Welcome back to what is likely the last regular season edition of Meanwhile On The Farm. When we last left the Gulls, they were stringing together wins but also dropping the odd frustrating loss to remain just outside the final playoff spot in the Pacific.
Since then, San Diego has gone 9-2-1 including two separate three-game win streaks and despite some added fire power after the trade deadline, are still one point behind Ontario for the fourth and final playoff spot. They do, however, have two games in hand on their rivals while also being suddenly within striking distance of the three other teams above them.
The Gulls started strong but allowed a depleted Barracuda back into the game with some nonchalant defense. They were eventually victorious through Simon Benoit and an empty net tally from Alex Dostie.
Down by two after the first period the Gulls fought back and poured on three goals in the middle frame, trading goals in the third and taking the win on Chris Mueller’s Power Play goal.
Hoping to get their third win in a row, the Gulls faced an opponent coming off a 9-3 spanking at the hands of the Reign. This was another one of those games where Jack Kopacka showed what he is capable of. His primary assist on the Gulls second goal of the game was a thing of beauty and contributed to one of the prettiest goals of the season thus far. He followed that up with a true sniper’s goal, breaking down the wing with speed and going bar-down. Gulls win 4-2 off the back of a three goal outburst in the second period.
Anointed the most boring game of the season by yours truly, the Gulls visited Iowa and were subsequently neutral zone trapped into a snoozefest that mercifully ended 3-0 for the hosts after they finally broke the scoreless deadlock in the third and then potted two empty netters in the final minute.
In the second of a back to back San Diego got the win off of special teams play, scoring a five on three power play goal and killing off a lengthy five on three of their own. I had to endure listening to the Iowa commentary and they seemed to say “no call” a lot.
Game 47: San Diego Gulls @ Stockton Heat
I didn’t cover this one because I was at work but the Gulls came back from a two goal deficit in the third but lost in overtime, less than forty seconds from making it to the shootout.
The Gulls came out with more jump than their previous match and held on to win 3-2 with goals from Kiefer Sherwood (x2) and Max Comtois (game winner).
In their first game missing Justin Kloos and Andrew Poturalski to injuries, the Gulls opened the scoring three minutes in, though it needed to be reviewed once play was stopped. Max Comtois and Antoine Morand provided more scoring and Pietela got the insurance marker in the third as the Gulls took an easy 4-1 win.
The Comtois - De Leo - Broadhurst line dominated and the Gulls jumped out to an early 4-0 lead before allowing San Jose to claw back three goals. They eventually took the win 6-3.
In the first game after the NHL Trade Deadline, the Gulls iced a lineup featuring two new faces and one new but familiar face. Newly acquired forward Kyle Criscuolo and defenceman Joel Persson made their Gulls debut while Troy Terry played his first AHL game since late January. A lack of chemistry and cohesion seemed to doom the Gulls to a 4-1 loss.
In a must-win to remain in the playoff race the Gulls responded by going into Stockton and coming away with a 4-2 win.
Missing Isac Lundestrom with the flu, Antoine Morand was pressed into center duty. Alex Dostie opened the scoring but Troy Terry would prove the hero, scoring two third period goals to forge a 3-3 tie and force overtime. San Jose had four unbelievable chances in OT but Max Comtois just needed the one. 4-3 Gulls in OT.
You may have already seen it, but Max Comtois was named AHL Rookie of the Month for the month of February. The 2017 second round pick now has 23 points in 27 games and has eight goals in the last eight games including four game winners. Jordan Samuels-Thomas had a great piece this week that breaks down not only the goal-scoring but also the little plays that Comtois does that could really benefit Anahiem in the long run. For this last twelve game stretch, the line he is on with Chase De Leo and Alex Broadhurst has been a consistent scoring threat and during that span they have rarely taken a night off. His line mates know where to find him and now that he has found his scoring touch, he is shooting the puck with a lot more confidence. On the subject of confidence...
Oh There You Are
Troy Terry was assigned to the Gulls after the NHL trade deadline in a move that shocked and bewildered a lot of Duck fandom but which was described as a move to “drive the program, to take on a leadership role, to keep that team going in the right direction..”
Basically unfinished business.
When San Diego was making their playoff run last season Terry was absent with a broken leg. There was a slim hope that he might make it back by the Calder Cup Final if the Gulls were to make it that far, but alas they did not. Now both he and Brendan Guhle (also absent late last season with an oblique injury) are available for the Gulls playoff run and the Ducks are making sure the Gulls actually make the playoffs by assigning Terry before it’s too late.
