Feb. 14, 2017
SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Gulls (26-13-2-2, 56 pts.) conclude a brief two-game homestand as they host the Iowa Wild (25-19-5-2, 57 pts.) tonight at Valley View Casino Center (7:00 p.m., 1090-AM). Tonight’s game is the second game of a stretch with the Gulls at home for six of seven games. San Diego has won five consecutive home games since Jan. 7, one win shy of matching the club record set on two previous occasions (Nov. 11 to Dec. 6, 2016 and Oct. 10 to Nov. 11, 2015). The Gulls have also earned standings points in seven of their last eight home contests dating back to Dec. 26 (5-1-1-1).
The Gulls took care of the Bakersfield Condors by a score of 4-0 on Sunday night. Goaltender Dustin Tokarski made 22 saves in his first start since Dec. 26 to earn his first shutout of the season and first since Nov. 23 vs. Syracuse as member of the Hamilton Bulldogs. Four different Gulls tallied goals in the game as Nick Sorensen, Antoine Laganiere, Jordan Samuels-Thomas and Chris Wagner lit the lamp.
San Diego enters tonight with wins in eight of their last nine contests (8-1-0) and points in 14 of the last 15 games (13-1-0-1) where the club has outscored opponents 54-22. San Diego has also won 15 of the last 18 games (15-2-0-1), and has earned standings points in 18 of the past 20 (15-2-1-2) contests since Christmas.
“We’re a resilient bunch,” said forward Chris Wagner. “We feel like we’re going to win every night. Even if we get down one or two goals, we think we’re going to come back, and we have.”
Forward Nic Kerdiles has made an immediate impact since returning to the lineup on Jan. 28 vs. Tucson after missing the first 35 games of the season due to an injury sustained in training camp. Kerdiles has recorded 1-3=4 points in seven games played and believes deep down that there is something special about this Gulls team.
“I have been on a lot of teams and none of them have been this close to one another,” said Kerdiles. “Everyone gets along in the locker room and I think the results on the ice speak for themselves. We enjoy playing together and we think we can make a deep run if we make the playoffs.”
San Diego and Iowa match up for the second time in history after the Gulls won the first-ever matchup between the clubs 3-1 on Jan. 16 in Iowa. The Wild sit in fourth place in the Central Division with 57 points and .559 points percentage and are currently on an 11-game standings point streak (7-0-3-1) and have outscored opponents 29-20 in that span. All-time, the Gulls are 8-5-1 vs. Central Division opponents (2-2 vs. Charlotte, 1-1 vs. Grand Rapids, 1-0 vs. Iowa, 2-1-1 vs. Manitoba, 1-1 vs. Milwaukee, 1-0 vs. Rockford), including a 4-2-0 mark at home.
Rookie Kalle Kossila has been instrumental in San Diego’s offensive surge as of late with 5-15=20 points in his last 19 games. The 23-year-old recalled how tightly contested the first contest was between the two clubs.
“They are a tough team to play against,” said Kossila. “They make you earn every inch of ice and we are going to have to play complete game to beat them. We have to be responsible in our own zone and on our breakouts to have success.”
Corey Tropp leads the Gulls in assists (25) and points (37), and ranks tied for second on the club in goals (12) and second in PPG (5). Tropp has tallied 4-7=11 points over his last 10 games and has earned 6-10=16 points in the last 16 games overall. Antoine Laganiere leads the Gulls with 15 goals and seven PPG this season. Laganiere has scored five goals his last five games (5-1=6) and is only one goal away from matching his career high of 16 set last season. In his past 12 games the Montreal native has totaled 9-2=11 points, including three multi-goal games.
Teemu Pulkkinen paces all Iowa skaters with 15-17=32 points and veteran netminder Alex Stalock has started a majority of the Wild’s games posting a 15-10-6 record with a 2.47 GAA and .919 SV%.
“They’re probably a pretty good team,” said Wagner. “We just try to keep it about us and what we do. If we play our game, we should come out on top.”