Welcome back to another addition of Meanwhile On The Farm! Finally, I can bring you good news! Last time we talked, the Gulls had dropped their sixth straight against the rival Ontario Reign and were still without a win on the season. That was October and I had suggested that their play was trending upwards in my last update.
For the month of November the Gulls have gone on a 7-1-0 tear, scoring 41 goals over that span. They had totaled just 10 in the six games before that.
Game Recaps are as follows:
Game 11: San Diego Gulls @ Stockton Heat*
*I ran out of time to do a recap for the Stockton game, it was played during work hours for me and the Gulls lost so I didnt make it a high priority to watch.
Setting the Record Straight
Nestled among those seven wins was a 9-3 drubbing of the San Jose Barracuda at home. A game where not only did San Diego finally get treated to their first home hat-trick in their AHL existence thanks to Captain Sam Carrick, they also set a franchise record for most goals in a game with nine. Patrick Sieloff was so close to making it ten but could not connect on a loose puck in the dying seconds. Oh yeah, they also have seven short-handed goals in six games this month, including two in one game. They have three players tied for second place in short-handed goals in league scoring - Alex Broadhurst, Sam Carrick and Justin Kloos.
Leading the Way
Captain Sam Carrick has been a huge part of the turn around. Currently tied for the team-lead in points with 14 in 14 games, he has 10 in eight games in November including two power play goals and three game-winning goals.
A Wild Wideman Appeared
Chris Wideman was signed as a depth defenceman and veteran presence on the blueline that was meant as a replacement for the departed former captain Jaycob Megna. But the St. Louis native has more than embraced the San Diego community, setting up a charity called “Wideman’s Warriors” and is quickly becoming a fan favorite. Even if he had been average on the ice I am sure he would still be counted as one of the most liked players this year.
But he has not been just average. Wideman now co-leads the team in scoring and also co-leads the league in scoring by defenders. He had back to back three point games and currently has nine points in his last four games.
It hasn’t all been Carrick and Wideman. The rest of the team are slowly winding into form. Kiefer Sherwood has remained his consistently efficacious self; he is third on the team in scoring with 13 points in fourteen games. Justin Kloos is fourth with 11 points and riding a four points in three games streak. Daniel Sprong has also picked it up of late, with a point in four straight games and is fifth on the team with 10 points.
Rounding out with the Rookies
This year’s crop of rookies may not be as explosive as last years class of Troy Terry, Sam Steel and Max Jones, but they are holding their own and contributing to the team’s recent run of success. Antoine Morand leads them in scoring with five points in 13 games. Max Comtois is a close second with four points in his current four game run. Hunter Drew has factored in from the blueline with three points in 14 games, including two goals and a goal celebration that I had to rewind and watch multiple times. Morand in particular has been getting better with each game. It may not show on the scoresheet just yet but he is consistently great at driving play and his work-rate reminds me a lot of Ondrej Kase; the kid does not quit.
Max Comtois has also demonstrated some NHL-class physicality and the familiar edge to his game that often leads to opponents retaliating to a devastatingly hard but clean hit.
Recalls, Injuries and Lineup Changes
Since the last update the Gulls received Brendan Guhle while losing Josh Mahura to recall. Guhle saw four games with San Diego - totaling four points, before being sent back up to the Ducks to join Mahura.
In response, San Diego finally inserted Ryan Johnston into the line-up, the former undrafted Montreal signing who had been acquired from the Marlies for future considerations at the end of October. He has just the one point in four games thus far but I thought he looked very good – at least much better than my expectations (brought on by our own Felix Sicard) had placed him. He reminds me a lot of Trevor Murphy in that he is smallish but loves to rush the puck, something the Gulls sorely missed once both Mahura and Guhle were sent up. However he was missing from the last game at home against the Reign and (the recalled from the ECHL) Steven Ruggiero took his place in the line-up. I can only assume he is injured and given Scott Moldenhauer has not been in the line-up since the Gulls 3-1 win in San Jose, he must be also.
Andrew Poturalksi is still out injured and is likely not due back until after Christmas.
One other possible injury concern relates to the fact that Kiefer Sherwood had to be helped off the ice in the most recent win over the Ontario Reign. He fell as he was speeding with the puck toward the vacated empty net in the final three minutes of the game and collided with it. His knee was the principal point of contact. Here is hoping it is just a minor bump. The only positive I can take from it is he appeared to hit it side on, not front on.
Although the defensive corps are in a slight state of flux, Kevin Dineen has kept his forward lines in a consistent state for the most recent run of wins, only making one minor adjustment when Max Comtois was assigned.
UPDATE: Steven Rugierro has been returned to Tulsa, so either Moldenhauer or Johnston must be returning to the line-up.
Lines are currently as follows:
De Leo - Carrick - Sherwood
Comtois - Lundestrom - Kloos
Pietila - Broadhurst - Sprong
Kopacka - Dostie - Morand
If Comtois is to be recalled - Morand would swap back to the first line and De Leo would come down to be re-united with Kloos. If Sprong is recalled (as some have speculated), I am guessing the lines remain intact and Sideroff (currently recalled from the ECHL as injury cover) gets placed in his spot.
The Gulls are slowly climbing back into contention in the Pacific: they currently sit second from last with 14 points but are just four points behind the third placed Ontario Reign. San Diego can overtake Bakersfield and Colorado with two more wins and jump into fourth place. Tuscon and Stockton are currently in a dog-fight for the division lead with 22 and 21 points respectively.
The Gulls have four games left to round out the month of November starting with a home game this weekend against the Stockton Heat (Flames), a Wednesday night affair with San Jose Barracuda (Sharks), then back into the Inland Empire to take on the Reign again the following Friday before coming home to face the Tucson Roadrunners for the first time (?!) this season on the Saturday.