He had a rough first game, looking mostly invisible but for maybe one play where he tried to stick-handle his way out of a slowly closing box of Tuscon Roadrunners. However he looked slightly better in his second game. But this last game - his third since being reassigned - showed that the real Troy Terry had finally returned, getting two goals in the third period to tie the game can only mean the former University of Denver standout is finding confidence in his shot again. Now it is a matter of keeping this blue, black, and gold train on track into the playoffs so that the rest of the cavalry can jump on once the Ducks season is finished. On that note...
Save The Date
Saturday April 4th is the Ducks last game of the season, ironically against the 2019-2020 poster boys for disappointment: the San Jose Sharks. The Gulls are playing the Reign on the very same night; one of the four teams they are currently in a dog fight with to reach the Calder Cup Playoffs. They also have two additional games after that one, both against the Colorado Eagles.
For those two final regular season games they could ice a line-up that could look as follows:
F1 Max Jones - Sam Steel - Troy Terry
F2 Max Comtois - Alex Broadhurst - Chase De Leo
F3 Blake Pietela - Sam Carrick - Keifer Sherwood
F4 Antoine Morand - Isac Lundestrom - Andrew Poturalski
D1 Josh Mahura - Jani Hakanpaa
D2 Simon Benoit - Christian Djoos
D3 Brendan Guhle - Chris Wideman
G1 Anthony Stolarz
G2 Kevin Boyle
Scratch: Justin Kloos, David Backes, Chris Mueller, Jack Kopacka, Alex Dostie, Kyle Criscuolo, Corey Tropp, Scott Moldenhauer, Joel Persson
For those not familiar with the Gulls, Chris Mueller has 36 points in 56 games good for second on the team in scoring and Justin Kloos has 27 points in 49 games - fifth on the team. Sure, maybe Pietela (24 points - 6th on the team) or Broadhurst get scratched instead but I just wanted to illustrate how crazy good the depth will be once those cleared-for-AHL-playoff-duty Ducks come down after the Anaheim season has ended.
As great as Christian Djoos has looked with the Ducks over the last few games, can you imagine what he will look like in the AHL?
Oh yeah and all of that does not include the Black Aces joining San Diego at the conclusion of their respective seasons. Including but not limited to:
Benoit-Olivier Groulx - Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) - 78 points in 51 games
Brayden Tracey - Victoria Royals (WHL) - 56 points in 49 games
Bryce Kindopp - Everett Silvertips (WHL) - 71 points in 60 games
Axel Andersson - Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) - 24 points in 43 games
Jack Badini* - Harvard (ECAC) - 14 points in 29 games
Trevor Zegras* - Boston University - 34 points in 31 games
*Depending on whether or not they are done with college and want to go pro.
Of course, with the Ducks ending their season and sending down their Calder Cup Playoff eligible players, so too will other lottery-pick bound teams...
I Can’t Stand The Reign
The Kings also play their final game of the regular season on the fourth of April and like the Gulls, the Reign have two additional games after that date. One against the Stockton Heat - currently one point above them in the standings and one against the San Jose Barracuda - which should be an easy two points.
Given the busload of talent the Kings have been acquiring lately I had assumed that Ontario would be given a similar stacked squad for the Calder Cup Playoff run, but the Kings seem to have only allowed for the following players to join the Reign in their drive.
Anderson has been playing well with the Kings recently and Peterson is the Kings goaltender of the very near future but considering they could have also sent some or all of Martin Frk, Austin Wagner, Blake Lizotte, Michael Amadio, Nikolai Prokhorkin and Kurtis MacDermid - hopefully the rest of the Pacific - including the Gulls - have potentially dodged a bullet.
As previously mentioned, with fifteen games left the Gulls sit just one point back of Ontario for the final playoff spot but have two games in hand. They, and the Reign, are also in the immediate vicinity of Stockton and Colorado. both teams whose parent clubs are either firmly entrenched in a playoff spot or currently fighting to stay in one. Tuscon has been consistently great all season and although their parent club is currently three points out of a playoff spot, I don’t think we can count on them changing their makeup to either the benefit or detriment of the other Pacific teams anytime soon. So it all comes down to Colorado, Stockton, Ontario and San Diego. Four teams fighting for three playoff spots.