Watch the full Gulls exit interviews:
– More to come each day
May 15, 2017
On a day that comes too soon for 29 teams in the American Hockey League, the Gulls held their end-of-season interviews at Poway Ice Arena as the team convened for one last time this season. The players and head coach Dallas Eakins reflected on the regular season, postseason, the future, and the disappointment of a run cut short in their quest for the Calder Cup.
In their second season in San Diego, the Gulls ranked second in the Western Conference and third in the AHL while they set club records for wins (43), win percentage (.669; 43-20-3-2), goals (221), goals against (178), home wins (23) and road wins (20). The best fans in the league also helped the club surpass last season’s attendance totals with more than 300,000 fans watching Gulls hockey to average 8,876 fans per game, best in the Pacific Division and third among AHL clubs.
The Gulls advanced to the Pacific Division Finals of the Calder Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive season after dispatching Southern California rival Ontario in a deciding Game 5 on home ice at Valley View Casino Center, but ultimately fell in five games to the San Jose Barracuda.
Fifty different players appeared on the Gulls roster during the regular season (14 rookies), and a further three made their professional debuts during the postseason after completing their junior seasons in the CHL. The 53 players used were a league-high. As an organization, the Gulls and the Anaheim Ducks were the last remaining NHL/AHL affiliates in their respective playoffs as the Ducks went on to the Western Conference Final.
“We have a great sense of pride,” said Eakins. “When you’re the only organization with both teams still playing, that’s a real testament to our organization, and the way we’ve drafted, traded, developed to have that still going. Obviously we’d still like to be playing, but now we’ll cheer hard for the big club.”
Altogether, 19 players appeared for both the Gulls and Ducks this season with eight making their NHL debut for Anaheim throughout the 2016-17 campaign. Joseph Cramarossa, Emerson Etem, Ryan Garbutt, Ondrej Kase, Nic Kerdiles, Kalle Kossila, Jacob Larsson, Jaycob Megna, Brandon Montour, Stefan Noesen, Mike Sgarbossa, Logan Shaw, Nick Sorensen, Clayton Stoner, Shea Theodore, Nate Thompson, Corey Tropp, Chris Wagner and Dustin Tokarski all donned both sweaters to combined for a total of 27 goals and 42 assists in 362 NHL games. Cramarossa, Kase, Kerdiles, Kossila, Larsson, Megna, Montour and Sorensen each made their NHL debuts, with four having played in more than 25 games for the Ducks this season.
“We’re here to win hockey games for our great community here, and we’re here to develop players that can go and help the Ducks win,” added Eakins.
“It’s incredible the numbers this year. We had 19 players who played for our team, the Gulls, and played for the Ducks. We had nine guys make their NHL debut this year. And in total, to have gone through 53 players in the regular season and in the playoffs. I can say it’s been a pleasure to coach this group. They have been high in character, all 53 of them, and I’m very proud to have been their coach.”
Throughout the entire season and playoffs there was a strong belief in the locker room that this team was special and could make a deep run to the Calder Cup Final. But, in the postseason, especially in the AHL, there are many mitigating factors that play into a team making a deep run or being cut short by recalls with the NHL club still pushing for a Stanley Cup, injuries and at times, luck.
“It was definitely a bummer. We had high hopes for our team,” said Gulls defenseman and alternate captain Nate Guenin. “We were hoping to maybe go a little further and possibly bring home a championship, but just the way things played out it didn’t pan out that way. The guys battled ‘til the end and the fans have a lot to be proud of this group.”
“It’s good to see that they’re still playing. It may have affected our group a little bit, but that’s the whole reason we’re here. To get guys up there and give them an opportunity. I think it’s a credit to the job the front office does in bringing in a lot of depth and the coaching staff down here developing those players and the organization as a whole. Its stocked full of prospects and it’s definitely exciting for Gulls and Ducks fans in the future.”
The future is bright for the organization. With a second successful season under their belt and a plethora of up-and-coming players ready to push for an NHL job, the San Diego Gulls are primed for success heading into the 2017-18 season.