edmonton native to get either some conditioning or some confidence or both. Curiously additional comments reported in the most recent Eric Stephens article hinted at a concern for how many injuries he has had in his short time with the Anaheim organization so far. Watch this space.

Moving forward

As poor a start as the Gulls have had, they have - at least by my eyes - been improving game by game. The most recent narrow loss to the Reign highlights that. You can see a lot more cohesion between line-mates and defensive partners, breakouts are still an area of concern (as it seems opposing teams are targeting the Gulls’ lack of depth for puck moving defenders) but when they do happen, they are getting quicker. The Power Play has looked great in the last two games; all it is lacking is that final pass or shot. Zone entries, setups and puck movement has been much much better overall. But the most positive improvement has been the offense. San Diego has scored twice in each of their last two games, compared to putting a one-spot on opponents for three of their first six games. No single player is leading the way in that regard but rather each line seems to be slowly developing shift by shift. If I had to identify one player whose game has stood out the most to me of late it would be Antoine Morand.

Pleasant surprises

Morand has looked like he has gotten better with every game he has played since making his debut in the Gulls’ second game of the season against the Barracuda; he has points in each of the last two games including his first professional goal and although the AHL does not have advanced statistics - it is clear that he drives play whenever he is on the ice.

Additionally I wanted to note that Scott Moldenhauer has really impressed me. I had initially written him off as spending another year in the ECHL but he made the Gulls out of camp and has earned a spot in the line-up in three of San Diego’s last four games, including a back to back against the Reign in which veterans Hakanpaa and Sieloff were scratched to make room for him. He has been solid in his own end and looked good on each pairing he has been on (he has had three different partners thus far: Sieloff, Benoit and most recently Mahura).

Be patient

As the title of this episode suggests, the scoring and the wins will come. It is only a matter of time now and this team is finally starting to jell. Looking over the leader-board the usual suspects are slowly easing their way back to the top - Sam Carrick is now tied for the team lead in points with four. Chris Wideman has power play goals in his last two games to indicate he could be the Andy Welinski replacement the Gulls desperately need. Andrew Poturalski had two assists in his last game to bring him up to three points on the year. The only concern now is those who need to follow suit.

M.I.A

I feel bad about continuing to bag on him but he really should be dominating this league much like he did when he played in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. So far Daniel Sprong has two points in six games. His one goal scored off a breakaway after camping by the opposing teams blueline for almost an entire shift (he had a breakaway moments before this one off of a beautiful feed from Morand but was stopped). He looks uninterested most of the time and the only good thing I have to say about his play of late is he actually visibly backchecked twice in the last game - he took a penalty for one of those instances but hey, at least he tried. (Editor’s note: He scored in the game Nov. 1 against Colorado.)

Blake Pietela had a hat-trick in the Gulls’ first preseason game but has just the one point in six games so far, a lonely number that he shares with Chase De Leo and Justin Kloos - who should be putting up more also.

Isac Lundestrom looked great in his first two games but has faded to the background of late, he also has just the one point but in four games.

Onto lighter matters...

The Gulls’ social and marketing game has been outstanding so far this season. If you need evidence of that, check out this video of Hunter Drew and Scott Moldenhauer being treated to a Haunted House encounter.

Next Up

It’s military appreciation weekend as the Gull host the Colorado Eagles tonight and Saturday night at 7pm.