Feb. 7, 2017
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – The San Diego Gulls (23-12-2-2, 50 pts.) begin a three-game road trip as they visit the Bakersfield Condors (19-16-4-1; 43 pts.) tonight at Rabobank Arena (7 p.m., 1700-AM) and continue a stretch that has the Gulls away from Valley View Casino Center for eight-of-nine games.
San Diego enters tonight’s game on a roll with five consecutive wins after sweeping a home-and-home series with the Ontario Reign last weekend and previously sweeping a three-game set in Tucson from Jan. 25-28. San Diego won a thrilling come-from-behind game in Ontario Friday night when Kevin Roy scored with 1:43 remaining in regulation to tie the game and Brandon Montour scored the overtime winner on a breakway. Saturday night saw left wing Antoine Laganiere score two third period goals and goaltender Jhonas Enroth stopped all 25 shots to backstop San Diego to their second win in as many nights over their Southern California rivals.
The Gulls have points in 11-consecutive games (10-0-0-1), the longest current undefeated stretch in the AHL and the longest in the AHL since Grand Rapids went 15 consecutive games undefeated from Nov. 18 to Dec. 26, 2015. The point streak is the Gulls’ longest this season and matches an 11-game point streak from Feb. 19 to Mar. 16, 2016 (9-0-1-1). During the current 11-game run, San Diego has outscored opponents 41-17, killed 32 of the last 35 penalties (91.4%) and gone 9-for-47, (19.1%) on the power play. San Diego has won 12 of the last 14 games (12-1-0-1), and has earned standings points in 15 of the past 16 (12-1-1-2) and 24 of the last 31 overall (21-7-1-2).
San Diego is also unbeaten in nine consecutive road contests dating back to Dec. 29 at Texas (8-0-0-1), extending the club record for points in consecutive road games (previous: seven games from Feb. 12 to Mar. 19, 2016).
“Well we don’t want to be a one trick pony, that’s for sure,” said head coach Dallas Eakins about his team. “One night its our goaltending and the next night its our defense. Sometimes we’ll score 5 or 6 goals to get us over a hump. It’s nice to see because as the season goes along these games get bigger and bigger.”
“If we’re fortunate enough to get into the playoffs, we can’t just win one way. We’ve got to be able to win all of the different ways, so right now its encouraging.”
Goaltender Jhnoas Enroth has been a deciding factor in San Diego’s recent success as the Swedish veteran has recorded two shutouts in his last three starts and has earned a 7-0-0 record with the Gulls, posting a 0.99 goals-against average (GAA) and .962 save percentage (SV%) in his seven starts.
“He’s been excellent and has give us some stability in tough games,” said Eakins on Enroth. “He makes the big saves when we need it most. This league has a lot of one goal games and that key save at that key time can often put you on the right side of the ledger.”
The Gulls and Condors face off for the third time in the campaign, with San Diego posting 2-0-0 record to date, both overtime wins. The Gulls won the most recent meeting on Dec. 6 with a thrilling 4-3 overtime victory at Valley View Casino Center when Stefan Noesen scored the game-tying goal on a deflection with 9.3 seconds remaining in regulation and Chris Wagner tipped an Andy Welinski point shot to win the game at 3:25 of the extra session. The first contest between the two clubs on Nov. 26 went to overtime as well as Corey Tropp potted the game-winning goal on the power play in a 3-2 overtime win. The Gulls are 8-6-0-0 all-time vs. the Condors, including 2-4-0-0 in Bakersfield. Antoine Laganiere leads all active Gulls skaters in goals (4) and assists (6) in 10 career games vs. Bakersfield
Along with Laganiere, right wing Corey Tropp co-leads the Gulls in goals (12) and PPG (5) this season. Tropp leads the team in assists (24) and points (36), while he has tallied 4-6=10 points over his last six games and earned 6-9=15 points in the last 12 games overall.
Rookie center Kalle Kossila ranks tied for second on San Diego and tied for seventh among AHL rookies with 9-21=30 points, while ranking tied for fourth among league rookies in assists. He also ranks second on the Gulls in assists and leads the club with a +22 rating. His +22 rating leads AHL rookies and ranks third among AHL leaders. The Finnish rookie has recorded 2-5=7 points his last seven games, points in 11 of his last 13 (4-11=15).
Bakersfield sits in fifth place in the Pacific Division and comes into tonight’s contest winners in five of its last six games (5-1-0). The Condors swept a home-and-home series with the Stockton Heat last weekend with two 2-1 victories. Taylor Beck 13-31=44 leads the Condors offensively and ranks third overall in the AHL in scoring in only 31 games played. Veteran goaltender Jonas Gustavsson has posted a 3-1-0 record with a 2.48 goals-against average (GAA) and .916 save percentage (SV%) in four games since being reassigned from Edmonton.