The Gulls have just three games left in their regular season and if they win their final home game tonight against the Barracuda they can punch their ticket to the Calder Cup playoffs.
As anticipated - at the conclusion of the Ducks’ season this past Friday night, the parent club returned all players roster eligible for the Gulls to begin their 2018-2019 Calder Cup campaign. But who might the Gulls face in the first round should they make the playoffs for the third time in their four year rebooted existence? Without further ado.
Bakersfield and San Jose have both clinched, leaving San Diego, Colorado and Tucson to fight it out for the final two spots. As always - playoff positioning is confirmed by points percentage, and as of right now San Diego still holds the third spot in the Pacific, followed by Colorado and then Tucson. Colorado has played one more game than San Diego and have just two games remaining against San Jose. Given that the Gulls are four points back of the Barracuda for second place, they could conceivably still swap spots with them to gain home ice advantage in what is looking increasingly likely to be their first round series opponent. I wrote a month or so ago about how San Jose would be my preferred first round opponent for the Gulls and they still are. For that to happen the Gulls would need Colorado to win their next two games at home against the Barracuda, while the Eagles would very much like the Gulls to win their final two games against the Roadrunners. It is going to be a very tight and exciting finish, but given the recent amount of good news - we should hopefully have a more happy ending than last year. Good news you say?
The Cavalry Has Come
As noted - Anaheim have returned all non-injured roster eligible personnel to the Gulls just in time for their final three regular season games. That includes Sam Steel, Max Jones. Jacob Larsson, Andy Welinski and Jaycob Megna.
Troy Terry and Brendan Guhle are both nursing injuries so have not been returned as yet.
Now that the dust has finally settled, I had a quick jot down on paper what the Gulls line up could now look like and holy crap are they ever stacked now, even without Terry, Guhle and Roy. Dallas Eakins is going to need to make some tough calls over the coming weeks.
Here is how I imagine the line up may look for tonight against San Jose.
You could swap Gates Jr. for Berry and I am thinking Eakins most likely plays Dotchin over Benoit, but it is going to be oh so hard to sit Benoit after the strong rookie season he had. For the last few games, the fourth-year Gulls coach has opted for an extra defender and I could see him doing that again at the expense of both Berry and Gates Jr. but we shall see.
Further Black Ace Arrivals
In addition to Brent Gates Jr., Steven Ruggiero and Olle Eriksson Ek, the Gulls received two more newcomers after their respective Junior seasons ended this past week.
Drew and his Charlottetown Islanders were eliminated in 6 games by Cape Breton, after winning their first two games in the series at home. He finished with 4 assists in 6 games and 19 PIMs. He signed an ATO with the Gulls on April 5th but has yet to see action.
As I predicted, Olson and his Americans could not overcome the Silvertips as lead by standout seventeen year old goaltender Dustin Wolf. They bowed out in 5 games and were blown out 9-1 in the deciding final game in Everett. He had 3 points in 5 games during his playoff run.
How Are Things In The Q?
The remaining Black Aces yet to have their seasons ended are all exclusively in the Q so lets head there now.
Comtois has cooled off slightly to start the second round but is still averaging over a point per game during his playoff run. He now has 9 points in 7 games as his Drummondville Voltigeurs are up 2-1 over the Sherbrook Phoenix in their quaterfinal matchup, dropping him to tied for 6th in playoff scoring.
Morand has started to heat up, netting 8 points in 9 games for the Mooseheads who are led by the seemingly unstoppable youngster Raphael Lavoie (18 points in 9 games! (Hey remember when I wrote he could be a Ducks sleeper late first rounder? Not anymore - kid has put the hockey world on notice.) Halifax are up two games to zero over the Moncton Wildcats.
Groulx is yet to see action in the playoffs as he is still out with Mono.
A Pleasant Surprise
Where most Black Aces struggle to crack an end of season, battle-hardened but ready line-up - Brent Gates Jr. came in at just the right time. Slotting in just as both the Ducks and Gulls had one final bout of injuries hit them. The 6’2” former 2015 third round pick has not looked out of place and has picked up 2 points in his 5 first professional games, including his first professional goal. I have been very pleasantly surprised with his play and his maturity is beyond his 21 years - he has quickly developed some nice chemistry with Sam Carrick and Ben Street and will be one of the many tough calls Coach Dallas Eakins will need to make when deciding his final playoff roster.
I do not have any new information on the current injured Gulls but just to keep the record straight here is who is out and with what.
Lower body injury, sustained against the Reign on March 23rd when he had either a pass or shot go off his leg at neutral ice.
Out for the season with a hand injury sustained December 22nd also against the Reign in a fight.
Broken Tibia, sustained when blocking a Mark Giordano shot against the Flames, sustained March 29th, expected to miss 6-9 weeks.
Returned from an oblique injury in the Ducks final regular season game but then left the game early seemingly either re-aggravating it or picking up something else in the upper body region. I cannot speculate further and no one is reporting anything else.
Final Three Games
The Gulls play the Barracuda tonight at home - where a win would clinch the playoffs. They then go on the road to finish out the regular season against the currently-outside-looking-in Roadrunners on Friday and Saturday. The Roadrunners, despite their parent club being also eliminated from the postseason, have yet to send down reinforcements other than goaltender Aidin Hill.