Feb. 28, 2017
The Gulls (30-14-2-2, 64 pts.) open up a home-and-home set against the Tucson Roadrunners (22-20-6-0, 50 pts.) tonight at Tucson Arena (6:00 PT, 1700-AM) in the eighth meeting between the clubs this season. The Gulls remained hot last Saturday night, winning for the 12th time in the last 14 games with a 3-2 win over the Rockford IceHogs. San Diego currently has the third-best points percentage (.667) in the Western Conference and fifth-best in the AHL.
The Gulls have also earned standings points in 18 of the last 20 games (16-2-0-1) where the club has outscored opponents 73-34, as well as points in 22 of their last 25 contests since Christmas (19-3-1-2). San Diego’s remaining 20 contests come against divisional opponents as the club continues to battle for points in a tight Pacific Division race. To date, San Diego has posted a 24-13-1-2 record vs. divisional foes.
“We just want to stay in the present,” said head coach Dallas Eakins. “It’s all about today for us, we aren’t looking a few games down the road or ahead to the payoffs. There’s work we need to take care of that is right in front of us.”
The Gulls hit the road having won seven of its past eight road games (7-1-0) and earned standings points in 12 of the last 13 road contests (11-1-0-1) after setting a club record 10-game road standings point streak (9-0-0-1) from Dec. 29 to Feb. 7 (9-0-0-1, 19 of a possible 20 points). The club record for points in consecutive road games surpassed the previous mark of seven games set from Feb. 12 to Mar. 19, 2016. The Gulls have earned 14 road victories to date, the second-most road wins in the Pacific Division behind San Jose.
“Our guys are a real settled group on the road,” added Eakins. “They rarely get rattled and seem to be comfortable in every building in this league. I think our road record speaks for itself.”
Over the last 20 games, San Diego has held opponents to 34 goals (1.70 goals-against per game) and has allowed 123 goals this season, the second-fewest goals against in the AHL this season behind only San Jose (118). The Gulls have also allowed two goals or fewer in 14 of the past 17 games (27 goals, 1.59 GAA) and allowed three goals or fewer in 35 of their last 40 contests.
“Our defense is the core of our team,” said Eakins. “They defend very well and can also break out the puck cleanly to create offense. We’re lucky to have eight or nine dependable guys we can rotate in and out of the lineup.”
The Gulls and Roadrunners face off for the eighth of 12 meetings this season and the fourth at Tucson Convention Center. San Diego has earned points in six of the seven previous matchups this season (5-1-0-1) including 3-0-0-0 at Tucson. San Diego has outscored Tucson 29-16 over the seven contests and gone 8-for-33 on the PP (28.6%). The Gulls previously swept a three-game road series in Tucson from Jan. 25-28 that saw San Diego outscore the Roadrunners 13-2 in the three games, including a club record 8-1 rout on Jan. 25. Antoine Laganiere leads active Gulls skaters in goals (5) and points (8), while Brandon Montour (1-6=7) leads the club with six assists. Goaltender Dustin Tokarksi is 2-0-1 with a 2.59 GAA, a .899 SV% in three career appearances against Tucson this season.
The Roadrunners sit in a tie with Bakersfield for fourth place in the Pacific Division after dropping a pair of 4-3 decisions (0-1-1-0) to the San Jose Barracuda last weekend on home ice. Tucson is 2-9-1-0 in its last 10 games and has been outscored by their opponents 36-22 during that span.
Tucson is led offensively by former Gull Chris Mueller who has scored 11 goals and added 34 assists to his name this season, good for 41 points. In the season series, Mueller has tallied points in five of the seven games (4G/4A). Rookie right wing Christian Fischer has had a stellar campaign to date, posting 19 goals and 20 assists (39 points) to lead club rookies and ranks first in goals and third among league newcomers in points. Expected in net is goaltender Adin Hill (13-8-5) who has posted a 2.88 GAA and .915 SV% and one shutout to date this season for Tucson.